Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Live in luxurious homes for free

Living rent-free isn't something many of us can do past our teenage years -- but, for the right kind of person, it's possible.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 10, 2011 12:13PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

We've recently written about how to drive across the country for free. Would it surprise you to hear that some people live in plush homes for free, too?

House-sitting is nothing new, and Sandra Holmes has been doing it for seven years. "It's like being on vacation all the time," Holmes told Stacy Johnson of Money Talks News. Watch the video below, then read on to learn more about it.  

"I don't pay any (property) taxes, insurance, the mortgage, or electric. Everything is already done. All I do is make their home look really nice," says Holmes, who is also a professional home stager, someone who helps people sell their homes by making them look better. You don't have to do both -- stage and sit -- but it works out for her.

The best way to find a house to sit is by word of mouth. For example, Stacy Johnson said he did it for clients back when he was a stockbroker years ago and stayed in places "way nicer than I could have afforded, especially back then."

There are many ways to find a house-sitting gig, although some may not be totally free. Many businesses that specialize in matching sitters with homeowners charge membership fees, and a handful even charge "rent," although it may be a fraction of the going rate. There's also no guarantee that once registered you'll find a place to live.


Here are a few starting points:

  • claims to have published a bimonthly newsletter since 1983 containing listings and advice for house-sitting. It also emails new listings several times a week. An annual subscription is $30.
  • allows sitters to view openings for free, but charges $30 per year for a membership that allows sitters to contact owners. Owners can list for free.
  • has had global listings since 1999, and sitters can register for $40 a year. Owners can place want ads for free.
  • Vacant Home Solutions lists available sitting properties online along with photos, floor plans, and "monthly membership fees" (rent) which, as of this writing, range from $550 to $2,400.
  • is a staging company that also finds sitters, which they call "home managers." The catch here is you often have to provide furniture of "the style and grade appropriate to the home" in addition to rent-like charges. Although they may be substantially discounted from the going rate, luxury homes will still have hefty fees.

House-sitting listings also sometimes pop up on Craigslist, and although there is no dedicated section for it, would-be sitters can always post under the "housing wanted" section for free. Wherever you go, though, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • No playing Realtor. If you do find a job like Sandra's -- house sitter/home stager --your job is only to keep things looking good, not selling houses. You don't have to know much about the place besides how to maintain it by following the instructions left for you.
  • Be flexible. Sitting gigs can range from a week to months, and if the house is for sale, could end suddenly and without much warning. "You have to be prepared to move out at any time," says Holmes. The terms of the gig, including what you pay and what you're responsible for, can also vary widely.
  • Travel light. Houseowners don't usually allow pets, although you may be caring for theirs in some cases. Kids might be OK, though a vagabond lifestyle probably isn't for most families. And possessions? The fewer things, the better. 
  • Think ahead. Because you never know when to expect the boot, it's important to always have another arrangement waiting.
  • Be professional. As Stacy mentioned, competition can be fierce. Having previous house-sitting experience is a plus, as are good references. Keep your car -- and yourself -- looking nice.
  • Keep some stability. Always moving can be an adventure, but it's a lot to keep up with, too -- especially for the Postal Service and everyone trying to reach you. Maintaining a post office box or fixed address might be a good idea for important correspondence.

Bottom line? There's a tradeoff for free or reduced rent that may not be worth it for everybody. But if you're single, frugal, and just plain adventurous, it may be a great way to save money and see new places.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Aug 10, 2011 3:33PM

You can live in luxury for free in America.  Just kill your little girl (Caylee), throw your family under the bus, become a piece of slutty trash on the party circuit, and have people send you money while you're in jail.  Casey Anthony knows all about taking advantage of this free luxury!!! Baring teeth

Aug 10, 2011 4:06PM

So.....the story is suggesting that one could live in the lap of luxury by becoming what is in essence, a servant? That's already been done.


And I would like a qualification of just what the author considers to be "the lap of luxury." After all, hay to a goat is truly sweet. No?Martini glassAdmittedly, my standards are quite higher than most....

Aug 11, 2011 1:59PM
To Mr. South Austin. No, I won't leave Casey Anthony out of ANY discussion I wish to carry on. She was found "Not guilty" without enough evidence, but NO ONE thinks she is INNOCENT. Far cry!!!  I have a daughter and 2 granddaughters living in Austin and if anything that horrific happened to any of them, I would not "get over it," EVER, and I would make that a point in any post from then on. Caylee did not get justice and deserves to be remembered for the INNOCENCE that she lost!!!  Tongue out 
Aug 10, 2011 10:47PM
Thanks for writing about rent-free living as a housesitter. I have tried all the housesitting websites and have found The Caretaker Gazette to be the best for housesitting assignments. I recently started using their website and have found two housesitting opportunities there so far. 
Aug 10, 2011 4:50PM



Will you people JUST GET THE F$#@ OVER IT Casey Anthoy  is innocent in the eyes of the law of murdering her child be it wrong or right. do we have to bring it into ever single post  

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.