How this couple lives in rent-free mansions as house keepers

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Hannah and Joseph Ryan roam the United States as “digital nomads” while also working as house keepers.
The couple stay for free in luxury homes in exchange for keeping the owners’ animals and plants.
They stayed in a house with an infinity pool and a view of LA and in a lake house with boat access. Something is loading.

When newlyweds Hannah, 24, and Joseph Ryan, 26, were first planning their visit to national parks, little did they know they would be staying free at luxury homes across the United States. But as Hannah started looking for budget-friendly ways to travel, she told Insider she came across a few blogs about house sitting, where you can live in people’s homes for free in exchange for house sitting or of their pets when the owner is traveling.

The couple loved the idea of ​​keeping animals in nice homes and decided to ditch their apartments and take the plunge. Since getting married in February 2022, they’ve stayed in a mansion with an infinity pool overlooking Los Angeles; an estate in San Diego with its own pool house; and an orchard and lake house in Las Vegas with its own boat.

They planned to travel for at least a year while working remotely and knew they needed a base

Even if they wouldn’t be paid to keep their house, they could save on rent.

“Van life was not an option for us,” Hannah said. “We needed a place where we could sit, have WiFi and hold meetings.”

The couple consulted three house-sitting sites that connect landlords and house-sitters: Nomador, Housesit Match and TrustedHousesitters. They decided to create a profile on TrustedHousesitters, and after their first job went so well, they kept going.

Hannah and Joseph sitting at the edge of a canyon. Hannah and Joseph Ryan Their first job was to watch a dog and a cat in a two-bedroom house near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The only challenge was creating protein-rich breakfasts with grilled chicken and pumpkin puree for the dog, who was allergic to canned pet food. But Hannah said a kind owner and a relaxed dog made their first stay at home an easy one.

They house-sit 10 other locations along the West Coast, staying there for up to 3 weeks at a time

“Our shortest stay was a week, but we’d rather not do less than three weeks because we’re doing it full time and you don’t want to continuously pack,” Hannah said.

For each potential home, they tend to make a Zoom call with the owner first to find out if the animal has any personality quirks or allergies. The owner will generally welcome them at the start of each stay, introduce the pets and show them around the house.

Hannah and Joseph standing by an infinity pool in a house they kept. Hannah and Joseph Ryan

The owners Hannah and Joseph kept the house for tend to be wealthy retirees and, in one case, even a Hollywood movie star. Once the owner has left, the couple have the accommodation all to themselves. If there are security cameras on the property, the owners will turn them off during the couple’s stay.

“Those outside, we’ll leave, and they’ll give us the security codes,” Hannah said.

Their main role is to take care of the pets, but the couple are sometimes called upon to collect the mail or water the plants.

Most home maintenance is usually someone else’s responsibility.

“They’ll often have a pool guy, a gardener, and housekeepers,” Hannah said. “But we’re expected to keep it tidy, and we’ll clean it up before we leave.”

Accidents can happen, so the couple signed up for the annual Premium Owner membership package for $259 with TrustedHousesitters, which covers them in the event of a breakage. It also covers last minute cancellations. “That gives us $150 a night to pay for a hotel if we had a cancellation,” Hannah said.

The most important aspect of working remotely, Hannah said, is making sure the homes they stay in have WiFi. Hannah had already been working remotely for a few years before she started traveling, so she said this aspect of their new lifestyle wasn’t a big transition for her. When the couple aren’t busy working on their laptops, they’re jet skiing, paragliding or hiking in national parks.

Hannah and Joseph paragliding over a beach. Hannah and Joseph Ryan The longest they’ve been away from the house they’re watching is five hours at a time, Joseph said. However, if owners give them the go-ahead, they will also take the dogs on their adventures.

“The house we stayed in in Las Vegas was on the lake and had an eight-person electric boat, which their dogs loved to use,” Hannah said. “We cruised almost every sunset together.”

Although they are not paid to keep the house, the couple save a lot on their travel expenses

“We don’t pay rent, electricity, or WiFi, so combined, we’re saving $1,500 a month, which we used to pay for our apartment rent,” Joseph said. “If we take a road trip, as gas gets more expensive, we tend to save about $1,000 a month.”

One of the couple’s favorite stays was at an estate in San Diego, which included an orchard full of avocado and lemon trees.

“At the back of the estate was a guesthouse near an Olympic size swimming pool,” Joseph said. “We stayed in the guest house, where we were treated to a beautiful view of the California sunset each night.”

Hannah in a hot tub watching a pink sunset. Hannah and Joseph Ryan However, they were able to see every square inch of the estate, as one of the two dogs they cared for was an Australian Shepherd, who often disappeared on the property.

“He dug a tunnel through the bushes which he raced through, and we had to chase him down,” Joseph said. “He never left the property. He was just a working dog looking for work to do.”

The key to getting a home stay booking is to create a strong profile

On their profile, they uploaded pictures with their pets and shared some of their interests. When they started, Hannah said, they also asked friends whose pets they had kept to provide character references.

Hannah and Joseph smile in front of a lake and mountains. Hannah and Joseph Ryan

The couple said they always work hard to get good reviews. “We send owners updates about their pets every other day,” Hannah said. “We also leave a thank you note in our room, and maybe some flowers or some candy.”

While housekeeping is easy, it’s also a lot of responsibility since you’re looking after someone else’s property and pets.

“If you just want to travel and have fun, this probably isn’t for you,” Hannah said. “You have to remember that you can’t treat it like a hotel – it’s someone’s house.”

The couple plan to return home to Virginia to visit their parents for Christmas, then start babysitting again on the New Year on the East Coast. They even plan to house-sit internationally and are not averse to caring for different types of pets, such as reptiles, fish and hamsters.

“The sky’s the limit,” Joseph said.

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