Meet the Couple Who Saved a Mortgage Deposit By House-Sitting for an Entire Year

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell
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Dreaming of buying a home? (*Every renter raises hand.*) Is the fact that saving for a house deposit seems as unlikely as winning the Lotto standing in your way? (*Raises hand again.*) For those of you who have surrendered to the fact that it’s almost a certainty that you’ll be paying someone else to live for the rest of time, allow us to introduce you to a young Melbourne couple who have just given every aspiring house-hunter a welcomed glimpse of hope.

Etsy’s PR and communications coordinator, Laura Quattrocelli, 31, and her partner, Sean Callanan, 30, just made their dream of owning their own home a reality. One night while calculating the amount of rent they were paying per year (read: a small fortune) they realised the only way they could save enough for their own home was by going homeless—then the genius idea of house-sitting to save said small fortune was born. While it was, unsurprisingly, a whirlwind year sans wardrobes, routines, and dinners at fancy restaurants, Quattrocelli and Callanan are now the proud owners of home in Brunswick West and have zero regrets. Read on to find out how they did it.

MYDOMAINE: How and when did you come up with the idea to house-sit in order to save enough for a deposit to buy a house?

LAURA QUATTROCELLI: One day we were sitting in our rental apartment and calculating the actual amount of money we were spending on rent. It was something ridiculous like $25,000 a year that we were essentially giving to someone else, and we didn’t even love the place. It felt kind of silly, and because we had been talking about trying to save to get our own place it was almost the motivation go big and be homeless for a year!

Sean had recently gotten stuck into a blog called Mr Money Moustache, which is about one man who pretty much lives the thriftiest life you could imagine, and because of that, he’s a millionaire! And we decided we wanted to do the same. It started with the basics like using our savings pay off our credit cards and closing the accounts. That’s where it began...

MD: Had you both been dreaming of buying a house for a long period of time, with no luck?

LQ: We had probably spent a year together thinking about how we don’t want to be renting when we have kids or when we are in our 40s, and were dreaming about not working so much and enjoying life a little more. We struggled to come to terms with the idea that we wouldn’t be able to actually afford to buy a house for another few years. We are both very determined and creative people so winning the Lotto wasn’t a realistic option.

Until a couple of years ago, Sean, like lots of our friends, didn’t see himself in a position to ever be able to own a house—he really thought it was impossible.

MD: How did you approach house-sitting? Word of mouth? House-sitting websites?

LQ: The day we moved out of our place we borrowed a truck from Sean’s work (money saver tip number one) and stored some furniture at our families' homes, which we then used as our base for moving in and out of houses.
I pretty much posted on Facebook that I was looking for a house to “sit” and from that one post I think we filled up from March until September! It then got to August and I posted again and filled up the months until November. We spent the final month at Sean’s parents’ house which was really nice.
I guess we were lucky in the fact that we are both from Melbourne so we have a big network of friends and family, but you’d be surprised that when you put the word out, so many opportunities arise. There is also a house-sitting website that we stumbled across but most of those houses were a little far away for us to commute every day. But if there is a will, then you will find a way!

MD: What were the positives and negatives of house-sitting for an extended period of time?

LQ: Living out a suitcase gets very tiring. I missed my wardrobe, bathroom, and the options of jewellery and nail polish and all those little luxuries you have in your own home. Also, not having a routine in general was equally as difficult—setting goals, being active, and creative are almost impossible. We kind of had a bit of a “pause” year and felt like we weren’t as creative as we usually like to be.

Sean is a musician so he missed having a studio set up and making music like he normally would. And cooking! Other people’s kitchens that are not like ours weren’t as fun to cook in.

The positives were that we’ve learned to live with a lot less stuff. I learned that many of my belonging were just a waste of money and a luxury that I don’t need. We are now so much better at budgeting and spending money—we actually never worry about money anymore which is crazy. We have emergency money, bills money, and we’ve now got savings going for our wedding, plus we have a house!

MD: What are your top tips for house-sitting?

1. Use your network—even if you aren’t originally from the area where you now live, you will surprise yourself with the community around you, the people you work with, and their friends and family—it won’t be hard to fill your calendar with house-sitting days!

2. Pack light—you don’t really need five pairs of shoes for two weeks.

3. Offer to take care of pets and gardens—we got to hang out with some really cool cats and dogs in our time moving around and we also got to live in a bunch of locations—one of which is where we ended up buying because we loved the suburb so much!

4. Leave a treat and clean up—bake a cake, buy some beers, or write a card to thank the person who you’ve house-sat for. It’s just a nice thing to do and a nice welcome home for them. Along with clean sheets and a clean house.

5. Don’t be fussy—if someone is offering up their tiny shoebox apartment that they share with a great dane, say yes. You’ll at least have a fun story to tell!

MD: What are your top tips for saving in general?

1. Get rid of your credit card! If you are using it to buy something, then you actually can’t afford to buy that thing and you shouldn’t buy it.

2. Invite friends over for dinner and a drink instead of going out—this was a huge money saver for us.

3. Ride a bike—cars cost money and they’re bad for the environment. You don’t have to pay for parking with a bike and it’s great exercise and it’s good for the planet.

4. Sit down and put a proper budget together that accounts for every dollar coming into your bank account.

5. Research, change banks, buy in bulk.

MD: Was the feeling of owning your own home as satisfying as you imagined, and was it worth your 12 months of not having your own home and hard saving?

LQ: Absolutely! Nothing will beat that first night in the house, going to sleep and it really sinks in that this piece of land and the house you’re in is actually yours. That and painting the house whatever colour you like is worth it! It really was a complete lifestyle change for the better.

MD: Would you recommend it to other people that are attempting to save and buy their own home?

LQ: Yes! Do it! I’ve told so many people that they should do it, but if you’re going to attempt it, you really have to put 110% in and make sure you stick to your budget otherwise you will get to the end of the year and probably need to do another. Finally, read Mr Money Moustache and get inspired—start from the beginning and get whipped into money-saving shape.

For more saving tips and tricks, shop Saving Money is Easy ($17).

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