I house-sat for a month last March at a spectacular condo in Boulder with a view of the mountains and a rooftop grill. I thought that month was an unrepeatable experience. I was wrong. Once the word got out that I was house-sitting, suddenly everyone needed a house-sitter. A friend from New York said, "well, if you want to stay past March, you could house-sit in April while we're in Israel." I accepted. My boss said, "if you want to stay into May, you could take care of my dogs Champ and Mini-Me while I’m in the South of France." I accepted. I accepted. I accepted. Suddenly, I had jumped 4 socio-economic brackets—I had gone from couch-surfer to wealthy homeowner! It messed with my brain. I was confused when the rightful owners returned. I had a dream once where I defended “my” house at gunpoint. The experience of living like a rock star without paying a dime is a great one, worth the schizophrenia, and a totally legit way to live on the planet. THIS LIFE CAN BE YOURS. The only skills you need are 1) the ability to clean up after yourself and 2) the ability to write a thank-you note. You can go pro with The Caretaker’s Gazette, which “provides its subscribers with thousands of house sitting and property caretaking jobs each year in all 50 US States, Canada, Mexico and dozens of other countries.” STOP PAYING RENT. START LIVING THE DREAM.

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Comment by Anna on October 5, 2009 at 11:33pm
All summer, Justin and I have been trying to find house sitting gigs in various parts of the country, as a way of testing out potential places to live - in part, due to Mari's amazing experience. We threw it out to our whole network, joined some web sites, and posted Craigslist ads. We even expanded our list of "potential places." But we haven't had any luck! Which is why we've scrapped the idea and are focusing our trip to 2 places, and will be renting in both.

In a way, it makes sense: why would someone basically rent their house out for free, if they could rent it for cash instead? And even though we were extremely flexible, we did want to try out specific places. House sitting may be more feasible if you aren't too picky about where you'll end up. Still, I find it hard to believe people can maintain this lifestyle for long. I'd be curious to hear from other people who have had successful house sitting experiences.

For others who are curious about the concept, here's what we tried:

1. Caretakers Gazette: This is the site Mari mentioned above. It's more than just house sitting - usually the advertisers here want actual caretakers (someone to maintain a farm or estate). The set-up is a little old fashioned - they email you a listing of ads every week, instead of providing a searchable database.

2. House Sitters America: This site is more modern, but as of today only has 18 listings. I contacted a couple people through the site, but never heard back.

3. House Carers: I found this site really hard to navigate, but it seems more popular - right now it has 63 U.S. listings. I contacted a couple people through the site - one of them never responded, the other chose to go with someone else (it sounded like they had heard from a lot of interested people).

4. Craigslist: When we did searches on Craigslist, if anything came up it was other house sitters looking for homes.

5. Creating our own "profile" site: While we created this for finding house sitting arrangements, it turned out to be really useful for finding rentals. We linked to it in responses to Craigslist ads, instead of having to explain ourselves anew each time, and we got a lot of positive feedback.

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