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House-sitting or being a property caretaker generally means that you can live rent free while performing very part-time work. However, you may also be paid for your work with money. Each house-sitting or caretaking arrangement has different financial arrangements, with some being more lucrative than others. House-sitting involves living in and caring for the home as if it were your own, and being a caretaker means that you run a property that is part of a business while the owner is away. You may earn nothing for some jobs and make a good side income with others.
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Usually, you get to live rent free when you are a house sitter or caretaker. The size of the property and the rent that it could command can be considered a type of "income" that you receive in exchange for providing house-sitting or caretaking services. According to the New Zealand website MindMyHouse, you may pay the owners a small rental fee to live in their homes while they are away in some unusual circumstances, but this is rare. Some house owners may require a deposit against property damages, but this is usually only equal to about one month’s rent. As a house sitter or caretaker, you are generally responsible for your share of the utilities while you live in the house.
Depending on the wealth of the house owners and the types of chores you are expected to complete, the amount you are paid can vary widely. If you are a caretaker, you may receive an hourly wage in addition to the free housing, or a free parking space for your recreational vehicle. Some house sitters advertise their fees in the general range of $25 to $80 per day or per night. However, you might not receive any pay at all for your work. You may simply receive a free place to live, which eliminates the need to pay rent, mortgage, property taxes, home repairs and maintenance and house insurance.
As a house sitter, you may be responsible for feeding and caring for pets or livestock in addition to other tasks like watering plants, forwarding mail and keeping the place clean. If you are a caretaker, you will usually have more responsibilities, which may include running a business if the home is a bed and breakfast, working at the front desk of a hotel, or performing landscaping tasks. Each house-sitting or caretaking job will be unique, which means you should draw up a contract of what chores you are expected to do at each home.
It is generally a good idea to have another job when you house-sit or are a caretaker. Caring for other people’s houses is a nice way to make some extra money and to have a free place to live, but it doesn’t pay all of your bills in most cases. One house sitter is an at-home web designer, for example, at the same time he house-sits. You may also face a situation where a caretaker job falls through, or you are unable to secure another house-sitting job when one assignment ends. In this case, it is important to have some friends or family with whom you can stay until your next assignment starts.
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.