Saving a deposit to buy your first home can be extremely difficult, especially in this record low interest rate environment, where not only are rates low on mortgages, but also on savings vehicles like term deposits and online special saver accounts.

Forget about the days of 6 per cent or higher returns on any money you ferret away… now you can’t expect to get much more than 2 per cent in many cases.

Unless you are living with family or friends, paying rent is another thorn in the side when it comes to saving a deposit.

Then there are upfront fees associated with home loans that you also need to take into account. Don’t even get me started on stamp duty. But don’t despair whatever you do.

Sometimes, you just need to get creative to save money.

If you know where to look, you can live for free in nice houses, in some of Australia’s best suburbs.

I’m, not talking about breaking and entering, or squatting like some of the alternative types do in some cities…although I guess it could be demand a type of legal, permissible version of squatting.

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I’m talking about house sitting.

If there’s one thing Australians like doing, it’s going on holidays.

But we also like having nice houses and also keeping nice pets…both of which can require care, or at least some kind of guardianship, while we are kicking back on a beach somewhere.

Professional help and things like kennels and cat hotels are expensive, so savvy home owners are looking for mutually beneficial arrangements and that is where you, the struggling saver, enter the fray as a house sitter and/or pet carer.

Unsurprisingly, there are already social media sites out there, that match registered house sitters with people who need their homes and pets looked after while they are away.

Most jobs last between four and six weeks, but some carry on for months.

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Not only do you not pay rent, but you can forget about electricity bills and other household expenses.

Often, you will get to stay in a luxury property, in a suburb you have never been to before, or might not be able to afford to rent in anyway.

You might even meet new people, make friends for life, or come up with an ongoing arrangement.

One young couple saved $25,000 in seven months, so if you don’t mind moving around a bit, it might be worth a shot.

Just make sure the service is legitimate. All website users should be registered, with a screening process in place and payments conducted securely through administrators.

Tim McIntyre is the senior real estate reporter for the Daily Telegraph and news.com.au

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Over the past decade, he has attained widespread knowledge of Australia’s many unique property markets and is an authority on all things buying, selling and investing.

His commentary appears every Saturday in the Daily Telegraph Real Estate lift out, as well as online at news.com.au

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