When we posted our year long travel budget, we were delighted to beat our target of travelling on £15/$25 each per day. However, despite seeking out the best deal on a cheap hostel wherever we went, it was clear where more money could have been saved - our accommodation costs comprised 36% of our overall spend.
We decided to speak with seasoned long-term travellers who find accommodation in a different way to us in order to save money or have a unique travel experience. This week we caught up with Charli and Ben - the duo behind Wanderlusters - to find out more about house-sitting.
Which countries have you house sat in?
We have secured house sits in our home country the UK, and have spent the last four years house sitting abroad in USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
What’s the fanciest or coolest place you’ve looked after?
In Barbados we looked after a multi-million dollar Balinese-style property that bordered one of the most exclusive golf courses on the island. With an infinity pool, indoor pond, dedicated media room, and ocean views, it was pretty dam cool!
How long after signing up did it take for you to get your first assignment? Did you have a few rejections?
Once we had signed up to become house sitters we applied for around 10 opportunities right off the bat. We had no idea how long it would take us to secure a house sit so we applied for every opportunity we thought fitted our plans and skill set. Within a week we had scheduled a time to chat with a home owner on Skype, and consequently agreed to sit for her in Costa Rica a few months later.
What are your tips for making your profile stand out to owners when you first get started and don’t have any references or experience?
Highlighting unique and interesting skills you possess, relevant experience, and showcasing your responsible and caring nature can help to set your profile apart from the crowd. If you don’t have any house sitting experience apply for a local sit and offer to meet the owner and interview in person. This will put your application head and shoulders above the rest and help you to get a reference on your profile.
Do you plan your trips around pre-arranged house sitting assignments? If not, do you find it easy to find opportunities while you’re on the road?
We travel full time so we plan all our trips on the road! We tend to accept house sits three to four months in advance. This means we have long enough to pre-book flights, but not so long that the owner’s or our plans can change too drastically. We’re always on the lookout for inspiring destinations to house sit, and the fact that we can be somewhat flexible with our plans means that we can accept last minute assignments if we’re not already booked up.
Living rent-free is obviously the big draw for house sitters. What else attracts you to it?
We have found that by house sitting instead of checking into a hotel or hostel we become part of the local community. We are introduced to the owner’s friends and neighbours, and have even been referred for further sits through the people we have met on location.
For us travel is about the connections we make with the people we meet, not the number of countries we’ve visited.
Have you had any disasters with owners, properties or pets?
I’m touching wood as I write this, but no, no disasters to date. We’ve had runaway pets, trips to the vets, and a few broken plates, but nothing that we couldn’t manage with a calm head and some common sense.
People are obviously placing a lot of faith and trust in you. How much communication do you have with the owners before and during the house-sit? For example, if we were giving our house over to strangers, we’d probably want an interview on Skype at the very least.
To be honest this varies with each opportunity we secure. Some owners like to chat to us over Skype a few times before we arrive, others are happy to welcome us after having just chatted via email. I think it depends on your circumstance and experience of having sitters.
We always direct owners to our travel blog which helps them to get a better feel for who we are. I think that negates some of the time needed on Skype prior to our arrival.
Is there anything you specify to house owners before agreeing to the opportunity?
We don’t tend to accept opportunities unless the property has a reasonable standard of internet, and the owner is leaving us a vehicle to utilise during our stay. We have accepted assignments without both before, but they have to be particularly special not to have internet access!!
Do you ever feel like the responsibility of looking after the house curtails your ability to experience a town/place as a tourist?
No I don’t think so. Unless you were to have a particularly needy pet I don’t think there’s any reason why you wouldn’t be able to explore the destination in which you’re house sitting. Of course we always adhere to any recommendations given by the owner regarding the amount of time we’re out of the house, but even if you just went out for a few hours each day you’d have plenty of opportunity to see the local sights.
It seems like a fantastic option for budget travellers. Could you afford to travel as much if house sitting wasn’t an option?
I think our experience of travel would be vastly different if we did not house sit. Our budget concerns would differ enormously and I think we would have had to reduce the amount of time we spent in places where the cost of living is high.
Which house sitting website do you prefer?
We find that we have the most success with TrustedHousesitters.com. They have the largest portfolio of opportunities and we find their website is very easy to navigate.
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Charli and Ben are a nomadic couple from the UK who have been house sitting full time for the last four years. Currently house sitting on Barbados, they have looked after lifestyle properties in Oceania, luxury hilltop homes in Central America, and urban city centre apartments in the United States.
Go follow their journey!