House sitting 101: Home safety, insurance & tax tips
House sitting is an increasingly popular trend, but there are a few watchouts to be aware of.
If you're looking to get into house sitting – either as a homeowner or a prospective sitter – you're not alone.
Google Trends data shows a consistent increase in searches for "house sitting" in Australia over the past 12 months.
House sitting is set up to be "win-win". For homeowners, it offers peace of mind their property will stay secure and looked after while they're away.
It can offer a cost-effective way to look after any pets in the home too. According to Compare House Sitting, 85% of sits involve one or more animals.
Meanwhile, house sitters can lower their housing costs. They can also take advantage of being able to stay in and explore different areas. Plus it can offer the chance to make some extra cash.
A handy $3k side hustle
Sarah Swain has earned more than $3,000 from pet sitting around Sydney.
The Nine.com.au journalist and her partner Josh (pictured) have built a local client base in recent years by using pet care marketplaces Mad Paws and Pawshake.
This work led to Swain recently being offered a live-in pet sit for some Australian expats based overseas.
When house sitting goes wrong
Swain has also taken in house sitters, but things haven't always gone to plan.
"We had a bad experience and were just unlucky," Swain said of one sitter who had some pretty bizarre behaviours, including wrapping the couple's balcony in netting. Heavy scratch marks were also left on their new bathroom sink.
Swain told Finder how their visitors had boasted about using the couple's air conditioning system excessively.
"As a result of what we understand was excessive AC use, our provider has hiked up our direct debit per month… I think it went up by double from around $88 to $160," Swain said.
Home protection tips
Following her experiences of the good and bad of house sitting, Swain recommends meeting potential house sitters in-person and taking the time to follow up with any references they offer.
Financial expert Chris Carlin said homeowners should use the same scrutiny as with an investment property. Practical tips to boost security can include:
Make a photographed inventory list of your home's assets
Invest in a safe or locked cupboard for any valued possessions
Install security cameras outside your home.
"Even if you believe your house sitter is trustworthy, they may invite people over who are not of the same character," said Carlin, who is director of Master Your Money Now.
Insurance and tax considerations
Carlin says his number 1 financial tip for homeowners is to check their home and contents cover, especially if they're planning to go away for a long time.
"I would strongly recommend getting advice from your insurance provider or a broker to confirm you are covered for a house sitter," Carlin said. "You may need to consider amending your cover."
Carlin warned that property owners who charge for housesitting may be liable for capital gains tax.
Renters considering a house sitter should speak with their landlord to see if they are comfortable with a sitter.
Carlin said: "I would suggest most of them wouldn't be, but it's case-by-case. You'd also need to confirm: if your house sitter did damage to the house, who's liable?"
"I'd suggest it is likely to be the listed tenant on the property, i.e. yourself."
Read about more side hustle ideas you can start today.