‘I’m saving for my first home by looking after other people’s’

Katie Hogan, 34, is living rent-free while saving for her first home. But unlike other hopeful first-time buyers, she didn’t move back in with mom and dad to get there.

Ms Hogan has joined a community of house sitters and pet sitters who take care of homes and their four-legged residents in exchange for a place to stay, with no money changing hands. Caring for other people’s homes and pets saves the animal lover working in podcast advertising thousands of pounds in rent.

She said: “I started last August when my new job allowed me to work from home. I had just returned from Australia, where housesitting is very popular, and had temporarily moved back in with my parents – but I wanted to be independent.”

Ms Hogan has been a full-time house sitter since last August, with a few weeks back home with her parents for the holidays, and is booked through October.

Sessions can last from a few days to months, and not all jobs require animal care. Some just need a sitter to water the garden and dust the house.

Ms Hogan said sitting saved her the trouble of competing in the ‘Wild West’ rental market. Average asking rents rose by 11 per cent to £995 per month in the first three months of this year compared to the same quarter in 2021, according to property website Zoopla.

Bidding wars between tenants are rampant and properties are bound to disappear within days of listing.

“House sitting is definitely better than renting as long as you don’t mind living out of a suitcase to some degree. I keep looking at the rental market, but what’s the point when I can live in a much nicer place than I could ever afford for free?” said Ms. Hogan.

Demand for house sitters has skyrocketed amid the pandemic, with pet ownership exploding throughout lockdown and thousands more households relying on pet care while on holiday.

TrustedHousesitters, a website that matches pet owners with sitters, has seen a four-fold increase in global listings.

Meanwhile, interest in sitting has surged amid a renewed appetite for stays. The cost of a domestic summer holiday last year was 40 per cent higher than before the pandemic, and the lure of free accommodation has piqued the interest of those looking for a cheap holiday.

According to TrustedHousesitters, the average session lasts between one and two weeks.

Angela Laws of the company said, “Since no money changes hands between them, sitters and owners build relationships based on reviews and star ratings.

“Members are of all ages. We get a real mix of young “digital nomads”, young couples and singles saving for their first home. And then we get retired vets, health workers and teachers. There are many retirees who are choosing to sit because they love animals and travel and therefore want to enjoy the company of pets without owning one.”

A married couple, Samantha Frewin, 44, and John Oxenham, 63, began house sitting when he quit his job as a pilot last year. ‘I’m saving for my first home by looking after other people’s’

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