Housesitting in Europe

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

From Ireland, to Brussels, London, and all over Europe, we’ve seen so much of that great continent in one of the most affordable ways possible.

How do we do it?  By providing the valuable service of taking care of people’s property (and sometimes pets), in exchange for free accommodations. We have made new friends out of some fabulous home owners and neighbors, spent ample time in places where we never could have otherwise afforded to stay, and even shed a few tears (PETE!) when leaving behind the fur-babies we became so attached to. And we’ve done a large portion of it without paying for a place to stay, resulting in savings in the tens of thousands of dollars.

And we could keep going. If it wasn’t for the Schengen visa rules that require us to leave the area after ninety days, I am sure we would continue this excellent trend indefinitely. Some housesitting jobs we’ve lined up via word of mouth, and there are a few that we’ve even had to turn down. The others were found via websites set-up to provide a match between home owners and housesitters.

Our favorite website to use is Nomador.com.  Not only does it have the best functionality of all the housesitting sites out there today, it is also has the largest number in Europe.

A yard in Paris?

A yard in Paris?

Some basic tips to help you get started:

— Put a decent amount of time into creating a killer profile. This is your first face to home owners and how they will judge you! Be sure to highlight what would make you a good housesitter, including your love for animals! (Consider that the large majority of housesitting assignments come with pets to care for.)

— The next most important thing is to line up some good references. If you haven’t housesat before, use old bosses, landlords, even friends who can attest to how good you are with animals.

— Check for new listings daily, as hot housesits tend to go fast. (If you want to see what sort of assignments are available, also check our HOT HOUSESITS page that’s updated every Monday!

— When you apply for a housesitting job, tailor your message to the listing. Personalize each one (don’t copy and paste!) to show you are deeply interested.

Take it from us, as we have completed over fifteen housesits, all over the world. We have spent Christmas in southern Spain, six weeks in Manhattan, and six months in rural Turkey!

Looking for more house-sitting advice?

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Please note that there are some affiliate links in this post.

73 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • November 7 2011

    So jealous that you guys get to do this 🙂 Really looked into this for awhile and it seems that most opportunities are in Europe, ya? Really looking forward to doing this as a mean to travel after I get my US citizenship.

    Anyway, let us know when you’re going to be in Turkey. We’re heading there spring-ish next year.
    jill recently posted..I’ve Dragged My Husband Through South America – Now What?

    • November 8 2011

      There are a lot of opportunities in Europe, North America, Central America (where the expats are!), Australia and New Zealand. Basically, where it is too expensive to tour for long anyways! I.e. we never could have stayed for 3 weeks in London without it!

      We will be in Turkey from Mar thru May! Hopefully we can finally meet then!

  • November 7 2011

    I’m currently spending 3 months house-sitting on the Caribbean island of Grenada, so I concur – it’s a great way to live and travel affordably!
    I’ve used house-carers and caretakergazette mostly, but will check out trustedhousesitters based on your stellar review!

    • November 8 2011

      Ah yes, have seen your photos from Grenada and are a wee bit jealous!

  • November 7 2011

    Housesitting sounds like such a great way to do extended travel. I’m glad it’s worked out so well for you guys!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Wine tasting at Casa Silva

    • November 8 2011

      Thanks Emily! It really is ideal for us as we typically prefer to travel slow (get less tired out that way)!

  • November 7 2011

    This is how my husband and I want to travel around Europe. Thanks for the information on TrustedHouseSitters.com. We’ll take a serious look at using the site when we finally decide to do it!
    JoAnna recently posted..Finding Life in Death Valley | California

    • November 8 2011

      You’re welcome JoAnna! I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding something to suit your needs. Good luck!

  • November 7 2011

    We love house sitting too. We would never have been able to afford to visit Japan if we hadn’t got 3.5 weeks free accommodation in Kyoto. It’s so expensive there that house sitting saved us $2500, plus we got a big house, kitchen and cute cats rather than a cramped hostel room.

    It does seem that most opportunities are in Europe and North America.
    Erin recently posted..Photo of the Week: Okunoin Cemetery, Koya-san

    • November 8 2011

      You really scored big in Japan with that one (jealous!) Australia and New Zealand have a lot of opportunities too, and it seems to be picking up in Central America where expats typically congregate.

    • November 13 2013

      Dear Erin,
      I’m so jealous too, could you please let me know through which website you found the housesitting for Japan? Thanks a lot 🙂

  • November 7 2011

    Awesome! Thanks for the tips!

    I’m looking to do this in the States over the coming months.
    Benjamin recently posted..How To: Enjoy Burning Man (A Short Video!)

    • November 8 2011

      There are lots of opportunities in the US! Good luck!

  • November 7 2011

    I should look into this! It sounds like a very interesting way of spending your time. Good alternative to couchsurfing if you decide to stay longer at one place!
    Sebastian recently posted..Scavenger Hunt Photo Of The Day: Istanbul by Night

    • November 8 2011

      Absolutely Sebastian! We’ve stayed anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months in one place thanks to housesitting.

  • November 7 2011

    I signed up for trustedhousesitters.com a while back after reading your experience and have not had much luck… 🙁 I think it’s because I’m a single dude. I did get offered a couple of assigments (one in South Africa!) through one of the other sites, but the timing did not work out.

    I haven’t given up on trustedhousesitters yet though…
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Surprise! This Cave is in Technicolor

    • November 8 2011

      I’m in the same boat, Ray! No one really wants to hire on a 25 year old single female, and I even have the references plus TONS of experience taking care of animals! One of my references is a vet! Sigh. Will keep trying.

      This is definitely my ideal way of travelling. 🙂
      Candice Walsh recently posted..On Getting Lost in Vancouver and Not Actually Accomplishing Anything

      • November 8 2011

        I thought you had one lined up in Montreal??

        I am sure it must be harder to a young female to find the first one, but I’m sure it will happen, especially with the awesome references like you have! 🙂 Get a few under your belt and they’ll start lining up for you….

    • November 8 2011

      Well, if you’d stop just applying to some guy in Cork named Kevin, you might have a chance! 🙂

      It can be a little tough to get your first one (especially as a single), but after that, they’ll start to roll. Make sure you have some STELLAR references online, as I think that is what is helping us get new ones.

  • November 7 2011

    House sitting is absolutely something we’re going to try to do through the word’s more expensive destinations. Thanks so much for your insight.
    Brian recently posted..How to Revolutionize Your Financial Life

    • November 8 2011

      No problem Brian – and good luck!

  • November 7 2011

    Honestly I first thought housesitting sounded too good to be true. And I probably would’ve kept that opinion, except I started reading your blog and now I see housesitting really is a viable accommodation option for travelers. I can’t see myself signing up right away, just because I can’t travel until after April. But once my school year is done I’ll definitely look into this. I mean it’s pretty hard to argue with something that can provide free accommodations in New York City.
    Alouise recently posted..Goals, Embracing Change, Music, Mistakes and Kindness

    • November 8 2011

      Oh yes, I think we scored big on the NYC job. Never could we have spent 6 weeks in that city without it!

  • November 7 2011

    That’s such a great way to travel!! I love it 🙂

  • What a perfect way to travel and live like a local! Sounds wonderful to me and I will definitely be looking into it!
    Debbie – European Travelista recently posted..Musical Mirabell Gardens

  • November 8 2011

    Great article! Thanks for sharing, and I can’t can’t wait to share it with the OTP community (and try out couch sitting myself)! 🙂
    Bianca of Off Track Planet recently posted..OTP’s Guide to Partying Your Ass Off in Reykjavik, Iceland

  • This is so great! Is this site mainly for Europe? Any recommendations for a site to use for South America?
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Buenos Aires Odd Jobs: Old Lady Walkers

  • November 8 2011

    I love these posts because I’m itching to start housesitting. I suspect getting the first couple of opportunities might be the difficult thing. Hopefully I can make it happen like you guys!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Three Fascinating Pittsburgh Museums: Warhol, Heinz History and Fort Pitt

    • Pete
      November 9 2011

      Make sure you have some good references lined up and hopefully it won’t take too long!

  • November 9 2011

    I wish I’d known this were an option when I was doing more long-term travel while living in Europe. Sounds like so much fun!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..The Many Faces of the Taj Mahal

    • Pete
      November 9 2011

      We never could have spent as much time in Europe without it!

  • November 9 2011

    Wow that’s a great idea. We’re planning on spending indefinite time in Europe next year and house sitting sounds perfect. Free accommodation! Thanks for the tip.
    Dean recently posted..Spending the day in Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast

    • Pete
      November 9 2011

      Good luck Dean! It is a great way to see Europe!

  • Joy
    November 9 2011

    We hope your Turkey gig allows you time at Cappedocia. That was one travel site we will never forget. We loved Turkey.

    • Pete
      November 9 2011

      We do have some freedom to travel around the country, and we’re definitely going to make time for Cappedocia!

  • November 9 2011

    Wow, thanks for the info! I’d love to give housesitting a try.
    Eurotrip Tips recently posted..France’s Smartest Invention: le Café Gourmand

  • November 9 2011

    I really hope to do this in the near future. Looks like such a great option.
    ayngelina recently posted..800 steps to prove I am not lazy

  • November 9 2011

    Great informative post. Something i would definitely have to look into. I suspect it’s a lot harder to gigs as a single guy than as a couple, right?
    Tobias recently posted..The Agta Charity – Part 5: Getting to The Agta Settlement

    • November 9 2011

      Hey Tobias – I suspect it might be a little harder (although I have seen some ads asking for just a single). I think the number one thing to landing a job though is references – line up good references (even if you have no experience housesitting, find people that can speak to your character) and you’ve got a good shot!

  • November 9 2011

    I have to admit that this is one area I haven’t considered as much as others (to save costs) but I would definitely reconsider after reading this article – especially if I’m ever in Europe!
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Faces of Asia | Part 1 | Travel Video

    • November 10 2011

      Yes, in Europe it can definitely save big bucks! But it’s also a great way to see holiday destinations (Central America) where expats tend to have homes. Oz and North America are big into it to.

  • November 9 2011

    We will look into this when we are traveling I think. It had never even occurred to me to housesit while traveling
    James Cook recently posted..Eat With A Local

  • November 10 2011

    What a great way to spend your time abroad! I’m hoping Gerard and I will have the opportunity to do this in the near (near near near) future. Lol. Great post and thanks for the discount! 😉
    Kieu ~ GQtrippin recently posted..Tech Trippin | Essential Travel Gadgets

    • November 12 2011

      Good luck Kieu! Hope you find something in the near near near near future! 🙂 There are great opportunities going up everyday.

  • November 11 2011

    House-sitting changed my life when I was in Costa Rica! I upgraded from a one-room to hut to a stunning four-bedroom — and saved money.
    Abby recently posted..Ultimate Weekend Packing Guide

    • November 12 2011

      That’s the way to do it!! Not too shabby to find something in Costa Rica either…after our chilly times in Europe, we may need a tropical locale soon! 🙂

  • November 11 2011

    Definitely looking it up now guys. Thanks for the link to it. Hopefully we get to use it somewhere next year travelling through Europe. How hard is it to get your first place?
    Cole @ FourJandals recently posted..Budget Travel: 2 Days in York

    • November 12 2011

      We got our first one very easily, it was the very first one we applied for! The most important thing is to make sure that you have great references lined up, even if they are character references (because you haven’t done it before). Maybe even get a reference from an old landlord, anyone who knows how you are with pets, etc.! Good luck!

  • November 11 2011

    wow, that sounds really really cool. should try that. (while I read this post I couldn’t stop thinking about Jude Law in “The Holiday”) 🙂
    Yvonne recently posted..12 Best Travel Quotes – From the Movies

    • November 12 2011

      Hmmm…would have to say that I wouldn’t mind if Jude Law happened to be waiting at one of the houses (I’m hoping Pete doesn’t read this comment!!)

  • Kim
    November 11 2011

    I cannot wait to take advantage of this wonderful way to see the world and provide a service. Brian and I will definitely be doing some housesitting… thanks for teaching us all about it!
    Kim recently posted..The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

    • November 12 2011

      Can’t wait to hear about where you will land your first gig! If you ever need any help with it, just let us know! 🙂

  • November 12 2011

    I agree with your article! My husband and I spent 2.5 months traveling around the UK and are now in France in one of the poshest areas of the world. Housesitting (via trustedhousesitters.com) has made this possible for us, and we’ve made some great friends.

    I am curious to know if you’ve had many bad experiences with pet-sitting. We have had 2 pet-sits (out of 5) with houses that were incredibly cluttered and dirty, and it made our stay much less enjoyable. We’ve gotten pretty used to cleaning and organizing people’s homes while we travel.

    For those who want to travel this way, I’d recommend keeping your eyes open and getting as much information about the gig as possible before you commit. The fewer surprises, the better! 🙂
    Rachel recently posted..Photos of Cannes (Hooray!)

    • Pete
      November 14 2011

      100% agree with you Rachel about getting as much information about the gig up front as possible. This is something we have learned along the way. This is an important part of our Housesitting 101 tips (http://www.hecktictravels.com/housesitting-101). Ask for photos, references, have a skype conversation(s) etc.

      About the bad experiences, we have had no issues so far. That being said, we have had a varied level of cleanliness in each stay we have been in. As long as our living space is up to our standard we’re fine with that. One thing this has taught us is that we have also learned to just go with the flow.

  • November 12 2011

    You have Vonda and I very excited about trying this. We will be in Mexico or Central America (maybe Ecuador) for two more years then we are going to make the leap “across the pond” so to speak. Since we are working so hard learning Spanish, do you have any personal exposure to housesitting in Spain?
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted..Life Part 2 Meets the Retire Early Lifestyle

  • November 13 2011

    I think we’ll look into this during our next big trip. 😛
    Erica recently posted..Photo Friday: HDR – Manzanillo, Costa Rica

  • November 13 2011

    We’re currently in Serbia, which is outside the Schengen region. I can’t remember how long you have to be out before heading back in, but perhaps you can visit here (or other places like it near by) until you can go back in?

    Ves

    • Pete
      November 14 2011

      We would have loved to visit Serbia, but unfortunately it is not in the cards for this trip. Maybe next year after Turkey we will make our way back down 🙂

      In regards to the Schengen, the rule is in a 180 day period you can spend 90 days within the Schengen. Once the 180 days is up, you start all over again.

  • Awesome! James and I are definitely going to sign up! We are going to be staying in Brisbane (and hopefully working) but after that all plans are open! We will definitely use your promo code when we sign up.

    Oh and just a suggestion, when I clicked on the housesitting link it opened in this window…which took me away from your blog. You should consider having links open in a new tab.
    Jade Johnston – OurOyster.com recently posted..Milford Sound New Zealand

  • November 22 2011

    Heard about this but never really gave it serious thought until I read this piece. Thanks for this. What a great idea. We are not young party animals anymore. I would think we would have a good profile. Will certainly sign up with your code.
    Michael recently posted..Easy Hiking Is Adventure For Beginners

    • Pete
      November 23 2011

      We fit in the “not young party animals” mold as well, and that certainly helps on the profile 😉 Thank you so much for signing up and if you have any questions let us know.

  • November 23 2011

    I am so glad to have found you via Twitter! Love Twitter for making the world a smaller place.

    What a neat idea to do housesitting. I’ve never thought of doing that, but having read your blog, will definitely look into it in the future.

    You have an amazing following. Am now following your blog as well.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..Winnipeg’s new airport terminal brings the Manitoba capital into the 21st century

    • November 24 2011

      Thanks Doreen, we’re glad you found us too! If you ever need more info on housesitting, just let us know! 🙂

  • December 20 2011

    Thanks so much for this review! This is something that we’re thinking about doing next year and this is super helpful.
    Akila recently posted..weekly photo: hummingbirds flutter

    • Pete
      December 21 2011

      Thanks Akila. We have loved the opportunities we have had to sit in Europe. There are so many, which means that this concept is really picking up steam. If you have any other questions about this let us know, we have some great contacts. Best of luck!

  • December 21 2011

    This sounds like a fabulous idea! I’ve heard of some of the services, and figured they could be a lot of fun, but have not heard from anyone with first hand experience! Thanks for sharing! I like Nora’s spot in the Caribbean, sounds like a great way to visit somewhere expensive!
    Shani recently posted..Photo of the Week – Surprisingly Green Zimbabwe

    • Pete
      December 21 2011

      Yes Shani, Nora has a pretty sweet gig for sure!! House-sitting has brought us to some pretty cool places. 6 months in Roatan, Honduras, 3 weeks in London, 2 weeks in Brussels, 2 months in Ireland in a 10th century manor, 3 weeks in Southern Spain, just to name a few. Plus we have 2 sits lined up, 6 weeks in NYC and 3 months in Turkey. A very economical way to travel. It’s certainly gaining some popularity. We love it and fully endorse it!!! Thanks for your comment!

  • July 24 2012

    Can you provide some information on the Schengen VISA issue. After 90 days in country you have to leave and cannot reenter until 90 days have passed. How do you deal with sits that might run over 90 days, or two different sits that would violate the 90 day rule. Finally, what if your sit is going to be for over 90 days. Is there a process for staying for 6 moths for example? How have you dealt with this?

    • July 25 2012

      Hi Michael – so far, we’ve worked around Schengen, and not taken any sits over three months in those areas. What we have done is bounced around into countries that aren’t a part of it (the UK, Ireland, Turkey, to name a few). As far as I understand, there is no easy way to get a visa extension. Check out this article by Nomadic Matt about working around it though, where he suggests there are some ways: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-legally-stay-in-europe-for-more-than-90-days/ Also, if I was ever in a pinch and knew I was going to be over my Schengen days, I would enter/exit through a country like Italy – have been through there quite a few times this year and they NEVER check through my passport, they hardly even glance at it! 🙂

  • Joelle
    August 11 2015

    Hey all

    I’m interested in doing house-sitting and I love that you can do house-sitting for such long periods at a time. However, I’m only then worried about costs for food and transportation. How did you guys deal with these costs?

    Thanks!

  • Chad
    January 6 2017

    Thanks for all the information.

    Just a question about the Nomador website, when you look up countries, it lists quite a lot of choices but when you choose the option to “limit search to house-sits that are still available”, the number of choices greatly diminishes. Does that mean the other homes are completely unavailable? I just found it confusing that listings show up that say, “listing closed for this period” or “no longer available for this period”.

    Thanks for your help!

    • January 7 2017

      Yes Chad, that means that those are no longer available, unfortunately!

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