For the past decade, I have lived quite a nomadic lifestyle. I have traveled a lot both within Australia and overseas; as well as spent 2-3 years living abroad in the UK and Canada. This means “settling down” into what many see as a stable lifestyle hasn’t really been something I have completely craved or managed to find for many reasons.
Even so, for a number of years there has been somewhat of a pressure placed on me, to start living as an “adult”: to buy that house, to find that husband, work full time every year, yada, yada, yada. And while I understand the push for women and men in their late 20s and early 30s, to find that stability that many people have by then; I can see how much that idea somewhat affected me in living my life my way, and whether people saw that as acceptable after I turned 30.
There is still so much pressure today to live a certain way and tick off all these milestones by a set time. But what if that’s not what makes you happy? Or even as a 34 year old, single woman, what you actually want or need? Sometimes people don’t understand not wanting to put down solid roots in one place – or to not want to stick to something for more than a few years without needing a break from it for a little while.
What My Life Has Been Like So Far
I have been back home living in Melbourne, Australia and working as a high school casual relief teacher for the past 18 months. While I have been traveling on every school break – and still want to travel even more; I also want my own place and have independence from living with my parents. I have been living with them since I returned from Canada in mid 2017. Given my travels every 10 weeks due to school breaks, moving out of the family home hasn’t been possible on my single income and renting wasn’t something that would help me achieve this. But it was looking to be my only option not that long ago.
So what choice did I make? I have actually been long term house and pet sitting since October 2018 across various places in Melbourne. And it’s been the best thing I have ever done for so many reasons.
In fact, as of March 2019 – I am booked up until the end of November right now with 7 different house/pet sits locked in, which pretty much sees me sitting instead of living with my parents for the remainder of 2019. Some house sits are 2 weeks in length, some are as long as 5 weeks. But all are located an hour or less from where I work in south east Melbourne – which is my main rule for taking on a sit.
Why Do I House & Pet Sit In Melbourne?
Predominately, Australia has been in a housing crisis over the past few years. House prices have skyrocketed due to foreign investment and overall demand, which means unless you entered the housing market more than 5 years ago, owning a house in a city like Melbourne or Sydney is not an easy feat unless you have a second income to rely on. Plus, good luck getting a bank loan on a single income after the big 4 banks endured a ghastly royal commission in Australia where all their deceitful practices were laid bare. It’s never been harder to buy a home. Based on all of this, committing to a mortgage means you do have to sacrifice in every degree, which I am just not willing to do yet. But luckily for us who are saving our money, house prices are falling, the bubble has begun to burst, so many of us are watching and waiting until we can enter the market at a more realistic and survivable rate – even if it takes 1-2 years to come to fruition.
Why not just rent in Melbourne then you ask?
I am not wanting to throw my money away paying someone else’s mortgage. I also don’t want to live in a share house with as many as 4 people again which is what I would likely need to do to afford to be living out of home. But I am at the stage of my life where I do crave independence, and above all, my own personal space and want to find a place which will allow me to exist in that way. But, I also still want to be able to travel and go out with friends and enjoy my life like I have previously highlighted. So how can I possibly have the best of both worlds here? It’s actually possible.
House and pet sitting is the answer.
You see, unlike renting or being stuck in a sharehouse, house sitting has literally opened up so many houses to me that I wonder why more people aren’t doing it. There are so many benefits, albeit it some negatives too. But these are so minor in comparison, it’s a no-brainer.
As a single, well traveled woman in her mid 30s, there are so many reasons for why I recommend more people become house sitters or pet sitters in their own cities; or even when traveling on long vacations anywhere in the world. In 2020, I will look into doing house and pet sitting in the US or Canada based on my sitting experience in Australia, as I plan to be abroad for a minimum of 6 months if I can afford it.
What is the benefit of being of being a house or pet sitter in your home town though? There are many reasons for why I have chosen to make house sitting my lifestyle in Melbourne. Here are just some of the reasons for why I do this – maybe they will inspire you to start too or make you use house sitters yourself so you can have a stress-free vacation?
The Many Benefits Of House & Pet Sitting
1. Exploring Different Neighbourhoods In Your Home Town
As I work full time in Melbourne’s suburban south east, so as long as I can travel to and from work each day, I can pretty much explore a wide variety of Melbourne’s most interesting and often unknown (even to me) suburbs. This makes my life pretty exciting and full of variety on every house sit I take.
Given my work location is quite accessible, I can be house or pet sitting in Melbourne’s CBD one week, and then hit up the bayside areas of Melbourne along the Mornington Peninsula. But I can also be based on the cusp of our iconic wine country in the Yarra Valley, or in the rainforest areas of the Dandenong Ranges. I am central to so many amazing places, which makes me very lucky that I can experience what life is like in all of these different environments. As s prospective home buyer, knowing which locations I like, and what type of places I want to live, can be realised through house sitting.
Over the past 6 months, I have already experienced so much of Melbourne. I have looked after plants in an apartment in Flemington across multiple weekends, where I had that real city vibe. I have looked after animals ranging from little dogs to big dogs to cats to fish to stick insects across Melbourne’s coastal regions of Mornington and Mordialloc. And I have explored inner city suburban life of places like Bentleigh. All of these places, I had never spent a ton of time in before I house sat there and it has really opened my eyes to what Melbourne has to offer to it’s residents. So when I do finally purchase a home, maybe I will end up in one of these neighbourhoods?
2. Exploring New Cities You Visit
I have house and pet sat for friends interstate while in town to explore new places. It was a great experience and I luckily had access to my friend’s car. If I travel internationally or within Australia and house sit, I will hire a car if I don’t have access to one – or ensure I am close to public transport options if not.
During my week in Canberra post Christmas in 2018, I looked after a Brittany Spoodle named Aspen. He was a puppy, and had never been pet sit before, besides with my friend’s parents. He was a handful, being a puppy, but we became friends and had some lovely moments together including sleeping on the couch, going for walks and I even managed to teach him to stay downstairs when I went upstairs.
The best part about this house sit was I spent a few hours a day exploring the city of Canberra, which I love doing. I would go out for brunch and take photos. Then return for the remainder of the day and spend time with Aspen, eat dinner and relax. As the weather was very hot that week, Aspen’s owner felt confident he wasn’t left outside in the stifling heat for 8 hours; and was mainly inside with the cool air conditioning when the weather was at it’s hottest.
I got to explore more of Canberra at my leisure each day, and had a cute little puppy to play with – even if I had to put him in timeout a few times! But it taught me about dog training and how to handle puppies – which I would only do for a friend. I don’t really take on puppies for my house sits, but Aspen was a fun experience – and ensured I wasn’t alone in Canberra.
Many people travel around Australia or internationally and house and pet sit. It is not a new concept. But it would really depend on how long you plan to be away or whether you are slow traveling in different places for if it will work for you and the home owner. I am interested in house and pet sitting in the US and Canada next year, but it will really depend on what is available for whether it will work for me. But I will ask my friends in the lead up if they know anyone heading away.
3. Testing Out Different Houses
Not only do I get to test out specific neighbourhoods in Melbourne, I also get to see what features I like in a house, apartment or unit. Whether its bathrooms, kitchens, cable tv or washing facilities…as someone who has never lived alone in my own place, working out what i like within them is a great way to practice.
So far I know I love having a large countertop to prepare meals and cook on and walk in pantries. I also love rain showers and kitchen nozzles which can be adjusted – far easier to quickly do dishes too! Cordless vacuums have a lot to offer, as do properties which open out onto a nice wooden deck.
On top of this, (carefully!) using people’s pots, pans and knives is also interesting as I get to see what brands are good to cook with and consider buying them myself. Even though you have access to a whole house – you can bring your own items or use theirs. But don’t break anything or ruin anything and always be aware of how things work BEFORE you use them.
I haven’t found too many negatives yet – but I know what I like in how rooms are set up, whether I want 1 or 2 bathrooms, double storey houses or single storey, and if I want a large space to live, or a smaller one.
This all said, I do bring tons of stuff with me. I always travel with my airfryer and food processor. I buy all of my own food – even down to sauces I use. I rarely use things in someone else’s home, but it’s mainly because I am consistent in what I like and like my own things. Especially in winter when it comes to using my fluffy blanket on the couch!
4. Finding New Cafes, Bars & Restaurants In Melbourne
As a traveler and travel writer, I often eat out or meet friends for drinks or dinner in and around Melbourne.
So one of the things I ask my homeowners to do before they leave for their vacations is to a) leave me directions about their house and pets and b) to leave me a list of recommendations for places to try out within their local areas. This helps me to gain a local perspective, it helps me to gain a feel for what is popular within a local area, and I also get to become local by eating there myself.
When I housesat in Mornington, I fell in love with the cafe, Commonfolk. In Flemington, it was Noughts & Crosses. In Bentleigh, Hidden Creatures. All are great cafes, all have local edges and because of these sits, I know that they exist. There are tons more places I can add to the list here of course – including those found in neighbouring suburbs, but you get the general idea.
Eating out as a local is really important to gaining a real feel for a particular neighborhood. Why wouldn’t you do this?
5. Discover Which Pets You Like
For the past decade, my family has owned a Maltese Shitzu named Duke. So for the longest time, he has been the only pet I have known.
Fast forward to last year and I had the pleasure of interacting and caring for a range of dogs – a Labrador, Schnauzers, a Spoodle puppy and a Boxer, cats, fish, a stick insect and even chickens. All have been low maintenance pets – which is why pet sitting for them works for me and my schedule, as I only have so much time in my day to offer them. But they all have loved me and warmed to me pretty much immediately, which I like to think is a talent.
My week long Mordialloc sit in January was with the Schnauzers and was one of the cutest pet sitting experiences I have had. Ned was a 1 year old, Billie was 11 – they fought each other for my attention and were just adorable. Last month, I pet sat Macey, the boxer and Chops, the cat and we became BFF’s as I sat for them for 1 month. We had a routine down pat, and it was very hard to leave them. But being someone with limited experience with bigger dogs, Macey has shown me how gentle and lovely boxers can be – and how obsessed they can be with tennis balls when taking walks to the parks. I am also not someone who predominately LOVES cats, but Chops was a really affectionate and quite a loud cat at times, which really helped change my opinion of them. She had so much character.
In my upcoming sits, I have rescue dogs, including the cutest little shitzu I have ever seen, more schnauzers, sibling cats (which I already know) and even a pug to care for between now and the end of the year. Pet sitting really does make you see the personalities of all animals, and how much you can actually like those for yourself as a pet owner; and whether you would want to take on that type of pet in future. So not only do I get to test houses, I also get a practice run for animals.
The best part about pet sitting for me is taking photos of the pets and practicing my photography skills, as well as attempting selfies with them. But I always send photo updates to their owners so they can see how their pets are going and that is the most fun part for me – keeping the home owner happy and de-stressed in knowing that their most precious family member is being cared for and happy. Plus, it makes house sitting less lonely!
6. Imagine What Life Would Really Be Like To Live There
When it comes to living in a city or town, rarely do we get test out what life would be like to live in all these different areas. But since I am testing out neighborhoods, I get to see what my life would actually be like if I did actually call these suburbs home for good.
One major thing I have noticed, is I get to see what the all important commute would be like in this area. My current commute from my parents house is 30-35 minutes. On my recent house sit in Bentleigh, it was only 15. How amazing right? Going against the traffic into Melbourne is clearly the winner. Plus the Monash Freeway will always remain a giant carpark, so anytime I don’t have take that is a good thing!
I also get to think about the real time logistics of living somewhere – How close is the nearest supermarket? How far is my pilates studio? What roads am I having to drive on to get to different places and how quickly can I get around to the places I need to? Is public transport accessible? Is this area safe? Is there a nice park to sit in?
All of these questions are what potential home buyers ask themselves prior to buying a property. So how lucky am I that I get to actually test drive the life I could have in a particular place, and answer whether it actually suits what I am looking for? I won’t make any mistakes in future if I consider all the things I am noticing on each sit, while I am experiencing them. This is one of a kind, unique and hard to come by information – and I have it all at my fingertips!
7. Meeting New People & Getting To Talk Travel Stories
As I am someone who has traveled extensively, I always love connecting with other travelers, hearing their stories and seeing where they are off to. People need house and pet sitters when they go on vacation – which means I am surrounded by endless travelers.
I love sharing my knowledge and experience with others and I still get to do that when I meet potential house sit owners. Rarely do we not talk about travel, and often enough, I give them tips on places they shouldn’t miss if it is somewhere I have been before.
8. I Choose My Own Schedule
Living in a house with other people does mean you sacrifice many things. Peace and quiet is one of them. When I house sit, the animals often sleep in the evenings, so it is just me, my laptop, a good movie or tv show and no one to bother me as I relax the night away. (And I don’t have to fight people for the tv, if I want to watch something in the living room.)
When it comes to mornings, I don’t get woken up early, or have to schedule my alarm to beat people to the shower or to make my lunch. It’s just me and no one else gets in my way. If I want to cook up a feast, I don’t have to fight anyone for the stove or oven. If I want to eat junk food, I don’t have to share it with anyone. If I have food in the fridge, no one eats it but me.
If you can’t afford to live alone, these are all major reasons for why house sitting is a real plus to your daily schedule. I am less stressed, I sleep better and start and end my days how I want to.
9. I Can Practice Living Alone
When transitioning from having always lived with other people, it is great to get the opportunity to live alone. I used to be afraid of this, and my safety regarding sleeping in a house on my own. But the more I do it, the less I am scared, especially because animals are great security systems.
If living alone is something which gives you anxiety, or you are a little afraid to move out and be on your own, this is a great way to practice it and see if it is for you. Then at least when you do buy a house, or rent down the line, you know if you want to get your own place or whether you would prefer a housemate instead.
10. Gaining Variety In My Life
House sitting is not a forever thing. You stay for a few weeks, or even a few months, and then move onto another one. For someone like me who thrives on travel and being in new places, being surrounded by new scenery etc, I never get bored.
Variety is good because it isn’t forever, so you do have to appreciate things a lot more. But if you really like a house sit you are undertaking, it does mean you can feel really sad about saying goodbye. If you don’t love a house sit, or have minor issues with it, you are not chained to it forever like being stuck with a bad house mate.
Variety is always good in my opinion and keeps me happy. I get to enjoy a routine for a little while and then get to create a whole new one on the next one! I thrive in this kind of lifestyle.
11. I Can Change The Rules Of My House Sits Anytime
House sitting is great because it teaches you what you do and don’t like about a lot of things. For me, if I don’t like a certain type of animal – it will become very clear on a house sit. So next time I am contacted about a prospective pet sit, I can say no. But this is yet to happen – I have loved them all.
If I don’t like a certain area, or want to test out a different area instead, I can often find what I am looking for soon enough. There are thousands of housesits advertised every single year. And in a city like Melbourne which is really accessible; plus Melbournians love to travel a lot so there are endless opportunities for me to find house sits and pet sits that suit me. These days, I still receive inquiries every week, asking what my availability is. As I am booked up, I can’t take these on – but the offers are constant.
12. I Save Money (& Can Even Earn It!)
I don’t charge to house or pet it. The way I see it, I get free rent – though my parents don’t charge me much to live with them so I still pay the rent I agreed to, as all of my stuff is still there.
For those saving for a house, or to have money to travel with like me, house and pet sitting allows you to gain all the freedom you desire for no cost to you or the homeowner. Some house sitters do charge, but that is up to each party and your agreement for whether you want to do that. Many do not because they get free rent and it’s low maintenance.
I personally would charge a homeowner if a sit required too much. My time is valuable and if I am expected to spend more than 1-2 hours walking animals, feeding them, and so forth each day, when I work full time, then it is actually more of a chore or job than a sit. And thus should be paid. Some house sitters do take on farm stays, or high level pet sits for free, but I still feel homeowners should be paying these sitters because of the work involved. If they would ordinarily pay someone for what they are asking from you, then in fairness it should be compensated. But this is just my opinion because I value my time.
Right now, I don’t plan to charge. But after I travel and return to Melbourne next year, I may start charging because of my experience and if a sit is further out than I would like, to help cover petrol costs and so forth. But for me, I see house sitting as more of a perk for me than a homeowner, and I only take low maintenance sits anyway.
Overall, house sitting helps me save money because I get to live on my own in new areas, without having to pay for rent. I would have to pay for this in any other circumstance. Whether it is to save money on accommodation costs when traveling or gaining the equivalent of free rent – house sitting helps so many people save money that it really is the driving force for why people do it.
If you do house sit, please ensure you are still saving money and have some put aside for the times you need to pay for accommodation or rent. I find it really irresponsible for people to overstay on homeowners because they have nowhere else to go or a sit changes or is cancelled, and the house sitter needs more than a day or two to get themselves sorted. If you can’t afford to keep yourself afloat for at least 1 month, then you need to look at your lifestyle choices and circumstances to ensure you have somewhere to go. Thankfully for me, I always have my parents.