How to use TrustedHousesitters and other sites to be a digital nomad

As house prices skyrocketed this spring, my landlords called me to tell me that they had decided to sell their home and that I should move out. (It should be noted that in most apartments in Oakland, where I live, selling a house would not be a legal reason to evict a tenant, but my backyard cottage fell into a loophole, so I had to scramble to find somewhere else to live.) My little house was so small it was relatively inexpensive for the Bay Area, and with few options on the market, I decided to turn to a temporary alternative: keeping a pet in exchange for a free place to live.

For 73 days, I have been taking care of a cat instead of paying rent. And while this is not a solution to the housing shortage – and I’m only relying on it to consider other possibilities, including moving to a much cheaper state – the model is becoming more and more more common for people traveling on a budget.

On TrustedHousesitters, a platform founded in 2010 that now has tens of thousands of members, ads can include apartments in central Tokyo, Berlin and Brooklyn, a 16th-century farmhouse next to a castle in France, a horse farm in Maine and a log home in the mountains of Colorado. Most owners using the service have pets (usually a cat or a dog, sometimes with an alpaca or a flock of sheep), and when traveling they want to leave the animals at home and not in a kennel. Others just want someone to water the plants and occupy the house. Homeowners and house sitters pay an annual fee to use the platform, but each house-sit is a direct exchange: owners don’t pay the house sitter, and the house sitter doesn’t pay the owner. I spent six weeks looking after a fluffy cat named Woolfy and paid nothing; renting a smaller house on Airbnb for the same period, in the same city, would have cost me over $ 3,600.

[Photo: courtesy of the author]

The house-sitting platform “is based on the sharing economy model, where no money exchanges hands between caretakers and owners,” says Angela Laws, community manager at UK-based TrustedHousesitters. -United. “It’s based purely on experience and a community of like-minded animal lovers.” The experience is similar to what Airbnb offers: you feel like you’re living in a neighborhood during your trip, rather than in a generic hotel. But it avoids one of Airbnb’s pitfalls: you don’t have to worry about whether you’re staying in an apartment or house that could have helped alleviate the local housing shortage. Other house-sitting platforms, such as Nomador, offer a similar service for connecting owners and house-sitters.

Since the service uses reviews as the primary means for owners to screen potential caretakers, it can be difficult to get hired for the first gig. For me, it was mostly luck: When I applied for my first job and didn’t have an opinion yet, an owner was willing to give it a shot. Their review helped me land the next gig. Laws recommends asking for referrals from friends whose pets you’ve kept pets in the past, then apply for short-term home-care jobs on-site before trying to snag a stay thousands of miles away. , for example, in New Zealand or France.

But it’s possible to sit still full-time: Before the pandemic, Laws lived in a sort of nomadic existence for five years, traveling the world taking care of pets. As the pandemic abates, demand is expected to increase, both because many more people are now able to work remotely and there has been an increase in adoptions of new animals during the lockdown. “When you’ve adopted a pet from a kennel, the last thing you want to do is put it back in that environment,” she says.

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