Photo by Rennett Stowe

Home owners don’t leave their homes to just anybody; there are certain rules to abide by. Here’s how you can ensure a successful life on the road, with all the benefits of being at home.


When I lost my job in July, I was faced with the overwhelming opportunities of freedom.
Freedom, however, does not come easy when you’re broke.

In a slump, I booked a ticket to Halifax, Nova Scotia to check out the job scene and visit friends. Here I am with my money quickly disappearing, no immediate job prospects, and I’m not nearly through with the city. I’m also not ready to give up my home in St. John’s.

The best solution? House sitting or swapping.

House sitting and house swapping allow you to live in a place for an extended amount of time rather than being a tourist. Plus you get all the benefits of a home, for cheap! Even if you’re house sitting locally, a change of scenery is never a bad thing.

But as a first-timer, it’s important to know homeowner expectations as well as your rights, especially before meeting potential clients. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Photo by Shyn Darkly

The Basics of House Sitting and House Swapping

Before signing on as a house sitter, clarify that you actually want to live at the residence rather than dropping by occasionally to take care of things. This works best for homeowners who have pets and do not like the idea of kennelling them, or for home owners who are concerned about being burgled while they are away (i.e. rich folk).

Make sure you and the homeowner are on the same wavelength about what is required from you. Many will ask for references and background checks, so have this information handy.

Most homeowners expect you to pay the utilities used in their absence, and others will request that you do not use their Internet, phone and other services. Some will ask for a security deposit, or you can offer one up front as proof that you’re a legitimate sitter. It is imperative you ask about these issues beforehand, otherwise you may get stuck with some heavy bills.

House swapping, on the other hand, works more on a trust basis: since both parties are exchanging their homes, usually there is a lot of communication before the exchange takes place. There are normally some phone calls, photograph exchanges, and lots of emails.

Also, homeowners don’t need to exchange homes at the same time: often a vacation home is being exchanged, so dates do not need to coordinate.