HOW DOES IT WORK?
You can become either a house sitter or swapper. House sitting means you’ll get free accommodation in exchange for looking after someone else’s home, watering the plants, picking up the post and caring for pets while they’re away.
Alternatively, you can do a house swap with another homeowner. This also means you’ll get free accommodation but both parties must be able to swap properties at the same time.
To do this you need to join a home-swapping company, such as homeexchange.com, and post an advert describing your house, location and the dates when you’re available for a swap.
With both options there’s the chance to get extra freebies thrown in, such as food and drink, local visitor information or sports equipment, but this is entirely up to the individual.
WHERE CAN YOU GO?
The world is your oyster and there are opportunities at home and abroad. For example, trustedhousesitters.com is currently listing a home in Brittany that needs a house sitter for a month in the summer, and the only requirement is that you have to care for the owner’s two dogs and fish.
A family in Barcelona is also looking to house swap with someone in London or Paris on homeexchange.com. As a general rule of thumb, the amount of success you have if you are house swapping will depend on the quality and location of your own home.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The swap itself is free but most house swapping and sitting websites charge a registration fee.
For example, HomeExchange charges £5.95 a month if you sign up for a year and Trustedhousesitters charges a one-off annual fee of £37.90. You can even earn a small amount from house sitting as some websites such as homesitters.co.uk pay a £10 daily rate and travel expenses at 40p per mile.
IS IT SAFE?
Some companies, such as Homesitters, will supply a legally binding contract to ensure both parties are properly insured. The company offers full insurance to cover the house sitter and the homeowner. Potential house sitters are also checked online before they’re allowed to use the facilities.
Adele Barclay, spokesperson for Homesitters, says: “It’s a huge responsibility to put someone in another person’s home and sitters need to be vetted meticulously before anything is agreed.”
However, the majority of companies won’t provide this level of cover. Typically, potential sitters create a profile, which includes details such as reviews of previous sits, criminal record checks and video introductions.
There is also an agreement form on most websites, outlining an understanding between both parties of what is expected from the assignment. However, this is not legally binding. It means there is still a risk you would have to pay for any potential damage or theft to your property as most insurers won’t cover you for this. The only other option is to take out specialist holiday-let insurance from a company such as Intasure (intasure.com).