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Free Accommodation: 10 Tips For House Sitting in Europe

Who doesn’t want free accommodation? House sitting in Europe can make it possible. But what exactly is house sitting? In most cases, house sitters sign up on a website, fill out a profile and apply for house sitting in Europe and the rest of the world. The house owners, who might be traveling for business or pleasure, are looking for dependable house sitters who will live in their house, make sure that everything is in order, and potentially take care of pets and animals.

House sitter jobs range from weekends to years in length. The quid pro quo requirements of being a house sitter need to be taken seriously. In exchange for a free place to stay, you’re being asked to take care of someone’s worldly possessions and perhaps their beloved fur (or feathered) babies.

Most of the time you’ll be able to kick back and soak up your good fortune, but there will be moments when you will have to work for it. After all, the key to getting a repeated opportunities for house sitting in Europe is to do an excellent job each time and stack up stellar references.

Following my first sit, we put together a top ten list of the things we wish we had known before we embarked on our house sitting in Europe adventure. Hopefully, our experience will make it easier for you to have a smooth house-sit.

Warm sunlight shines on a beautiful brick cottage surrounded by grass and trees with a clear blue sky above

I knew to bring a small gift from home. Paying attention to the pets on arrival was easy. We kept the homeowners updated on our schedule on the day of arrival. We knew to clean the bedrooms and bathrooms and had the linens in the dryer, if not actually in their original position before our departure.

But these ten things weren’t quite as obvious.

10 Tips For House Sitting in Europe

Cleaning Services

Don’t leave the house when the cleaning person is there. Knowing this at home is different than “knowing” this abroad. Instead of getting out of their way and going exploring, the cleaning person will want to share information with you and not get their work completed in a timely manner.

Take Photos of Everything!

Rooms, pets, just everything. That way you can return it to the homeowners in as good — or better — shape as when you arrived. You know to treat the house with the utmost respect from the start

Be Prepared

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, be certain to have emergency contact information on hand, for the homeowners, the doctor, the veterinarian. Make sure you know the “911” equivalent for the country you are visiting. And a neighbor or friend of the owners that live nearby for quick assistance.

Things happen, that is normal. Be absolutely, explicitly honest with the homeowners about anything that comes up.

A woman sitting with four dogs in a little clearing surrounded by trees on a bright clear sunny day
On a dog walk

Crossing Borders

Consider what you’ll tell customs officials at the border. If you have an international house-sitting opportunity, customs may consider being a house sitter “work” that requires a work visa. Obviously you should never lie to a customs agent, but you can say you are staying with friends. Have the homeowners’ telephone number handy. Some customs officials may call and check. 

Communication is Key

Check with the type and frequency of communication the homeowners prefer. We ultimately chose an email when something eventful happened the same day when we hadn’t clarified previously. The homeowner replied with “top marks” and even explained some of the challenges we’d experienced.

Know Your Way

Have actual directions and an address to the home before the day of the sit. This really was a rookie mistake, created by our lack of internet access the week prior to our sit. I didn’t know it was “four hours away” which meant, in Dublin traffic, seven hours.

A white brick cottage with a chimney surrounded by close trees and tall grass behind an older white woman holding 4 dog leashes on a dirt path
Outside view on a walk

Schedule Your Time

Arrange your sightseeing highlights in blocks of time. You want to travel to this part of the world. Do you have a list of everything you want to see? Prioritize them by importance. Then separate them by how much time they require. Do they need an hour? An afternoon? A full day? Make sure you can complete the household duties before and after your exploring.

Food Etiquette

Be crystal clear about what you’re welcome to consume. Our homeowners have traditionally invited us to “help ourselves” to anything in the refrigerator. We disposed of fruit or veg as it spoiled if we hadn’t been able to consume it ourselves. We replaced almost anything we ate or drank with a new item of the same brand. Do NOT drink their wine or liquor. It could be incredibly valuable to them.  

Knowing Your Limits

Be realistic about your ability to complete the tasks assigned. I’ll admit to having a propensity towards optimism. I really didn’t think that four dogs, a horse, 5 hens, a rooster, and 2 ducks were too much. Good thing there were two of us. It took until the third day before we really had ourselves set to the animals’ schedule.

We learned these animals have “special” magical powers. They’re in front of you one minute, and outside where they’re not supposed to be the next. Ask the owners in advance what to watch out for with each pet. One may be able to get out locked doors. Another appears to teleport to a different part of the house. A hen may be counted twice so you don’t actually have all of them in the chicken coop for the night (I’m just saying…).

A sitting room with a picnic table style dinner table with lounge chairs in the corners in front of a window wall as natural light flows in gracefully
View from the inside

Parting in Sweet Sorrow

You will be surprised by how very much you will not want to leave. You don’t “know” these people, but you do. You’ve lived amongst their precious items and pets that they’ve spent years acquiring with love. You bond over your common love for travel whether for business or travel. Many people continue to keep in touch after the sit has concluded. They may even call you back. We certainly hope ours do.

10 Essential Things About Being a House Sitter was written by Gail Clifford

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