Amy and Tim Rutherford with Ginger, who they took care of during a homestay in Boulder, Colorado.
Last year, Amy and Tim Rutherford took four trips across Colorado and California, visiting three different cities via car and plane for a total of 26 nights.
The final price tag for these trips? $1,434.39.
That’s $55.17 per day, Snickers bars included.
Their secret: They’re house sitters. They stay in other people’s homes for free in exchange for caring for pets and property while homeowners are away. And though they started out locally, the couple is taking their business abroad in 2018 and traveling the world on a budget. Here’s how you could get this life.
Craft a Compelling Profile
The Rutherfords use Trusted Housesitters to connect with homeowners across the country looking for someone to watch their homes, but landing a desirable gig (nice homes in good locations) isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The best homes have stiff competition (a recent house-sit in Santa Barbara had between 40 and 50 applicants) so writing a great profile is key to standing out.
Homeowners faced with a pile of applicants are looking for excuses to weed people out, says Amy, so it’s important to include as much information as possible. “If you don't have a good profile? Out. If you don't specify upfront you're a nonsmoker? Out. If you don't have good pictures? Out. We've maxed out our pictures,” she says.
Another key step is getting high ratings. To do this, it’s easiest to start somewhere with less competition. That’s why Amy and Tim started out doing house-sits in their home state of Colorado. Once they accumulated good ratings, they expanded.
Tim with Drummer, a 150-pound dog they looked after in Denver.
Find a Good House-Sitting Match
Once you craft a profile, the next step is to start finding good homestays. Each homeowner has different requirements for taking care of their home and pets, so it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. “Being on a house-sit requires effort and commitment. It's not the same as being on vacation,” Amy says.
House-sitters are responsible for the same chores the homeowners do, such as picking up mail, gardening, mowing the lawn and taking out the trash. And if pets are involved, they often have special requirements. Recently, Amy and Tim stayed in a home and with two cats, one of whom needed insulin shots twice a day at specific times. These chores can limit your time for touristy activities, so the Rutherfords advise applying only for homestays with responsibilities you’re comfortable and able to do.
And to make sure there aren’t any surprises, they suggest getting as much information as possible before accepting a homestay. When the Rutherfords started with local house-sits, they would meet the person at their home before accepting. For long-distance house-sits, they now use Skype to meet the homeowners. “We have a list of 40 to 50 questions that we ask. It’s things like, ‘Is your pet microchipped with the current information?’ If you have a fire in your house, what do you want me to take?’ They're really specific.”
Amy with Maya and Ayla in Denver.
Put in Extra Effort
Once the Rutherfords are on a homestay, they send pictures and videos to the homeowners to show that everyone is happy and healthy — sometimes every day, if asked. When the homeowners return, the place is cleaner than they found it and they sometimes even leave behind a small welcome-home gift.
Because of their ratings, they’ve landed more gigs, which they’re leveraging for their next phase. “Our plan ultimately is to go to Paris, London, Sydney, or wherever, and be there for six weeks or a couple of months,” Tim says.
But, most of all, Amy says, she and Tim just enjoy helping others out while also enjoying free travel. “It's a win for us, it's a win for the homeowners, it's the biggest win for the pets who don't have to have their lives disrupted by going to the kennel.”