House sitting in New Zealand's beautiful South Island House sitting in New Zealand's beautiful South Island CREDIT: Homesit NZ

The Pros and Cons of Housesitting vs. Air BnB, Hotels and Short-term Rentals

Tuesday 19 May 2015, 10:57AM
By Homesit NZ

There’s a lot of buzz around right now over different ways of travelling and how to keep down the highest cost - your accommodation- to stretch your travel dollar further.   The increasing international popularity of house sitting and the emergence of Air BnB and its worldwide impact on the hospitality sector are two frequent media topics in 2015. 

Both younger and retirement age travellers are increasingly signing up with housesitting services to find live-in, rent-free house and pet sits in the cities, regions and countries that they’re travelling to.  They’re also testing out AirBnB’s private accommodation listings instead of the B&B, motel or hotel many travellers would once automatically have booked. 

Others are renting motorhomes, couch-surfing, home-swapping, ‘WOOFing’ (working part-time in exchange for a roof over their head) in new places, or taking on short-term rentals.  For travellers who like a lifestyle adventure, being part of today’s ‘sharing economy’, or who don’t have a budget for an upmarket hotel, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these popular travel choices. 

What’s right for you and what are the pluses and minuses to consider as you plan your next trip away and where you’ll stay?

House sitting - a win-win arrangement for both home owners and sitters

Live-in sitters are trustworthy, responsible, pre-checked individuals or couples who look after other people’s homes and pets while they’re away, living rent-free in a reciprocal exchange that helps both parties.  House sitting has multiple pros for both clients and sitters. 

For home and pet owners, a big pro is that their much-loved pets are happiest in their own home, with their familiar toys, food and bed.  The cost is lower than kennels or catteries and there is the added security benefit of their home being occupied in their absence, deterring would-be burglars. 

House sitters benefit by saving hundreds of dollars a week on accommodation.  Other benefits for house sitters include often staying in very nice homes, with equally nice pets to play with and look after – house sitters are all animal lovers! 

The pros for home-owners and sitters include:

  • Your pets are happiest at home
  • A live-in sitter deters burglars on the look-out for empty homes
  • Plants and gardens are watered, rubbish put out, mail collected
  • Much more affordable if you have more than one pet!
  • Catteries and kennels can’t look after your birds, fish or chickens.
  • Live like a local and get to know a new area, walking the dog is a friendly conversation starter around the neighbourhood and parks.
  • Most homes have WIFI so you can work from home or just stay connected. Having a fully equipped kitchen to cook in means you don’t have to rely on restaurants or take-aways.
  • Some sits come with fun added benefits like fresh books to read, beautiful gardens, stunning views or a spa or swimming pool to enjoy in-between your pet sitting responsibilities.
  • Privacy and relaxation – no noisy guests in the next room, or landlady looking in on you.
  • Save not only rent but usually on utilities too
  • Keep accommodation costs minimal while moving to a new area

The cons?

You need to be flexible with dates, as house sit availability depends on the owners’ travel plans.
You’re responsible for everything…feeding pets and providing lots TLC, walking dogs regularly and picking up not only doggie droppings but anything the cat drags in!  Plus dealing with anything unexpected during the owner’s absence, such as storm damage or getting a tradesman in to fix things.

There’s housework in the mix - you have to keep up and do a full clean-up before you leave.
You’ll need to be home caring for pets more often, rather than out from dawn to dusk seeing the tourist sights or partying at night.  Clients book a sitter to keep their animals company, particularly dogs who they don’t want left alone for hours or days on end.

House sitting is a win-win for both home owners and sitters, who are helping each other travel to where they need to be, in a friendly but professional exchange based on trust, responsibility and good communication.

Air BnB, Hotels and Motels

If you need to book exact travel dates and a house sit isn’t available, it’s unfortunately back to paid accommodation, where travellers’ choices have expanded significantly in over 190 countries with the surge in popularity for AirBnB’s ‘rent unique places from local hosts’ service.  AirBnB’s hosts are renting out rooms, garden studios and entire homes at affordable rates that challenge the established hospitality players of B&Bs, traveller lodges, motels and hotels. 

The pros of paid travel accommodation start with booking the precise dates that you want.  There are no responsibilities, you walk in and walk on out without having to cook or clean and there’s no picking up anything the pets leave for you!  You can choose the location and the accommodation you like and often view rooms and facilities in advance online.  If you’re testing out Air BnB you’ll meet some nice hosts, as you do in a B&B. 

The cons? There’s no getting away from paying high nightly or weekly rates unless its shoulder or winter season, plus often add-on charges from WIFI to anything from the mini-fridge.  The online travel booking sites offer some good deals to their members but for travellers on a budget these are often still on the steep side. 

You have to fit in with other people and guests which requires compromise and except for AirBnB or B&B hosts, it’s a more impersonal experience. In terms of location, you’re more likely to be in a busy downtown area where there’s no chance to meet the locals or get off the tourist beat.  You usually can’t cook for yourself (except in a microwave) or raid the kitchen late at night. 
Short-term rentals and serviced apartments

For people who need a longer stay than a house sit might offer, are away for months on a work assignment, a short term rental apartment is another choice.  The pros again include booking for the exact dates that you want, decent quality cooking and entertainment facilities and privacy, with no obligations to anyone. 

The cons include the higher rates for short-term bookings and often having to pay upfront, plus hand over a sizeable bond or credit card deposit until your departure.  Locations tend to be picked for their urban convenience rather than for their charm. You’ll frequently find yourself situated in busy areas close to transport, shopping or business centre, while the décor inside can be pretty bland and impersonal.

This is all great! So what do you recommend is best?

It’s all about what works best for you!  With house sitting’s rise in popularity in New Zealand and internationally and the expanded choices offered by AirBnB and other short-term options, travellers are making new choices that that are putting a fresh spin on domestic and international travel. 

House sitting is a fantastic and free option if you plan well ahead, are a genuine animal-lover and have a flexible outlook and dates.  Locally, Homesit has more than 26 years of experience and available house sits right around New Zealand, while you’ll find international house sitting services online to research current assignments around the world. Browse AirBnB online for hosts in the area you’re travelling to or find short-term rental listings online or offline. 

One or a combination of these choices could slice your travel costs by hundreds of dollars and open up new experiences beyond the four walls of a standard motel unit. Live like a local, enjoy a house sitting break with fun temporary pets, or just try something new on your next holiday!

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 About Homesit NZ Ltd.

Homesit NZ is proud to be New Zealand’s first and leading professional house sitting service, with more than 26 years of experience introducing home-owner clients to police and reference-checked, personally-interviewed, trustworthy and responsible house sitters. We believe that our commitment to providing personal and local service sets us apart from other online-only agencies, with home-owners and prospective sitters able to speak and meet with their regional Branch manager and ensure that all aspects of their house sit or daily visit are professionally and personally handled. #housesitting