So, you want to be a House Sitter? Housesitting is a wonderful way to discover new parts of the world, meet new people and connect with animals. Since selling our house in the middle of 2017 we have been house sitting. We spent six months house sitting in our hometown Wellington, New Zealand and are now housesitting in the UK and Europe.
What is house sitting? House sitting is where you look after someones home and pets (more often than not) while they are out of town. We love house sitting and this post describes how to get your first house sit, where to find house sits and what to do once you get that first house sit. Hopefully, this post will give you a few tips to help you get your first house sit, enjoy it and maybe get asked back to sit at a later date.
Why house sitting?
House sitting is a great way to see new parts of the world while also living locally. Before venturing into the house sitting world it is important to think about why house sitting is for you. Over the last year, I have been noticing loads of blogs discussing how to ‘travel the world for free’ by house sitting. And every time I see those blogs or articles I get a little annoyed. House and Pet sitting is not a free ride. It takes effort, commitment, care and time – sure you get free accommodation, but that is a by-product of a much fuller and richer experience.
We House Sit because
- We like animals – one of the hardest things about travelling long term is that we miss our own animals terribly. House sitting gives us the opportunity to connect with animals in a way that it very difficult to do when you don’t have a home and are always on the move
- We want to travel slowly and explore new places – house sitting enables us to stop travelling and live locally for longer periods of time. We look for house sits that are at least three weeks long, that way we can do things like grocery shopping, cook our own meals, have a pint or glass of wine at the local pub/bistro, check out local attractions and events and stop moving around for a while. In our Wiltshire UK housesit, we did day trips to Bath, Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral – both really great things to do, but it is doubtful we would have made specific trips to visit them if we weren’t staying within easy driving distance.
- No accommodation costs help our budget last longer – House sitting enables us to save the money we would have spent renting an Airbnb or hotel room, and use it for future travels or to splurge on special events or attractions. We may book a special restaurant we have heard about, or go to a local event and support local businesses.
House Sitting is a responsibility. You are looking after someones home and treasured pets, so being clear about your intentions and expectations is really important. Home and Pet owners are placing their trust and confidence in you to ensure their home and pets are in the same condition (if not better) than when they left.
Quick tip: Be clear about why you want to house sit. Are you in it for free accommodation or because you genuinely enjoy looking after homes and pets?
What you need to get your first house sit?
Where to start?! We started by working out why we wanted to house sit and what skills and experience we thought we had to be top notch house sitters. We then started to build a profile which could be used as the basis for our profiles on various sites, and future house sit applications.
Creating an appealing profile
Your profile is the first (and sometimes last) thing Home Owners will see when they are looking for house sitters or wading through applications for their house sit. It is important that your profile is clear, concise and captures the important information to enable a homeowner to make a quick decision about whether you are the right fit for them. Your profile needs to be focused on the needs and requirements of homeowners, they are looking to find someone to stay in their home and look after their pets, so be honest and open!
What to include in your profile
Here are the main things you should think about including in your profile:
- Who are you? Are you a single or couple?
- Why do you want to house sit
- What do you do, what is your occupation? Will you be home throughout the day when house sitting? Will you be working from home?
- What experience have you had with looking after homes eg Have you house sat previously? Have you owned or rented your own home? Have you used Airbnb? Have you lived in apartments, houses, farms? Have you had to do gardens? Can you keep a house clean and tidy?
- What experience have you had looking after animals? What animals? Did you have a family pet when you were growing up? Have you had a pet recently? Do you have one now (if so, what is happening to the pet when you intend to be house sitting)? Have you looked after friends and family pets? Are you comfortable with dogs (big or small), cats, fish, horses, reptiles……
- What are your interests? Tripping around? Home during the day? Out at night?
- Photos – photos of you (and your partner if you are house sitting as a couple), photos of you doing things you love – do you love being in the outdoors – include a photo of you doing that. Most of all, include photos of you with animals (either your own or ones you have looked after).
- Web presence – do you have a Linkedin Profile? Your own website or blog? Think about including links or references to these – they give a broader picture of you and who you are.
Quick tip: check out other sitter profiles on house sitting sites (see below). Are there aspects you like or don’t like? Think about how your profile may look in comparison.
References are an important part of your House Sitting journey. At a minimum, you should aim to have at least four good references to support your House Sitting profile and applications. References give an independent view of you, your trustworthiness, skills and experiences. Several of the homeowners from our house sits have contacted our referee’s – so make sure your referees know that when they put in a reference they may be contacted.
If you are at the beginning of your House Sitting journey you may not have loads of references – but don’t worry, there are plenty of ways you can get references that reflect your skills, experience and trustworthiness for homeowners and the potential house sits. If you need more references, think about:
- offering to look after friends and family pets or homes for short periods
- offering to take friends and family (or neighbours) dogs for a regular walk
- volunteer at the local SPCA
- landlord references from previous landlords which demonstrate you have taken good care of your rental property
- providing access to your Airbnb profile (if you have one). Because your profile generally has feedback on it from previous AirBnB’s, it is a good way for homeowners to see if you have had good feedback
- get a local police check and make it available – this gives homeowners confidence you don’t have a criminal record
Quick Tip: Think about volunteering to regularly walk a friend’s or neighbour’s dog. Ask them for reference.
Where to find house sits?
There are several websites you can use to find house sits or housesitting vacancies, but what is the best housesitting website you ask? The best housesitting website is the one (or ones) that get you a housesit. We have found that using a combination of a local housesitting site with large international sites has given us a good mix of sits, and ensured we are booked up for at least six months ahead. We find it is good to use house sitting sites as they also have toolkits and/or for homeowners and sitters, plus some offer additional vetting or potential house sitters.
We found Kiwi Housesitters to be a great local site for when we were sitting in our hometown. The site is free to browse for everyone, but through paying a $65 NZD/£33/$47USD you can correspond with homeowners and apply for sits. Another great thing about this site is that any references you get can be linked to an Aussie Housesitters or House Sitters UK accounts you open up in future.
Trusted Housesitters has a big market presence and costs £89. Their website is easy to use with the added bonus of live chat. They have a verification system for house sitters, you can see how many people have applied for the sit, and you can check out feedback from previous housesitters. The site also has a good dashboard function that makes it easy to keep track of your applications. There is a good range of house sits on the site, but you do have to be in quick as many homeowners get inundated with lots of offers.
This site appears to have a heavy European focus, although we have successfully gained a house sit in Morocco through Nomador. Nomador was profiled on French television in 2017 so there are also lots of French house sits on the site. We have also noticed that there is longer house sits listed on Nomador (compared with other sites). It is a relatively easy site to navigate. We also really like how they have a Seasonal filter too – so if you were looking for a house sit in Winter 2019 you can easily search for it.
There are two membership options available –
- Discovery Option – This free option lets you see available housesits and apply for a maximum of three.
- Confidence Option $35 USD a quarter or $85 USD per annum. Full access to view and apply to house sits.
Mind My House is an easy site to navigate, very user-friendly and accessible. It costs $20USD to register as a sitter. We haven’t had much luck with this site yet, but will keep going!
House Carers is a fairly straightforward site – there are no bells and whistles (which we like). You can register for updates on house sits that meet your criteria. While we have registered with House Carers we have not yet been successful in securing any sits – but will persevere with the site. House Carers has two membership options with a free limited membership for House Sitters that enables you to view available sits. By upgrading to the full paid membership ($50USD) you can also read messages from Home Owners.
Facebook is another option for finding house sits. There are several groups focusing on house sits in specific countries (France, Italy). We have joined a couple of these groups and find them useful from a community perspective. These groups do not necessarily offer any infrastructure (unless they are linked to sites like the ones listed above) so there may be an added element of risk. As always make sure you do due diligence and check references etc.
Your Own Networks
Using your own networks is a great way to build up your confidence and experience in House Sitting (and get some references!). You don’t necessarily have to be house sitting for weeks on end
Choosing a House Sit
Now you have prepared your profile, got your references sorted and identified potential sites it is time to identify potential house sits. Each house sitting site will have different ways to search for house sits. Home Owners upload sits regularly so it makes sense to set up notifications on your preferred sites for house sits that meet your criteria. When starting out, think about your ideal house sit – what are the things you need to be clear about – these are your criteria:
- Location – are you open to any location or have a preference for specific locations? Will you need your own transport? Is there public transport nearby?
- Dates – are you available on the dates specified?
- Sit Length – do you want long sits or short sits? Are you looking for long term house sitting opportunities?
- Are there any pets? How many, what kind, how old, any special needs or requirements?
- Is the property easily accessible – up/downstairs?
- How big is the property? There is a big difference between looking after a one bedroom flat and a five bedroom detached country home – what are you comfortable with?
- Are there photos of the property and animals
Be sure to check the listing details and the descriptions the homeowners have provided. For example, will you need a car? Is there a local shop or supermarket? Will other people be present and/or visiting? Check the homeowner’s reviews – what have other house sitters said? Are the owners expecting a contribution towards bills and expenses?
Quick tip: house sits in popular locations get many applications – very quickly. If you find a house sit that fits your criteria, get in there and apply quickly.
Applying for a House Sit
Now you have identified a house sit to apply for it is time to swing into action and get your application in. We find the easiest way is to develop a standard application that concisely describes who we are, our house sitting skills and experience and why we are the right persons for the house sit. We also ensure to personalise each application. If the homeowner names pets or identifies specific requirements in their ad, we ensure we refer to these in our application.
We also make sure to ask questions if anything is unclear in the ad for example, when would the homeowners expect you to arrive at their home for the sit – the day of, two days beforehand, the night before. , and then When applying, make sure to have a personalized application – name the pets, space etc
Many homeowners like to also schedule a Skype interview or meet you in person. We have found this is a very good way to initiate a relationship and ask questions. It is important that you are prepared, ask questions and communicate clearly throughout the process. Trust your instincts too – if the homeowner has lots of specific rules you need to follow to look after their home or pets – and you aren’t a rule follower – then perhaps that house sit is not for you.
If you do make it through to the stage of your application being considered, try and get confirmation about the homeowners’ expectations. If it is unclear, don’t assume. Here are a few prompt questions to keep in mind:
- Do they expect you to be home all day every day?
- How long can the animals be left alone during the day?
- Are there parts of the house you are not allowed to use or go into?
- Where do the animals sleep?
Quick Tip: Don’t make assumptions. Ask if you are unclear or need more information.
Congratulations you have a House Sit, now what?
Congratulations, your hard work has paid off and you have booked your first house sit. Now what? Well, the hard work is really just beginning. Here are a few things to think about in the run-up to and during your house sit. Of course, you can adapt these to your own style and approach, but we know these things work for us – so they might work for you too.
- Communication is critical. Keep in touch with the homeowner – check in at least a month before your housesit is due to start. We let homeowners know we are still coming and ask if there is anything we need to be aware of in the run-up to the sit. During the housesit, we will send a weekly email to the homeowners – letting them know how things are going, and including a couple of photos of their pets if need be. Some homeowners prefer more communication – we have also texted/SMS owners who want us too
- Before starting the housesit make sure you are clear about expectations, any special requirements, rubbish day, what is the daily routine, food of the animals. It is also useful to understand all emergency contacts – home, animals
- Two to one week out we start to confirm dates and times for handover. Some homeowners prefer early arrival to ensure a full handover, whereas others leave the key!
- While on the house sit we replace anything we use – toilet paper, coffee, bread.
- Don’t rearrange anything in the home – we have heard stories of homeowners returning home to find furniture, kitchen and or linen cupboards rearranged. Don’t do it. It is not your home.
- Always leave the home in a spotless condition – including washing the linen on the bed you have been using. We always think about what it would be like to arrive home to a messy place – what a grim welcome that would be!
- Be clear about what time the homeowners are returning – will they need a meal when they get home? Milk for tea and coffee? Have you turned the heating on? Walked the animals?
- We always like to leave a meal for the homeowners return and a bunch of flowers. A nice welcome home gift which also means they don’t have to race out to the store to get supplies in straight away.
So there you have it…
Hopefully, you have found this post helpful, and it has given you some tips for getting your first housesit. Housesitting is a rewarding experience. We love it, hopefully you will too.
If you found this useful please share! And of course, if you need any further information get in touch!