In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common hidden costs of house sitting and provide tips on how to budget for your next stay.
House sitting can be an excellent way to save money on lodging while travelling or to make some extra cash by looking after someone else’s home while they’re away. However, like most things in life, house sitting comes with hidden expenses that can quickly add up and break your budget.
Also, your time is valuable. You are not on vacation but are responsible for the upkeep of the home and/or pets. You’ll spend a lot of time making sure the house is in great shape, the pets are taken care of, and everything is returned in the same condition it was when the owner left you in charge. Let’s look at some of these costs.
Travel to your House Sit
This is most likely the most expensive aspect of house sitting. It goes without saying that travel is expensive. If it weren’t, probably more people would try it!
This is usually your responsibility, so you might want to think twice about accepting a housesitting position on the other side of the world. The cost of the trip could far outweigh the appeal of free lodging.
Unexpected Costs of Home Maintenance
One of the most significant hidden costs of house sitting is unexpected home maintenance costs. Even if the homeowner has taken care of most of the major maintenance issues, things can still go wrong. For example, the HVAC system could break down, the water heater could fail, or the dishwasher could stop working. These are all issues that will require repairs or replacements, and the cost can quickly add up.
To budget for potential home maintenance costs while house sitting, it’s a good idea to ask the homeowner about the age and condition of the major appliances and systems in the house. This way, you can anticipate potential issues and plan accordingly.
I remember sitting in one particular house. It was our last day, and we locked ourselves out and had no spare key. So my husband bought a new lock for approximately $35, and of course, we did not expect reimbursement as it was totally our fault.
Do the owners have a home warranty to cover unexpected repairs or replacements?
Homeowners should cover the cost of any necessary repairs or major replacements themselves, so it’s always a good idea to discuss this with them before starting your house-sitting gig.
Another expense to consider when house sitting is transportation costs. Unless the house where you’re sitting is within walking distance of your home or your destination, you’ll likely need to factor in transportation costs. This can include gas money if you’re driving, public transportation fees if you’re taking a bus or a train, or even rental car expenses if you’re flying to your destination.
Some owners will leave their vehicle, but it is up to you to keep it clean, replace any gas you use, and let them know immediately what you should do if there are any problems incurred with the car.
If you’re taking public transportation, look for discounts or monthly passes that can save you money over the long term.
To budget for transportation costs, start by researching the area you’ll be staying in and the modes of transportation available. This way, you can determine the most cost-effective way to get around.
Pet Care Expenses
If the homeowner has pets, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of pet care while house sitting. This can include food, toys, and veterinary costs if the pet becomes sick or injured. While some homeowners may provide you with everything you need to take care of their pets, others may require you to purchase supplies yourself.
To budget for pet care expenses, discuss the pet’s needs with the homeowner before starting your house-sitting gig. This way, you can anticipate the costs of food, toys, and other supplies. If the pet requires veterinary care, ask the homeowner if they have a preferred veterinarian or if they would like you to find one in the area.
We have found that some owners have an account with their vet, or they will leave an amount of money behind to cover visits or to buy more food. We keep copies of all receipts and have found that owners are more than happy to reimburse us.
The owner may also want to consider purchasing pet insurance to cover any unexpected medical expenses.
Utilities and Household Bills
Another potential hidden cost of house sitting is utilities and household bills. Depending on the arrangement you have with the homeowner, you may be responsible for paying these bills while you’re staying in the house. This can include electricity, gas, water, internet, and cable bills.
To budget for utilities and household bills, discuss these costs with the homeowner before starting your house-sitting gig. Ask who is responsible for these bills. If you’re responsible for paying the bills, ask the homeowner for an estimate of the average monthly cost. You can also contact the utility companies in the area to get an idea of the typical rates.
Remember, if you are not comfortable paying the utilities, you can always say no to the house sit. That’s why it is important to know this upfront before accepting the sit.
For example, we have had a repeat sit for over four months (twice). We were responsible for the propane, but we did not know this the first time we accepted the sit. Still, we understood that the owner did not use a lot of propane, so we were more than happy to pay for this utility.
Accidents occur frequently, such as a shattered glass or plate, a magnet that breaks after falling from the fridge, accidentally frying a blender, or breaking the coffee carafe.
It is essential to get in touch with the owner right away to alert them of the mishap and offer to replace or fix the damaged items.
Every house sitter should be ready for the hidden cost of breakage, even though the item may not be of great importance to the homeowners and they may not want to be compensated.
Replacing Food and Drink Items
Most of the time, homeowners tell us to help ourselves with food in the fridge or cooking spices. When in doubt, I ask what is off-limits while they are showing us the kitchen area.
The best course of action is to keep track of the things you polish off so that you can replace them. After all, no one wants to return from vacation to discover the house utterly empty of anything edible.
A homeowner will frequently advise you to consume everything perishable in the refrigerator; even so, we replace items such as eggs and milk.
Finally, it’s essential to budget for unexpected emergencies while house sitting. Emergencies can include natural disasters, power outages, and home invasions. While these events may be rare, they can be costly if they do occur.
To budget for unexpected emergencies, start by researching the area you’ll be staying in and the types of emergencies that are common in that area. For example, if you’re staying in a hurricane-prone area, you may want to purchase hurricane insurance or check to see if the owner has it. If you’re staying in an area with a high crime rate, you may want to make sure they have a security system in place or additional locks for the doors and windows.
You should also have an emergency fund set aside in case of unexpected expenses, especially if it is something that needs attention right away and you cannot reach the owners.
House sitting can be an excellent way to save money on lodging or make some extra cash. However, it’s essential to budget for the hidden costs that come with house sitting. These expenses can include unexpected home maintenance costs, transportation expenses, pet care expenses, utility and household bills, and unexpected emergencies.
To budget for these expenses, start by researching the area you’ll be staying in and the types of expenses you may incur. Discuss these costs with the homeowner before starting your house-sitting gig and ask if they have any suggestions for minimizing these expenses. Finally, make sure to have an emergency fund set aside in case of unexpected expenses.
Remember, you can always refuse the house sit if you are uncomfortable having to pay for expenses that may incur during your house sit.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that your house-sitting experience is both enjoyable and financially responsible.
Note: My husband and I have been house sitting for over 12 years. Other than our food, entertainment, and transportation, any out-of-pocket money towards pet care, maintenance, and repairs has either been taken care of by the owners or we have been reimbursed.
After all, you are looking after their home and/or pets while they are away; you are offering them peace of mind. You shouldn’t have to pay for these items unless they are predetermined.