There is a way for those without a home to have a place to lay their heads.

Saving hundreds of dollars a week is motivating some to choose homelessness - but they are not without a bed.

A growing number of Kiwis are tapping into perpetual house sitting - bouncing from one to another rather than renting or trying to buy.

About 6000 house sits have occurred in the last year on New Zealand's largest house sit website Kiwi House Sitters. Up to 700 of the 4500 house sitters listed do it fulltime.

Advertisement
Rowena Baines and Tomas Brescacin house sit so they can make unfunded films and take part in international aid projects. Photo / Supplied
Rowena Baines and Tomas Brescacin house sit so they can make unfunded films and take part in international aid projects. Photo / Supplied

Rowena Baines and her Argentinian partner Tomas Brescacin have been house sitting fulltime for more than three years. They do it so they can make documentaries and films without being paid and go on international aid missions.

But it's not an easy life. The couple have two car loads of stuff, including all the food they make from scratch - kombucha, sourdough starter, preserved lemons and jars of grains and seeds.

"House sitting has really allowed me to follow my heart and intuition and not have to be thinking about huge overheads of rent, electricity," Baines said.

She is currently making an unfunded film about the women who pose for the artistic community of Waiheke.

"But it's really funny actually, it's a huge ordeal ... I really feel like a nomad in my own town."

The first thing Brescacin, 31, unpacks when he gets to a new house is a box with a colourful blanket Baines gave him and a sculpture from Tonga. Then the house feels like home.

The couple shoulder the responsibility seriously. They've shoveled scoria in the middle of the night when floods hit the island and Baines, 42, develops such an attachment to the pets she'll go back and walk the dog after they've moved out.

Baines grew up with her mum running a 5-star bed and breakfast so she has an extremely high standard of housekeeping.

"We're looking after people's houses and treating them like our own. When we leave the house we leave it absolutely pristine."

House sitting was all about trust and could only exist in first world countries, Baines said.

"I still find it fascinating. There's this beautiful trust thing. People say 'I have a need, you have a need, let's help each other out'."

Sophie Kynman-Cole and Joshua Hayward-Fogg estimate they save around $400 a week by house sitting. Photo / Supplied
Sophie Kynman-Cole and Joshua Hayward-Fogg estimate they save around $400 a week by house sitting. Photo / Supplied

Sophie Kynman-Cole and her partner Josh Hayward-Fogg, both 26, have bounced between seven house sits since May. They decided to do it when they moved to Auckland after travelling, not having many possessions and needing to save money.

Kynman-Cole, who is a ecological restorative field worker, estimated they save around $400 a week on rent and bills.

"Our belongings are pretty minimal so moving around is easy enough. We also enjoy being around pets.

"We stay in some really lovely homes that are fully set up for us and our living costs are hugely reduced."

The most difficult part was committing to looking after animals so not having flexibility to go away for the weekend. They also only buy what groceries they need so they don't have the luxury to stock up on a variety of items, Kynman-Cole said.

AUT professor of sociology Charles Crothers is sure the rise in house sitters correlates to the housing crisis and said people have been finding "creative ways" to shelter themselves for decades.

He pointed out it had similarities to the phenomenon of couch surfing (where travellers spend a few nights for free on a host's couch), squatting (occupying a vacant house) and WWOOFing (volunteering on organic farms in exchange for accommodation).

"It's very much to be welcomed. There are quite a few thousand empty homes in Auckland, if house sitters move into some of those it'd be so much better."