What Kind of People House-sit?

What kind of People House Sit?

House sitting is a win/win proposition. As a homeowner, you get free security and other benefits while the housesitter receives, among other things, a free or cheap place to live. But you may be asking yourself, “Can house sitters be trusted? And how can I assure I have a reliable person?” After all, our home is often the biggest investment of our lives and we wouldn’t leave it with just anyone.

First of all, let’s look at what kind of people house sit. You may have wondered about this and it is certainly a primary concern. House sitters tend to fall into two main categories: people in transition and retired persons or travelers.

People in Transition

It is not uncommon for people moving through various changes in life to require temporary housing. This could be due to a change in schools, a period following graduating while looking for a job, a marital separation necessitating a move; a job transfer. Sometimes, people want to check out an area before deciding to relocate. Writers wanting a retreat, RV’ers needing a break from the road, vacationers, and academics on sabbatical are but a few of the many groups constantly in transition. These are usually intelligent and productive people who are simply in an “in between” time on their journey. Most are highly motivated people looking to move on with their lives in productive ways, any of whom may serve your house sitting needs well.


“Travelers” is a big category, as these can range from young people back-packing around the world to retired people enjoying the “golden years.” The latter is discussed below. Here, I wanted to say something about the “young” traveler

I have known many people who have traveled the world with little more than a back pack. At first glance, this may seem a bit scary to a homeowner. When looking for a stable person to watch over your possessions, a backpacker may not elicit a particularly positive response. And certainly not all back packers are appropriate. However, it’s also good to look at why these people travel and how they travel. Many back packers are people in their late-thirties or thirties. These are creative, independent people who have accepted the challenge to find ways to both work and play according to their own unique vision of what life should be. They often have their own businesses, which they can do several months on and several months off, or they have work they take with them wherever they go (stock traders, massage therapists, yoga teachers, internet marketers and the like). They are not necessarily drop-outs, druggies, or whatever other negative label we may conjure. One of the good things about this group is that they tend to be strong and healthy and can often be contracted for heavier work while you’re away. Having said that, however, I would certainly heed a good screening system when using young travelers.

Retired Persons

Let’s face it: once we’ve been “chained” to a job, a desk, or other lifestyle for a few decades, we deserve some adventure. And, today, more retired people than any time in history are selling their homes and hitting the road. Among their strategies, these people are buying RV’s, taking jobs as park attendants, and house-sitting to see the world and supplement income.

Retired, semi-retired, and older self-employed people present many advantages to the home owner. First, they are often former home owners themselves. As such, they have a deeper appreciation of the investment involved than a younger person may. They have also seen their share of broken pipes, leaky toilets, septic tank back ups, pest incursions, bad tenants, security issues and the like. This experience, combined with their broad life experience in general, enables this group to respond to unexpected situations with a wealth of knowledge and confidence that may be lacking in someone with less experience. Just make sure, in hiring a retired person, that their health is good enough to do what is required. But this is usually the case, since unhealthy and frail people don’t ordinarily choose to galavant about or take on more responsibility than necessary.

Thank you for reading my house sitting blog. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to locate and interview prospective house sitters. 

Should I Pay a House-sitter?

To pay, or not to pay, that is the question…

I have been house sitting for 20 years and by this time, believe me, I have heard the experiences of many home owners, as well as house sitters. I’ve met pet-owners who wouldn’t have anything other than paid sitters, and home owners who vehemently prefer free sitters. What you choose is really up to you, but here’s a little food for thought.



Paid sitters are caring for people’s homes and pets as a profession. Hence, they may take courses to learn more about, for example, dog training, yard care or other things that will make them a more attractive applicant. Since they are trying to make a living, they are probably also doing more frequent gigs, thus may have more experience compared to free sitters. And, obviously, they love animals or they wouldn’t choose to do it for money. Free house sitters, by comparison, may house sit less frequently as part of their travels or other agenda. This doesn’t mean they don’t have experience, however. For one thing, they tend to be older, with more life experience in general, from which to care for pets, respond to emergencies, etc. They often have other abilities too, such as maintenance, management, or security that would work well for your situation. Some people feel they just get someone more devoted and trustworthy if they pay. I’ve known many fine free sitters so I don’t believe that is the case. A more pertinent issue, in my thinking, is the psychology of the home owner. Some people just feel more comfortable with a simple business arrangement: money for services. Others like to get to know their sitters and may become lifelong friends or associates. So personality seems to play a key role with the choice to pay or not to pay.


Needing to make money for living expenses is a two-edged sword. Yes, paid sitters may have more training (though not necessarily) and they may have more experience, but the downside is that they are also busier trying to make money. Most pet-owners I’ve met want someone who can be home most of the time with their pets. After all, companionship is one of the primary needs of pets in the home owner’s absence. This is why people who are retired or work from home make such good house sitters. They can be home with the “kids” almost 24/7. Paid sitters, on the other hand, often have other day jobs – usually dog-walking – lined up and may be gone from the house for hours each day. For people who have older animals that need to be frequently let out, newly adopted animals that haven’t had enough time to acclimate, younger animals-in-training, or pets who chew up your sofa, leaving them alone a lot may not be the best choice. This is why free, or at least retired, sitters are sometimes a better match. In the “con” column, older sitters may be less able or willing to do other jobs required, such as garden or yard upkeep. This is certainly not true of all older people, so let’s not get ageist here, but it is something that definitely needs to be discussed prior to hiring someone.


I just want to say a brief word here about tipping. In my experience, some clients have tipped very generously, while others seem not to have even though of it. (Guess which ones get preference for my time.) Please be aware that most free house-sitters are living on social security or other small pension and house sit out of need for reduced living expenses. If you choose to use free sitters – a choice many home owners have enjoyed immensely – please consider providing a tip. A reasonable tip is considered about $100 for a couple weeks, $200 or so for a month, and $300 or more for over a month. While that may sound like a lot to some, remember that a person who sits for free still has expenses, some incurred just getting there. The house/pet-sitter is caring for your most valued and loved possessions and beings. It may also help to realize that, had you hired a paid sitter, your expenses would be anywhere from $245-$700/week. (Yes, I do know people that pay $100/day to be sure their beloved pets are cared for properly.) Compared to that, a tip doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?

In Conclusion:

So that’s the low-down on Paid and Unpaid sitters. In my experience one group is not any better or worse than the other. Ultimately, your decision will be based on your individual needs and preferences. Follow your heart, your intuition, your intellect – whatever you choose – and you’ll find the way that works for you.