People often ask me if I get paid for house and pet sitting. The answer is: usually not. House and/or pet sitting is not going to pay my bills. The most I’ve ever been paid for my pet sitting duties was $10 a day (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when I sat somewhere for two or three weeks, I ended up with a little pile of money).
Instead of thinking of house and pet sitting in terms of what I earn, I started thinking of it in terms of what I save.
#1 I don’t pay rent while house sitting. According to the Department of Numbers,
Median monthly gross residential rent in the United States was $934 in 2014 according to the Census ACS survey.1
That’s $233 a week. In 2016, I house sate for approximately eight weeks, saving me the $1868 I would have paid to rent a house. Of course, four of the weeks I house sat were in California where the Department of Numbers says
The median monthly gross residential rent in California was $1,268 in 2014 according to the Census ACS survey…1
so I would have been paying approximately $317 a week there. I would have probably paid more to rent a motel room–even a cheap motel room–for that period of time.
#2 I don’t pay utilities while pet sitting, yet I utilize electricity, natural gas and/or propane, and water while staying in someone’s home. I take as many baths and showers as I want (although I seldom do so every day), cook on the stove, store food in the refrigerator, charge my electronics, turn the lights on, and use the heater or A/C if necessary, all with no out of pocket expenses.
#3 Of the eleven places where I’ve house sat, only three lacked a washer and dryer on site. Where such appliances were available, I was invited/encouraged/expected to use them. At most laundromats I’ve frequented recently, it cost $1.75 to $2 per load to wash and 25 cents per eight minutes to dry, which usually works out to about $2.50 to wash and dry a load of clothes. At my last house sitting job, I washed four loads of clothes (in three weeks), saving me the $10 I would have given to a washateria. I estimate doing laundry while house sitting has saved me at least $30 in laundry costs in 2016.
#4 I don’t pay for internet. I get mobile data on my phone, but I don’t do much more than check Facebook or email on it. When I’m working on the blog or doing anything else that requires internet access, I typically sit at Panera or another coffee shop with fast internet service and electrical outlets. One of my requirements for taking a pet sitting job is the availability of fast internet service in the house so I don’t have to go anywhere to utilize WiFi. House sitting not only saves me the money I’d spend on a monthly internet plan, it saves me the money I’d spend on coffee and/or food if I sat for hours at a coffee shop or restaurant.
#5 I don’t pay for satellite/cable TV either. When I’m in the van, I don’t even think of watching television, but when I’m in a house, I do partake. Of the eleven houses I’ve stayed in while pet sitting, seven offered some sort of television package. Maybe I shouldn’t count the TV I get while staying in someone’s house because I would never spend my own money on such an unnecessary (for me) expense, but I’ll mention it as I do tend to watch when it’s available.
#6 When I’m house sitting I cook instead of eating out. The simple foods I cook (beans, rice, eggs, veggies) are less expensive than the cheapest fast food and healthier too. Cooking on a camp stove is often more of a hassle than I want to deal with, but cooking in a real kitchen is no problem, so I don’t feel the need to eat out.
#7 While pet sitting, I’m usually hunkered down in the house most days while I write or read or do crafts. Staying “home” means I’m not out using gasoline. Every day I don’t drive saves me money.
#8 When I mentioned the idea for this post to a friend (a homeowner), she reminded me of the maintenance costs of owning a home. When I’m house sitting, I’m not worried about missing shingles, leaking pipes, burnt out light bulbs or broken down appliances. If something goes wrong in a house while I’m there, I simply contact the home owner and ask for instructions; I don’t have to pay for repairs.
#9 I can’t slap a price tag on some of the perks I’ve received as a house sitter. One house had huge windows offering a stunning view of the Rio Grande. It also boasted its own outdoor natural hot mineral water soaking pool. Other house sitting locations have offered jaw dropping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. House sitting has brought me close to places otherwise off my beaten path; I probably would not have visited the Calaveras Big Trees State Park had I not been staying in a house nearby.
Of course, it’s flattering to be trusted with people’s earthly possessions and beloved pets. Few moments are sweeter than when a cat who’s been labeled aloof jumps up to sit on my lap or when a cute and fluffy dog curls up to sleep against my leg. Sometimes house and pet sitting really is priceless.
Great post, I agree with all those things and they do certainly add up. A few of the people I house sit for also had a garden so I have plenty of fresh organic food to eat. Some people leave eggs, milk or other food that they don’t mind me eating.
I live in the Bay Area and the housing costs are out of control, so this really could save someone a lot of money.
I still have my house, but like you noted above I save money by using their AC, heater and doing laundry. So far I’m booked up to May so my idea of doing that while camping and traveling some should work. 😉
Good point about being left food to eat when house sitting, Tina. Yes, that usually happens to me too. The woman I’m currently cat sitting for specifically told me not to buy eggs before I arrived because they had plenty in the fridge that needed to be eaten. I’m also a champ at eating up any restaurant leftovers that aren’t going to be good when the home owners return.
Eating fresh, organic food from a backyard garden would be a huge perk.
I feel very fortunate to be able to house sit as a van dweller. My life would not be nearly as comfortable as it is if I didn’t get periodic house time by house and pet sitting.
Thanks for reading and sharing your experience, Tina.
That is a nice way to look at it, but none of it is actual money in your pocket when you’re living on the edge. You have a debt that you’re paying on — if you were earning $10 a day for ten days, you could make a double payment. If that debt involves interest, it also cuts down on the total interest, as well as getting out from under that constant pressure. Plus emergencies happen.
Here are some average costs for the pet owner, from Care.com http://www.care.com/pet-care-pet-care-cost-p1145-q7401.html JUST for pet care.
Dog walkers…$10-$25 per day, for 1 dog
Dog and kitty day care…$15-$35 per day per pet
Kennel Boarding (small animal)…$20-$25 per day per pet
Pet hotels…$35-$90 per pet, varies with services provided
If you charged people $10 a day (no matter the size pet), they are STILL saving money. Plus the other advantages to the pet owner:
* The pets aren’t confined to a cage for the duration.
* If a boarding facility is a no-cage one, there’s no chance of the facility making a “mistake” in assessing another pet’s aggression, and the victim pet ending up at the vet.
* The pets aren’t stressed out by being in a strange environment with strange people.
* The pets get more exercise, attention and play time.
* There’s no outside exposure to diseases and parasites.
* A sensible petsitter is apt to recognize what is normal with a pet, and if they see abnormal behavior, they can do something about it.
* They don’t have to impose on neighbors, relatives or friends.
* PLUS a sitter makes the house looked lived-in (esp in this time of vagrant squatters), and if there’s an emergency, there is someone there to catch it in the beginning instead of letting it go until they get home.
* NOT TO MENTION the stress on both sides when they have to leave their pet at a strange facility and the pet doesn’t understand why their owner is giving them away.
A good house/pet sitter has value. And $10 a day is an extremely fair price for what you’re providing. Please don’t undervalue yourself or what you’re doing. People who have nice homes and can afford a couple of weeks in Hawaii or Tahiti or Maine can afford a sitter. Keep in mind that your use of a bit of water and heat is likely lowering their utilities from normal.
True story: The vet that I used to work for (12 yrs) worked for another vet in NorCal after he first graduated from vet school. A German Short-haired Pointer (GSH) was taken in for two weeks while the owners were on vacation, and to have a cut on his shoulder stitched up. He was kept in a dog run with a bed and auto-water. On the second day, the kennel guy was taking each dog outside into a fenced area (on leash), and then feeding them. He came back in with one dog, and the GSH was out in the runway (having climbed the chain-link run door) and charged out the door past the guy. The guy quickly put the leashed dog in a run and went back out to catch the GSH, but the dog was apparently an experienced fence-climber, and he was already over the top and leaping to freedom.
Everyone looked for him, ads were put in the paper, police notified, etc. Almost ten days later, the receptionist was going to work, and saw a GSH in the gully beside the road, sniffing at something. She stopped and called him, and he ran over to her. She saw the identifying stitches on his shoulder, so she put him in her car and took him in.
When the owners arrived to pick him up, the vet was honest about what had happened, and told them the entire bill was on the house. The owners said it had never occurred to them to mention that the dog was a climber. [Yes, the vet did have the top of the fence restructured so it didn’t happen again.]
Sometime later, my vet (who did the large animal farm calls) realized that the the receptionist had found the dog fairly near his home, where he wanted to be.
Well, it’s true that I am worth $10 a day. (I’m actually worth substantially more than $10 per day.) But if other pet sitters are working for free lodging (which is the expectation the House Sitters America presents to both sides), home owners are going to pick the people sitting for free over me. I am not going to risk not getting the job or not getting my foot in the door by asking for money when other people are not asking for money. So I guess until house and pet sitters unionize, I will continue looking as house sitting as something that makes my quality of life better, even if I’m not getting any cash for doing it.
And btw, my debt is paid off.
I would love a house/pet sitter I could trust! If you are ever in Fort Worth, Texas in 2018 after I retire, I would pay $20 per day easily!
M. Kellogg, thank you so much for your trust in me.
While I currently have no plans to be in Fort Worth, I never say never.
I’m more likely to to travel a long way to house/pet sit if the job is long term. While I’m not going to travel to Texas to house/pet sit for a weekend, I may be willing to do so far a month or more. (I do have some friends in Texas who would like to see me.)
I’m also more likely to want a long term job in the winter.
So, yes, please do keep me in mind and be in touch after you retire in 2018.
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