This is going to be a 4-part mini-series about the side hustles in which I’ve partaken!
WHAT IS IT
Today´s featured side hustle is housesitting and petsitting! Someone goes out of town and they pay you to stay at their house to watch over things and so that it won’t look empty. If you’re lucky, they’ll have pets you get to feed, love, and play with, too! You might not be able to schedule this as a regular gig, but when the opportunity arises, it’s tons of fun!
HOW I GOT INTO IT
When I was a kid and we’d go out of town, my parents would—at best—ask a neighbor to pick up our mail and newspapers, and generally keep an eye out for suspicious activity. I had never heard of housesitting until pretty recently.
Michael’s aunt Melinda owns a travel agency, and as you can imagine, is out of town very often. After we got married, she started asking us to go stay at her house while she was out. She has a very sweet Shar-Pei and an energetic Lab, along with a very smart, poofy kitty. I had no idea she was going to pay us! We were happy to stay at her enormous house and play with her pets. I guess we did a fine job (it was easy!) because she started recommending us to family.
Now that we’re “experienced,” we housesit and petsit for friends, family, and coworkers all the time! If you have little ones, this might be hard to swing, depending on your schedule, and your partner’s. It works out perfectly for me and Michael because it’s just the two of us.
HOW MUCH DOES IT PAY
We never asked to be paid for this, but Aunt Melinda started paying us $25/day and that´s been our going rate, since. This may not sound like much, but you’re basically getting paid to do next to nothing–and you can still do all your other work, too! Melinda often pays us in Visa gift cards, sometimes she supplements them with restaurant gift cards, too. We’re not picky. I’m sure she’s gotten these for free as rewards or gifts, but who cares! $25/day is the most we’ve ever been paid by anyone, but I’ve read online some people charge $50+, depending on the number of pets. We’re happy with our $25. That’s an extra $175/week for doing next to nothing!
HOW TO PREP
Before you housesit or petsit for anyone, you definitely want to meet with them (preferably in their home) before they leave. Here, they’ll give you the house key, but more importantly, you can go over all the specifics. Ask about:
- alarm codes
- air conditioner preferences
- if anyone will be coming by (housekeepers, gardeners, etc)
- when the trash/recycling pickup is
- what the WiFi password is
- how to use their TV
- who the emergency person to contact is
- and if there’s anything else you need to know.
Also ask all about their pets, if they have any! Ask about:
- feeding times and habits
- how often they can get treats
- walking and playing rituals
- where they sleep
- if they need any meds
- how they typically react to being away from their parents
WHY YOU’RE BETTER THAN THE COMPETITION
- You know them and they know you! I would only recommend housesitting for family for friends, or maybe friends of friends. Some people housesit for strangers, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You want to minimize what could go wrong, in terms of your own safety, and any trust issues that may arise between you and the homeowner.
- You’re way cheaper than the vet. Your friends will probably feel much more comfortable leaving their sweet pooch with you rather than leaving him with the vet or a pet boarding place. Sure, they might have used that vet for years, but still, there are so many pets there all at once—Old Sparky is never going to get the individual attention and love at the vet like what you can provide.
WHAT ELSE IS IN IT FOR YOU
- Food – Every time we’ve done this, the homeowners say “help yourself to any food you may find.” Typically they try to clear out perishables before they go, especially if they’re going to be gone long—but sometimes they leave that up to you.
- Drinks – We’ve found family and friends always want you to have a nice time while you’re doing them this favor, and they often ask what we like to drink. We’re not there to get sloshed by any means, but it’s nice to have exactly what you like to drink available there.
- Mini-vacation – Housesitting can be like a mini-vacation for you! Even if it’s only across town, or in a different neighborhood, you get to see different things out and about and change up what you’re used to. Sometimes they’ll even have a pool they’ll tell you you’re welcome to use, a fancy tub, a beautiful balcony overlooking a garden, or a rooftop terrace right in the heart of town. Enjoy yourself!
- Commitment-Free Pets – You can love on some sweet pets without having to commit to loving them forever (or paying for them).
DOs AND DON’Ts
DO: Explore the house when you settle in. It’s okay to see what’s where.
DON’T: Snoop through their stuff, open drawers, read paperwork, try on clothes or shoes. Duh.
DO: Bring in mail, newspapers, and packages as they arrive.
DON’T: Read or open anything, unless specifically instructed to do so.
DO: Say hello to neighbors.
DON’T: Invite your friends over for a party!
DO: Watch TV, Netfix, whatever they have.
DON’T: Mess with the DVR or order pay-per-view anything!
DO: Make the homeowner aware of your schedule, when they can expect you to be in the house, at work, or elsewhere generally speaking.
DON’T: Leave someone else in charge of the house or the pets.
DO: Turn off lights if you’re heading out, and unplug your stuff (laptops, cell phones, etc).
DON’T: Turn the AC to 65º because you like it to be cold and it’s the dead of summer and they’ll never notice. Hint: They will.
DO: Clean up after yourself and leave everything the way it was when you arrived.
DON’T: Feel like you have to really deep clean or scrub. They’re not expecting you to do that.
DO: Wash towels and linens on your last day.
DON’T: Leave any forgotten underwear or dirty socks laying around.
DO: Leave a nice note, flowers, cookies, something pleasant for when the homeowner comes back.
DON’T: Leave passive aggressive notes about anything. If there’s a problem, talk about it.
MY WACKY STORY
The very first time we ever housesat, a couple of years ago, Melinda’s Lab “Piglet” was a puppy. Like, maybe 4 months old. She chewed through EVERYTHING despite her countless chew toys. We ran to the grocery store and left her in the back yard one day. In maybe 30 minutes, the cushions were torn to shreds, as were the gardening shoes that were out there! Even when we were all inside, we’d catch her chewing on the legs of the dining room table daily. I WAS MORTIFIED. We had been told to only kennel her at night. Michael assured me there was nothing to worry about, and that this is what puppies do, but still, I was mortified. When his aunt and uncle returned, they laughed and laughed—both at Piglet and at me, I suspect. They had forgotten to tell us that this had been happening to them, too, and not to worry about it. They love Piglet way more than that table, I guess. Now, I definitely don’t forget to ask about any “bad habits” pets might have that I can expect.
Do you enjoy housesitting or petsitting for friends or family members? Have you made money from it? Any wacky stories to share?