(I have been looking into house sitting for a while now and was recently talking to a friend who helps run a house sitting website. After talking about his experiences I asked him if he could right up some tips and suggestions for the blog. Tons of great info in here and worth looking into if you’re wanting to save some money and have more of a local feel to your travels. Now, on to the guest post!)
Last year I spent nine months living in France, several months in Edinburgh and a couple of weeks in Portugal. I was a house sitter, which means I looked after other people’s homes (and pets) while they were away.
It was a fantastic way to travel: I got to stay for free saving me a fortune in accommodation costs, I had my own space and most importantly, in each of those house sits I was able to experience what living there ‘as a local’ was really like – a selling point that’s very often overlooked with this type of travelling.
House Sitting 101
House sitting, very simply, is like babysitting but for houses. You look after someone else’s home while they’re away. A typical house sitting job involves some pet care and could include other responsibilities like watering the plants, collecting the mail and depending on the length of the assignment (and where in the world it is), mowing the lawn and cleaning the pool.
Most house sitting jobs are unpaid but in return you get to stay for free. This makes house sitting very attractive, particularly in countries like Australia, the UK and North America where the cost of accommodation is so high.
How to Get Started
Although house sits are occasionally advertised on places like Craigslist, Gumtree and occasionally expat forums, the easiest way to get started as a house sitter is to join a house sitting community.
Here home and pet owners who are looking for a sitter can sign up and post an advert listing when they need a sitter and what ‘jobs’ you’ll be asked to do around the house.
Anyone interested in taking on the house sit can then contact the homeowner directly to apply. Homeowners will then review your covering email and profile and get back to you if they wish to take things further.
In my experience if you’re short-listed for a house sit, the next stage is usually a Skype call or two so that the homeowners can ‘get to know you’ as well as answer any questions you may have about the property or pets.
Creating a Profile That Gets You to the Next Stage
As mentioned, once you apply for a house sit, homeowners will then typically review your profile to see if you’re the right fit. As some house sits may have many applications from interested sitters, it’s essential that you create a profile that stands out and makes all of the important-information easy to see.
Some of the most important factors homeowners look for when selecting a house sitter are:
A picture is a thousand words and having at least one makes a huge difference to the likelihood of you getting accepted for a house sit.
References & Experience
Don’t be put off by these sitters, some of whom have 30+ references. According to a 2013 survey of house sitters, 75% of sitters with just one photo and one reference secured 1-5 house sits within 3-6 months of being registered. Obviously having more than one reference is helpful, but after a certain point things reaches a saturation point.
Getting that one reference isn’t overly taxing either. Ask friends and family for character references, employers for employment references or previous landlords for references for you as a tenant.
In the past I’ve taken on house sits in my own city. This is a great way to get accepted for your first house sit as many homeowners are usually more willing to take on newbie house sitter if they get to meet them first. Also, don’t forget to let friends and family know that you’re available to house sit.
Personal Pet & Home Ownership Experience
If you’ve owned pets in your lifetime, that’s very helpful experience. Similarly, if you’re a homeowner yourself (or have been) this is worth mentioning in your profile. It all helps to demonstrate your ability to look after a house and pets.
An Easy-To-Read Profile
Don’t underestimate the importance of an easy-to-read profile. As discussed, some homeowners receive numerous applications from interested sitters and so are likely only able to skim-read the profiles before creating a shortlist of applications.
If yours is easy-to-read and if all of the important information is as close to the top as possible, you can greatly increase your chances of getting a positive reply.
Once you’ve got your profile set up, the next step is to begin applying for house sitting jobs. It’s a good idea to ‘hedge your bets’ – don’t just apply for that dream house sit in the Caribbean, apply for as many as possible in the beginning. Not only will this increase your chances of landing one, it will also give you a feel for what works (and doesn’t) when contacting homeowners.
Good luck and if you manage to find a house sit (or have done in the past) please share it in the comments below!