with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Know Before You Go: House Sitters and House Traders

Rooftops of homes in the old city of Dubrovnia, Croatia, photograph by Brent VanFossenYou want a long vacation, but leaving your home seems like more work than taking the vacation. Having a home means taking care of the garden and lawn, feeding pets, checking the mail, paying the bills, hoping the roof won’t leak, and worrying about storm damage and water leaks. Or is security a big concern, not wanting to leave the house empty and unattended for so long?

One of the options for people wanting to take an extended vacation was to just have neighbors watch their homes, but one of the other options over the past couple of decades is to actually hire a house sitter or trade with another family – they stay in your home and you stay in theirs.

It’s a great way to spend more time traveling and/or more time in one location, experiencing “native life” from a home rather than a hotel.

Here are a few things to ask and provide answers to if you will be doing house sitting or a home exchange:

  • Is a car necessary or is there a good public transportation system?
  • Will a car be available with insurance coverage?
  • How far is it to walk or drive to the nearest food or town or city resources?
  • Is there a library, exercise facilities, pool, movie theater, or other services nearby?
  • Is the house in the town or city or in the countyside?
  • What are the community activities and events that will be happening during the stay?
  • Are guests permitted for visits, dinners, or short stays?
  • Will television, phone, and Internet be available?
  • What specific chores will need doing such as pets, plants, garden, indoor and outdoor?
  • Who will be paying the bills?
  • Provide emergency contacts and nearby people who can be trusted.
  • Provide lists of plumbers, electricians, and other repair services within instructions.

As with all such exchanges and offers, it’s up to you to research these and make sure they have good reputations and will meet your specific needs. If you are worried, be sure and ask for references and call them to get a real feel for their experiences. And search the Internet to see comments and reviews of their services.

Here are some resources that may help you find a house sitter or home exchange program.

House Sitters

Home Exchange

Just Passing Through?

There are also a variety of “hospitality” groups and organizations that are like the Welcome Wagon for travelers. Members enjoy having travelers stay with them for a night or two or maybe longer, or just to help guide them through the locales tourist attractions or help them out. While often used by the young, single crowd, many single older folks who are traveling find interacting with people they have come to know over the Internet and meeting them along their travels is much more fun then just wandering a new place alone.

Some of these sites offer database references designed to “match” you with the appropriate or “like minded” folks. This may mean younger, older, or other common ground.

If you are a student or expert, and US citizen, consider checking out the US Student and Summer Visitor Exchange and Travel Programs. Check with your own government to see if they provide a similar program.

Here are some resources to help you find friends in towns and cities where you travel, who are ready to lend a hand, couch, or advice.


  • Posted September 5, 2005 at 9:11 | Permalink

    Your article is an excellent introduction to house sitting and home exchange. I would love to quote your opening three paragraphs on our Travel the Home Exchange Way blog, with your permission, with a direct link to your article and also a link to your main site.

  • Posted October 4, 2005 at 17:00 | Permalink

    Great article! I have found two more quality house sitting & home exchange databases if you are planning to use these type of services within Australia and New Zealand – I’m a member of both!

    Aussie House Sitters http://www.aussiehousesitters.com.au

    Aussie House Swap http://www.aussiehouseswap.com.au

  • Posted August 4, 2006 at 22:48 | Permalink

    Another service to consider is the Australian House Sitting Directory. We were featured on Channel 7’s Great Outdoors program http://thegreatoutdoors.com.au/display.php?ID=10941

  • Posted August 4, 2006 at 22:54 | Permalink

    I notice you have a link to Australian House Sitting Directory in your house sitting section in this article. This directory is no longer trading. The directory in this link focuses on Australian House sitting. Homeowners can post a free confidential sitter wanted ad and house sitters can list for aud 50 per year in unlimited multiple areas.

  • Posted August 4, 2006 at 23:19 | Permalink

    Thank you for your information. According to their website, the other company is still active. Having trouble, yes, but other than that, I don’t know. I’ll let my readers decide for themselves right now. Thanks.

  • Posted September 10, 2006 at 14:38 | Permalink

    As an experienced home exchanger I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried a home exchange vacation to give it a try. It is a great way to save costs while staying somewhere more welcoming than a one room hotel. Frequently a home exchange also includes a car exchange. Here’s another home exchange site:
    1st Home Exchange

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