In 2015, Stephanie Perry quit her job to travel for a year on her savings. During her time abroad, she noticed how other cultures had different perspectives on employment. Work wasn’t the focus of their lives, only a slice of it.
When she returned home, she decided she didn’t want to slip back into the United States’ way of making work the center of her life. Instead, she was determined to find another way to live, and she literally Googled how to travel without any money.
An article from The Professional Hobo popped up, and thus began Perry’s new lifestyle as a house sitter. She has been house-sitting throughout the world ever since.
Now a full-time house sitter, Perry is on a mission to make Black women aware that house-sitting is an option for us, too. We may need to take an extra step or two, but it can be a productive alternative for those who desire a break from the cultural pressures in the U.S. “I want Black women to know that this is for you, that you can enjoy this life of travel and free accommodation, too,” says Perry, who created a course to familiarize potential house sitters with best practices. (Doing your own homework is important. For instance, sitters traveling internationally would be wise to check with the consulate of the destination country to see if they need a work visa.) Perry finds stays by using platforms that match sitters to homeowners. These sites charge an annual membership fee in the neighborhood of what one might pay for a single night at a three-star hotel.
House-sitting is staying in and taking care of people’s homes and usually their pets while they’re away.
Sisters recently spoke with Perry, who shared an insider perspective on house-sitting and the fundamentals needed to get started. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is house-sitting?
House-sitting is staying in and taking care of people’s homes and usually their pets while they’re away. … I take out the trash, I bring in the mail, I feed and walk the pets. Those are the big requirements for most house sitters. Sometimes I water the plants or the garden. As far as job responsibilities, that covers it.
If a person has these responsibilities, how does it allow them to enjoy and experience the area?
The job of a house sitter can be done in an hour a day. … The whole [remainder of the] day is yours to explore the area if you want. If you’re house-sitting in a city with something you want to see, you will have free time to go see that city.
I treat house-sitting like a retreat. I love a pool and a Peloton bike. So, if the home has those things, I’ll request that house sit.
Is it possible to go around the world house-sitting, and what are some of your favorite destinations?
So, I’ve been house-sitting for about five years. A large portion of that time has been me bopping from place to place around the world. I’ve done local house sits near my parents’ home in Delaware or elsewhere in the United States. But a good portion of that has been me staying in Mexico, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
You can house-sit wherever you want, whether close to home or two continents away.
Now, house sitters pay for their own transportation. So, house-sitting can only take you as far as you can get yourself.
I’ve house-sat all up and down the East Coast of the U.S. and in California on the West Coast. I really like house-sitting in a couple of different small towns in Mexico. In Lake Chapala, outside of Guadalajara, and over in San Miguel de Allende. They’re beautiful small towns with many American and Canadian retirees. And these people have free time and are always going away for large chunks at a time. I like house-sitting in those areas because I can meet new people and get some other house-sitting clients while I’m there.
I house-sat in the Netherlands. I timed it perfectly and was there for Easter when the tulip fields bloomed. It was amazing. I didn’t do it on purpose, but when I got there, I was like, “This is perfect timing.” That was a wonderful house sit and one of my favorites, even though it was pretty short.
When you say short, what do you mean? Is there a minimum or a maximum time?
The Netherlands sit was seven or 10 days. Now, that’s short to me. I do a lot of two-month and three-month house sits. So, for me, a 10-day house sit is short, whereas 10 days is a reasonable amount of time for others.
There’s no minimum or maximum. I have done one-night house sits, and I have done a three-month house sit. [The duration] is really location-specific. In the United States, people tend to travel for long weekends or maybe a week. But when you get a house sit in Europe or Mexico, sometimes these are three-week, six-week house sits, because they get more vacation time there. So there’s no set time.
Do you choose the type of house you want to stay in, and are you penalized if you decline a place?
I treat house-sitting like a retreat. I choose a place with some of the amenities [I would want at a resort or hotel]. I love a pool and a Peloton bike. So, if the home has those things, I’ll request that house sit. You’ll find every type of residence available for house-sitting. I’ve even seen house-sits for recreational vehicles [RVs].
But sometimes the location is more important than the house. Sometimes you might choose to stay in a regular home if it’s located in a nice city with good food and has other things you want. It may not be a mansion with a pool, but [if] it’s comfortable and quiet, I encourage others to go for it. These are good house sits, too.
It is important that you read the reviews from previous house-sitting clients. I’ve never walked into a home and been like, “This is not the house in the pictures,” or “There are bugs everywhere.” And that’s because other house sitters have taken the time to leave reviews and give me the information I need. So I feel safe and comfortable going into a stranger’s home.
Because I’m a Black woman, I make sure that I have the homeowner inform at least one neighbor that I’m coming. Some clients have taken me by the hand and knocked on the neighbor’s door. They wanted to ensure I would be safe in the neighborhood.
Don’t feel obligated to take a house sit just because. Take a house sit where you feel like you are winning, just like the client is winning.
Have you ever had any racial experiences, or the neighbors didn’t want you there, and they’re looking at you suspiciously?
Because I’m a Black woman, I make sure that I have the homeowner inform at least one neighbor that I’m coming. Some clients have taken me by the hand and knocked on the neighbor’s door. They wanted to ensure I would be safe in the neighborhood. It only takes one person to say, “She doesn’t belong here,” to ruin my life.
If the homeowner doesn’t take the initiative, I ask for a neighbor’s contact information to send a text or a picture. It’s essential for our safety, especially in the United States. I’ve never had this concern outside of the U.S. In other countries, the owner may still introduce me to the neighbors, but it’s in case the basement floods or other house-related incidents happen.
TrustedHousesitters, HouseCarers and MindMyHouse are also platforms where travelers learn about house-sitting. How does your course, House Sitter School, differ from these?
I created House Sitter School for people who want a little extra support in booking their first house sit. … The course helps walk you through the process of getting a thorough profile up, how to set alerts [for the homes and locations you are interested in, and how to] find the house sits that you can’t wait to take. [Plus] how to get a house sit when you don’t have any reviews yet. House Sitter School helps with that.