No property, no possessions, no problems.
Chris and Rachel Bragg don’t have a home to call their own, and they couldn’t be happier.
The 31-year-olds are putting off home ownership for now, and turning their back on rentals, to live around Australia as full-time house sitters.
Stays can be as short as a couple of days up to a month or even longer.
It’s beneficial for both them and home owners – they’re not paid, but the Braggs get a roof over their heads for as long as the owner is away, and the home owner has the peace of mind knowing their place is being looked after, and save money on putting their pets in accommodation.
When one stint ends, they load up the car with some essentials and head to their next four-week stay somewhere else.
They’re good enough at it that they have no need for a home of their own – they’re able to jump from booking to booking, with occasional gaps in between spent staying with family or off on a holiday of their own.
When you’re not paying rent or mortgage, and don’t have to worry about rates, internet, gas, or electricity bills, the savings are incredible.
“It’s about $22,000 a year we can put away easily without even cutting down,” Ms Bragg said.
“We travel quite a lot and happily to go out for dinner and do those other things as well.”
The Braggs got into house sitting about two years ago when they found themselves paying two lots of rent while Mr Bragg was on placement for university.
“We thought, maybe there’s another way,” Ms Bragg said.
“We’ve been house sitting for a particular person each year at Christmas time, when we were renting a place. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we try to do this full-time?’.”
When they realised they wouldn’t go back to the way things were any time soon, they sold off the fridge, furniture, and a bunch of other possessions.
“It was weird initially, but now it’s just normal life for us,” Ms Bragg said.
Since then they’ve stayed in just about every type of property from small cottages right up to mansions.
Earlier this year they even had their first overseas house sit in the Gibbston Valley in New Zealand.
They’re currently two weeks into a month-long stay at a property close to the beach on the Gold Coast, and they’ve got their stays sorted through to the end of the year.
But they say house sitting isn’t for everyone.
“You definitely have to be a certain type of person. We’re homebodies, but we’re not too fussed on where the home is,” Ms Bragg said.
“I know people want their house, their stuff, their everything, but we’re pretty relaxed and cruisy so it doesn’t really worry us.”
So what makes the Braggs so popular as house sitters?
Well they both have their own businesses they can run from home, so they’re able to spend more time on the property.
They’ve got glowing references from home owners they’ve dealt with in past.
And they love animals.
“Don’t do it unless you love animals, unless you’re 100 per cent there for the animals and love them and cherish them, don’t bother,” Ms Bragg said.
“We’ve had cats, dogs, turtles, fish, horses, sheep, and a couple of cows.
“They [animals] can keep you up all night some times, but we generally are just animal lovers. It doesn’t bother us but I know some people … might be super-clean … and don’t want a 50 kilogram slobbery dog all over them.”
It’s got to the point where they’re able to pick and choose where they want to go next.
“We originally just went with whatever, but now that we’ve been doing it a bit longer we’re only going to locations we want to go do.”
The Braggs plan to give up the house sitting lifestyle in the next two to three years and settle down with a place of their own.
‘Our lifestyle is just weird’
Jo Herbert never saw herself as the house-sitter type.
But that changed when she and husband David Couton rented out their New Zealand home and came to Australia in 2016 for a year’s stay in Brisbane.
Not wanting to impose on family for 12 months, and not wanting to commit to a rental property, they opted for house sitting.
They liked it, and they’ve since extended their time in Queensland so they can keep doing it.
“It’s a really amazing way to live. And I never ever thought I’d be a house sitter. It’s like an itinerant lifestyle, but also it’s like an adventure,” Ms Herbert said.
“There are times we look at each other and we say, ‘Our lifestyle is just weird’.
“I don’t think it’s for everyone, but having said that I never thought I’d be able to do it and I love it.”
She said she knows what it’s like to be a homeowner and have house sitters over, having had friends care for their home in the past.
“It’s nice to know that your house is being lived in and looked after and your animals are at home and they’re happy,” she said.
Unlike the Braggs, Ms Herbert and her husband both have part-time jobs based between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so any homes they care for have to be close by.
Ms Herbert said house sitting duties can vary from property to property, but if animals are around they’re the number-one priority.
“We’ve looked after a range of animals. You walk, feed them, cuddle them. It’s pretty much how we’d treat our animals at home,” she said.
“You look after the place like it’s your own, sometimes there’s a bit of gardening, mowing the lawn, scooping leaves off pools.
“If someone’s away for any length of time they may ask us to start their car up and run them for a little while.”
They also take the time to meet home owners before committing to a stay.
“That’s for several reasons. It gives them a chance to meet us, suss us out, and see us interact with their animals, and it gives us a chance to make sure we’ll feel safe and OK.”
Ms Herbert said house sitting was a money saver for themselves and the homeowners.
“They can have their animals looked after in their own home and they save a heap of money on kennels,” she said.
But there are some downsides being a full-time house sitter.
“You don’t ever get to establish yourself in a suburb. I quite like to join groups and do things like that, or go to the gym somewhere, but the next stay you’re miles and miles away,” she said.
“At the beginning of the year I had unexpected surgery and I was in a house sit after I came out of hospital and that was horrible, I just wanted my own home and my own bed.
“Sometimes you just think it’d be nice to be at home, but that’s rare. While the positives keep outweighing the negatives, we’ll keep doing it.”
Top tips to make it as a house sitter
Kylie Fuad, who co-founded house sitting website Aussie House Sitters, said the key to becoming a successful house sitters is to make yourself stand out from the crowd as much as possible.
Aussie House Sitters, which has been running since 2004, connects home owners with house sitters, and vice versa.
Those wanting to house sit have to pay an annual membership fee, but it’s free for homeowners.
Her top tip for anyone looking at getting into house sitting – get some endorsements.
“If you’re a newbie get references from people that show that you have experience with taking care of animals or a property, even a referee from a landlord who you’ve rented from … sometimes that can be really helpful,” Ms Fuad said.
“Definitely house sit for friends and family to get experience, and get them to write something.
“Home owners will really look for someone who … even when you meet them and you seem good, most owners will still want to see some references to make them feel assured.
If you’re really serious about it, consider getting a police check.
“If you’re looking to do a lot of house sitting sometimes it’s not a bad investment because some house sits can be very competitive, especially depending on the locations,” Ms Fuad said.
“And it just means it’s something else that you can say you have, and again when people try to choose a house sitter and it’s competitive, if you’ve got police clearance and the other person doesn’t, you’re probably more likely to get the job.”
Ms Fuad said having a good sitter profile with a photo and write up that was “professional but also friendly and warm” also goes a long way.
Also, don’t be afraid to specify what kind of house-sitting experience you’re after.
“You might not want to live in a very expensive home where the level of housekeeping expected is quite high, or you might like a house where [there is] just one cat,” she said.
“It’s good to find what the right balance is for you, then you’re going to be able to apply for jobs you like, and you’re more likely to be really successful.”
Ms Fuad said there are those who get paid to house sit because they offer a specialised service, such as high-level animal care.
“Mostly it’s people house sitting in return for free accommodation, unless if there’s a lot of work involved, usually the owner will agree to pay the sitter something,” she said.
“But there’s definitely potential for it to become a job if it’s something you’re really passionate about and really good at.”