How to Live Rent Free in Canada or Abroad

live rent free in canada or abroad

Last year my girlfriend and I managed to live for nine months straight without paying a cent in rent. We also managed to do this in France, a country we had both always wanted to spend some time living in, although we could have done the same thing in several other countries including Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

housesitting in CanadaMy girlfriend and I are house sitters. Basically, we look after other people’s homes while they’re away. Usually this involves us living in the property and carrying out a number of chores such as walking the dog, feeding the cat, watering plants and collecting the mail.

A typical house sit lasts for around two weeks, although we’ve taken on house sits as short as a weekend and for as long as five months. We don’t get paid to house sit, but then again we don’t pay rent when we do; when we lived in France for example our only costs were food, leisure and the car we chose to bring. Everything else, including utilities, was covered by the homeowner.

From living rent-free (and perhaps paying off some debts while you’re at it), to travelling cheaply, there are plenty of great reasons to house sit.

How To Get Started

When it comes to promoting ourselves and looking for new house sits, we’ve tried everything from setting up our own website to creating ads on Craigslist, Gumtree and Kijiji. In the end though, the easiest thing you can do is sign up with a house sitting website., our favourite website, posts around twenty new house sitting jobs per day (you can see the latest jobs here).

They also have a dedicated page for house sits in Canada if you’re thinking of staying local and a dedicated page for house sits 60 days or longer if you’re looking to live cheaply for several months. Note: Canada can be a great place to pick up long term house sits. Due to pipes freezing, many home insurance policies are invalid if the home is left empty for more than 4 days during the peak winter months and for this reason many Canadians get a house sitter when going away.

Creating A Great Profile

Regardless of whether you sign up to a house sitting match-making website, create your own website or advertise yourself on Craigslist, you’re going to need to make a killer profile; a simple writeup about yourself that’ll convince a homeowner that you’re the right person for the job.

house sitting profileThere are two big mistakes house sitters tend to make when it comes to writing their profile. The first is making it all about what you’re going to get out of the house sit i.e. saying you want to house sit because you need to save money. There’s no harm in doing this, but be sure to highlight what you can offer the homeowner first i.e. do you have experience with animals, are you particularly good at gardening etc.

The second big mistake is actually over-selling yourself. A lot of house sitters advertise DIY skills when they’re not needed. Unless stated most homeowners don’t want to come home to find their home modified in anyway.

In short: writing a great profile is a balancing act. Be sure to explain why you’d make a great house sitter but don’t exaggerate either.

Get Some References & Credibility

It can seem like a catch-22 situation; to get a house sit you need references, but you need to have done the house sit to get the references.

The best starting point is to speak to friends and family. Let them know that you’re setting yourself up as a house sitter, and let them know that if they’re ever going away you would love to look after their house.

references for housesittingAfter that, the next thing to do is to apply for some house sits in your area. When we started out house sitting we didn’t have many references so frequently got turned down for house sits away from home. We did manage to get accepted for quite a few house sits locally however. The reason for this is because homeowners were more willing to take us on if they could meet with us first. Even though we were initially only taking on these house sits for the reference, we really enjoyed living in another part of our town for a few days and had some really wonderful experiences house sitting locally.

Don’t worry if you’re struggling to get enough references from previous house sits. References from employers, previous landlords and character references can all help to boost your credibility.

And finally, although references are very important, other things you can do to make your profile more trustworthy is to include plenty of photos and to get a criminal records check. Note: Canadian citizens can find more information about this here.


    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 10/14/2013 6:59 a.m. #

      This is a very interesting way to travel and you can't beat free rent! I remember when I was a little girl my parents house-sat for an uncle. He was well-to-do so his kids had awesome toys, bikes, and a pool. It was like a mini vacation for us. We stayed for a two weeks and it was a blast for us kids.

      Thanks for sharing this idea and how to get started with us. Happy Monday Sicorra!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/15/2013 11:42 a.m. #

        Corina, thank you very much for sharing how it is possible for families to enjoy housesitting as well. Many people think that because they have kids there is no way they could do this.
        Good to hear that you guys had so much fun. It is meant to be like a vacation, and I'm glad it turned out that way for you.

        • Corina Ramos

          Corina Ramos 10/20/2013 6:04 p.m. #

          I was glad to share that experience. That's the best thing about being a kid. We can take anything and make an adventure out of it.

          Hope you had a great weekend Sicorra! Talk to you soon :).

    • Michelle

      Michelle 10/14/2013 9:24 a.m. #

      Love this post! Housesitting sounds like a great way to lower your home expenses.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/15/2013 11:43 a.m. #

        Thanks Michelle!

    • FI Pilgrim

      FI Pilgrim 10/14/2013 9:46 a.m. #

      That's really cool. Not an option with my wife and 2 kids, but cool to think about!

      • Sarah Johnson

        Sarah Johnson 10/14/2013 11:02 a.m. #

        Hi FI

        My family and i have been house sitting - we found another family on the house sitting website who needed someone to care for their home on Vancouver Island for a couple of weeks - we got a beautiful home and opportunity to spend time on the other side of Canada - and also to visit family who had moved over to BC. My kids loved it - they got to hang out with a puppy - although now i'm being hassled to get one for them!

        • Sicorra

          Sicorra 10/15/2013 11:45 a.m. #

          Thanks very much for sharing your story Sarah! House sitting is definitely something a family can do. There are no restrictions. You just have to find the right match, as you did.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 10/14/2013 10:44 a.m. #

      Very interesting! It sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to lower your overall expenses, since rent or a mortgage is generally a person's biggest monthly expense. I bet you have explored some great place and it sounds like a great way to explore places you want to visit.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/15/2013 11:46 a.m. #

        Thanks Shannon! It is a combination of a cheaper way to live and definitely a cheaper way to travel, and as you said, see some great places.

    • James

      James 10/16/2013 4:33 a.m. #

      Glad everyone's enjoying this piece :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:46 p.m. #

        Thanks James! I think house sitting is a wonderful idea and I am so happy to share your adventures.

    • Sue Neal

      Sue Neal 10/18/2013 8:55 a.m. #

      This looks like a really fun way to see the world! Great share :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:46 p.m. #

        It sure does!

    • Kristin

      Kristin 10/18/2013 10:35 a.m. #

      WOW! That is SO cool! What a great way to travel and save money!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:47 p.m. #

        I know, right. You get the comforts of home and all you have to pay for is your food and transportation.

    • CarolB

      CarolB 10/18/2013 1:19 p.m. #

      Love this concept! Just wished I'd thought of it when I was younger and before I had kids. Just don't see how I can do it right now but who knows, maybe when I get that last one out the door, I'll be heading out the door right behind him!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:51 p.m. #

        Carol, I know that staying for months at a time wouldn't work with kids, but many house sits are for one or two weeks while that family goes on their vacation.

        So you and your family could stay in their home for free if you found a location that you wanted to travel to anyways.

        And since you enjoy packing less and saving money, this would be ideal. You wouldn't have to worry about hotel costs or a laundromat, for that matter. Sometimes they even leave you the keys to their car. And quite often the homes are large and beautiful. Based on the way your family loves to travel I could easily see you guys enjoying this :-)

    • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

      Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 10/18/2013 1:34 p.m. #

      This sounds like a lot of fun! At one of my previous jobs, I used to be the resident pet/house sitter. It was fun but I felt bad for Emeril. He normally got left behind at home, although did come with me once. He wasn't too impressed with the dog, but did try sneaking his food! Today, Max would be a problem because of his inability to not get into trouble!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:54 p.m. #

        Tanya, I know exactly what you mean. Having your own pets does make it a bit inconvenient to travel, let alone leave your own pets to look after someone else's home full-time. It is fine if the house is local and you are just dropping in a few times a day to feed them and stuff, but to stay overnight is hard.
        The one thing that stops us from doing this is that we have our 2 cats to look after. And like you, they are a priority for us. But if it wasn't for them, we would certainly give long term house sitting a try.

    • Ellen M. Gregg

      Ellen M. Gregg 10/19/2013 11:05 a.m. #

      What a brilliant idea! On top of saving a ton of money, and providing an awesome service, you get "all the comforts of home." That sounds a lot like winning, to me. :-)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/20/2013 2:57 p.m. #

        Thanks very much Ellen!
        You are so right. You do get all the comforts of home, for free, while helping someone else out. And it does help the homeowner to have a nicer vacation when they are not worried about whether or not the home and \ or the pets are okay or not. Many housesitters that look after pets even send pictures to the owners while they are gone along with email updates.

    • 10/20/2013 8:50 p.m. #

      I would never have thought about house sitting as a family, but loving the idea!

    • Arelis Cintron

      Arelis Cintron 10/21/2013 10:12 a.m. #

      Wow! I know people who have rented houses when they go abroad or on vacation in general to save money instead of spending it on hotels. I never even heard of house sitting. I would think people might not want perfect strangers in their home while they are away but the upside is that their house wouldn't be broken into and at least they'd meet the people watching their house. I'll have to remember this when I start planning my trip to Europe!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/21/2013 11:15 a.m. #

        I understand that our first thought would be that we wouldn't want strangers in our house, so why do other people. But people doing house sitting provide references and even provide a criminal record certificate (sometimes) to show that they are reputable people that are there to do a good job. Not to rip someone off. I hope you are able to organize something like this for Europe as you will most likely really enjoy it, and save a lot of money.

    • Irish Carter

      Irish Carter 10/21/2013 6:54 p.m. #

      I really love this idea. What a great way to save money for vacationing. I would love to experience Ireland one day. I am sharing this with my niece who loves to travel.

      Thanks for posting this. = )


    • Nicole

      Nicole 10/22/2013 7:40 p.m. #

      What an awesome title! It instantly grabbed me because who doesn't want to live rent-free!!! I never knew house sitting could be so profitable. This is great for college kids or people who want to explore the world on a dime.

      Thanks for posting!

    • Mary @TheFlyingCouponer

      Mary @TheFlyingCouponer 11/06/2013 7:08 p.m. #

      What a great way to travel and to save!! Very intesresting! Great post!

Comments are closed.