- What housesitting is all about
- The many benefits of house and pet sitting for both homeowners/pet parents and sitters, and
- How we travel the world, staying in expensive tourist areas for free by looking after people’s homes and beloved pets.
- A quick recap on ‘What are the benefits of house sitting?’
- What kind of people need a housesitter?
- How does housesitting work?
- Where can you post or find house sitting opportunities, including the most popular house sitting websites?
- How can I increase my chances of getting an international housesit?
- Our top tips to get your first international housesit
- How can homeowners find a great housesitter
- What homeowners can do to ensure the housesit runs smoothly?
- What housesitters can do to make the housesit run smoothly
- What Do You Need to Do to Get 5-star Reviews and How Important Are They?
What are the Benefits of House Sitting?
We covered this a lot more thoroughly in the first part of this two-part blog on international house sitting. But here’s a recap on the main benefits of pet sitting and why it’s becoming so popular as part of the sharing economy.
Benefits for Pet Parents and House Owners
- Eliminates the costs for boarding your animals while you are away – Catteries and kennels are expensive. You can use that money on your holiday instead.
- Keeps your pets in familiar surroundings and with their normal routines and caring humans – Your dog or cat (or bird, fish, or llama) receives in-home pet care and affection.
- Increased security for your property.
- Can lower or eliminate the cost of home and garden maintenance while away.
Benefits for Pet and House Sitters
- Eliminates or saves money on accommodation when traveling. However, it’s important that prospective house and pet sitters understand sitting involves responsibilities. It’s definitely not a free ride.
- Provides a ‘local experience’ as opposed to being a tourist.
- Typically provides all the comforts of home while exploring the world. Sitting in someone’s house generally means you have a living room, a fully-equipped kitchen, and sometimes a pool and a gym.
- It gives you pet companionship while traveling to new destinations. It’s not just about saving money by pet sitting. Traveling long-term makes it difficult to own a furry friend. Pet sitting can fill that gap.
What Kind of People Need House Sitters?
People who love their pets.
It’s hard to put a label on any group of people, but in our experience, the people seeking housesitters have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Pet lovers – people who care deeply for their pets and prefer they stay in familiar surroundings while they are away. For example, some dogs fret if they are put in a dog kennel and will fare much better with a loving dog sitter while their owner is away.
- People with valued possessions and property don’t want to be left alone while absent. Some insurance policies become void after just a few days of a home being empty. Having someone present – collecting mail, keeping gardens tidy, going in and out – provides a deterrent to wannabe burglars.
- People without family and friends who can house and pet sit for them (or would prefer not to depend on them to fulfill all their requirements for both their pets and home.) For example:
- Expats – singles, couples, and families. A large percentage of them are teachers who want to take the opportunity to travel during school holidays. (When accommodation in popular destinations is typically the most expensive!)
- Retirees who have moved to another country and who now have time to travel
- Older couples who don’t have children or whose kids have left the nest
- Young professionals who’ve moved away from home
- Professionals who often travel as part of their job
As the benefits of engaging a house sitter spread, more people from different walks of life are joining the international housesitting movement.
How Does Housesitting Work?
The process could be slightly different depending on which method you use from the choices below to advertise and find a housesit (as discussed in the next section). However, there are a few critical steps that happen for the majority of sits. This process can happen in one interaction or over a series of communications.
- The homeowner decides they need a house and petsitter for their dogs or cats (or other pets) and advertises the dates and an overview of the responsibilities of the house sitter.
- Prospective housesitters find a housesitting assignment they want to do and think they are suitable for. For example, we rarely apply to posts for dog sitting these days. Walking a dog multiple times daily doesn’t fit our desire to explore new destinations. Cat sitting (rabbit, hamster, reptile sitting) is much more our style.
- The housesitter applies to the housesit, letting the homeowner know why they are the best person for the job.
- The homeowner assesses their suitability, along with any other applicants.
- The homeowner will then usually make contact beforehand to ask questions about things they aren’t sure about and give housesitters the ability to clarify things too.
- The homeowner makes their choice and offers the successful candidate the sit.
- If that’s you, and you still want to do the sit after finding out all the details, you accept
- Together you work out the details of how and when you will arrive and depart, and clarify anything you need to know to make the sit a success.
- The housesitter arrives and completes the sit, preferably with some personal handover.
- The homeowner returns, and the housesitter debriefs them on anything they need to know and hands back responsibility for their home and pets.
- The homeowner provides the housesitter with an honest review or referral based on their level of satisfaction, which is useful to other homeowners considering their applications in the future.
- Sometimes the housesitter also gets the opportunity to give feedback on the home, the pets, and the homeowner so other sitters know what to expect.
Where Can I Post or Find House Sitting assignments?
If you’re asking yourself, “How can I become a housesitter?” the good news is there are lots of places to get “hired.” (And many of them won’t cost you a cent!) However, using a paid platform can provide you with more safety and security, especially on international house sits, which I’ll explain further down this post.1 – Word of mouth
People are more likely to trust recommendations from people that they trust. If you have a reputation as a responsible adult/adolescent among your family and friends, why not try putting the word out that you’re looking to start housesitting and that you do it for free? A couple of successful short sits will build your reputation throughout your network, and within no time, you’ll have people recommending you to others. (If you have a reputation as a party animal, this might not be the best approach!)
When we decide to go back to Australia for any length of time, that’s the first thing we’ll do.
2 – Your Local Area
One way to get some points on the board and not have to cause too much disruption to your life is to find house and pet-sitting gigs in your local neighborhood. Put a notice up at the local pet shop, dog training school, supermarket, community notice board, etc., regarding your availability and the personal characteristics that make you perfect for the role.
3 – Facebook Groups
Wanting to housesit in a particular location? Do a search on Facebook for groups related to house and petsitting OR where house and pet owners hang out. Often you’ll see requests for sitters, or you can put your credentials and availability up in a post.
There are hundreds more depending on where you want to go.
4 – Dedicated House and Pet Sitting platformsThere are quite a few dedicated house and pet-sitting platforms around. Some have been around for over two decades; others are relatively new. Many are free for homeowners. However, most, but not all, charge an annual membership fee for housesitters. This fee varies widely between the platforms, but they usually allow you to search for sits before joining so you can see if they advertised the kind of sits that you’re looking for. Some of these platforms also have a free trial period or a money-back guarantee, so you can test it out with little to no risk. Quite a few sites advertise international house sits, whereas others focus on a specific country or region. I’ve added a good selection in the table below so you can compare. I look at the number of active sit listings vs. the number of sitters. Even if your profile and experience are amazing (see below), you might still face an inordinate amount of competition with the smaller sites and find it challenging to get your first sit. That’s the reason we started with Trusted Housesitters. They have thousands of active sits, and if you follow a few basic tips, it’s not hard to get your first sit and 5-star review to start you off on your housesitting journey. You can follow THIS LINK and use code TRAVELBUG25 at checkout to get 25% off your new THS memberships. Although don’t discount the other sites, especially those that don’t charge homeowners BUT do charge sitters as you may find loads of sits and not that much good competition. Which platform is best for you depends on what you are looking for, so it pays to evaluate a few sites before committing to one or more. Here’s a summary of what I found from exploring a good selection of them. Prices may have changed marginally since I wrote the post.
|There are three pricing tiers each for homeowners, sitters, and combined memberships. Follow THIS LINK and use code TRAVELBUG25 at checkout to get 25% off your new THS membership. (Up to 63.80 USD off!)
|International – 130+ countries. Lots in the UK, US, Aus, Can
|$50/yr sitters Free for homeowners with a $25 premium option
|£49 basic £79 premium for both sitters & owners
|International with a focus on UK, Aus & Europe
|International – focus on Europe
|Mind My House
|$20 – housesitters Free for homeowners
|Aussie House Sitters
|$84/yr – Sitters Free for homeowners
|$19 – 3 months $39 – 6 months $69 – 1 yr (but covers sitters & owners for this 1 price)
|Tasmania – Australia
|Happy House Sitters
|Unlimited free trial for housesitters
|$59/yr – sitters Free for homeowners
|$84/yr – sitters Free for homeowners
|The Housesitting Company
|$59/yr The price for homeowners depends on the length of stay. Online quote available
|Currently free membership for 2 years
|$30/yr for sitters Free for homeowners
|£29/yr for sitters Free for homeowners
|Interesting pricing – $79/yr for sitters $79/yr for owners OR $79/yr for BOTH
|Only 8 active listings? and Around 300 sitters
|$25/yr – sitters Free for homeowners
How Can I Improve My Chances of Getting an International Housesit?
There are a few ways you can improve your chances of getting an international housesit.
1 – Go looking in the right places – Decide where you would like to housesit and find the best platform or method to locate the most matching assignments posted.
2 – Create an excellent profile so homeowners don’t discount you on their first screen of applicants. After your application, your profile is their first impression and can be the difference between being considered or discarded as a suitable candidate. You can set up your profile in a number of ways, the majority of which are entirely free:
- Set up a dedicated Facebook page for your profile and a record of your housesits and homeowner feedback. Here’s how.
- Set up a personal webpage. There are plenty of FREE options to do this. Here are a few.
- Create your profile as a Word or PDF document that you can send to homeowners. (much like a CV)
- Create your profile on the housesitting platform(s) you decide to join.
Get our free PDF with 8 Tips To Create A Winning House Sitter Profile that will have homeowners wanting to find out more.
3 – Write up a generic application that compliments your profile. (But then follow step 5)
4 – Stay alert for new sits that match your wish list and apply as soon as possible and to as many as you can. If the functionality exists, create notifications for housesits that match your wish list.
5 – Use your generic document as a foundation BUT personalize your application for each sit. This is your first opportunity to make a great impression.
6 – Follow up with homeowners if you haven’t heard anything within a few days. Homeowners in popular locations who advertise on the big housesitting sites will be inundated with applications. A polite follow-up should ensure they either take a second look at your application or they will at least tell you if you’re not under consideration so you can move on. THS shows when a homeowner has put a halt to applications and has them under review.
7 – Make personal contact quickly – If the homeowner expresses interest in you as a sitter, work out what questions you still have and try and set up a time to talk as soon as possible. In this way, you can clarify exactly what’s required of you to see if you’re still interested and, of course, if the homeowner is still interested in you.
8 – If a homeowner decides to choose you, accept the sit as soon as possible. I usually find this comes directly after a conversation. If not, send a reminder that you need confirmation either way.
Do NOT accept a sit if you are unsure about anything or have doubts. Once you commit, you should only back out if there are extenuating circumstances, which doesn’t include a better sit coming along! Your word is your bond!)
Tips For Getting Your First International Housesit
Getting your first housesit is often the most difficult, but once you get over that first hurdle, getting desirable gigs becomes exponentially easier. Many experienced housesitters don’t even have to apply to sits anymore if they don’t want. Between repeat sits and invitations, their dance card is full.
- Make sure you have a great profile and application. (Get our free PDF with 8 Tips To Create A Winning House Sitter Profile. )
- Be flexible with your wish list and apply for sits in less popular locations to get your few reviews on record. I don’t mean apply for sits you’re going to hate. But, for example, the UK has hundreds of sits available at any one time, and some of them never get filled because there aren’t enough sitters who want to apply. A few short sits in smaller towns in the UK can quickly build your reviews and increase your chances for more desirable sits in other parts of the world.
- Apply for as many sits as you can. Try and get feedback when you are unsuccessful so you can improve future applications.
- But….. focus your efforts on the house sits you are suitable and qualified for. Don’t waste your energy if it says non-smoking couples and you’re a chain-smoking single. If it says experience in farm animals and you’ve never set foot out of the big city and have a cow phobia, ditto.
- Not that you shouldn’t do your very best on every sit, but make sure you “over excel” on those first few. Getting great reviews is the key to winning more sits, especially the most popular ones.
- Ask for a review at the end of the sit. It’s important to ask if the homeowners are happy with your “performance” and get their feedback as soon as possible. If they tell you they were delighted, ask them for a review immediately. If they don’t seem happy, ask them how you can improve next time.
What Can Homeowners Do To Get the Best Housesitter?
There are a few things homeowners can do to get the best housesitter.
1. Be clear on your expectations. If you don’t know exactly what you expect from a house sitter, it’s less likely they can answer all your questions and meet them.
2. Act Quickly – With the new THS 5-application pause, look at the initial five applications ASAP. Reject any that don’t fit and unpause your listing until you get a suitable shortlist of potential candidates.
3. Read the applicant’s profiles thoroughly and note previous homeowners’ reviews. However, don’t discount first-timers if you think they might be great candidates. Everyone has to start on this journey somewhere.
4. Talk to a selection of applicants before you choose – a video call might only take 15 minutes of your time, but you can clear up a lot of questions on both sides. It could take dozens of written messages back and forth to achieve the same thing. There’s a lot to be said for instinct when you connect with people. You will probably glean information you can’t deduce from even the most complete professional profile and application. Also, don’t gloss over any potential problem areas – poorly behaved pets, or noisy neighbors etc.. Best to be open and honest from the start to avoid problems later.
5. Communicate soon and often with your preferred candidates and keep them in the loop, even if you need to delay your decision for a while. The best sitters will get snapped up quickly. Understand that while you’re evaluating multiple housesitters, they could be applying to multiple sits. If a homeowner is slow to communicate with us or makes promises and appointments they don’t keep, it sends up red flags, and we move on because we feel that poor communication in the initial stages doesn’t bode well for the sit.
What Can I Do As a Homeowner to Help the Housesit Go Smoothly?
There are a few things that can help the sit go smoothly. Most are related to open and honest communication.
1. Try and organize to do a personal handover. If you can meet the housesitter and review aspects of the pets and house, you need them to take special note of, it really helps in our experience. If there is room in your home, perhaps invite them to stay the night before you leave and have dinner together.
2. Create a comprehensive ‘Welcome Guide’ containing important information your house sitter needs to know, and if possible, print a hard copy so it’s available. This should include daily, weekly, and perhaps monthly tasks, emergency contacts, your recommendations for the local area, and anything else that can help the housesit run smoothly. Things like a “cupboard map” can reduce the need for your housesitter to rummage through your home to find what they need to survive and be comfortable.
3. Ensure you have a reliable method of communication during the sit and a backup plan should the house sitter need to contact you.
4. Give them plenty of warning if other people need access to the house – even if they are your trusted friends and family. Respect their privacy and their commitment to keeping your property secure.
5. Let them know as soon as possible if your plans change and consider the impact on them. This is especially important if your housesitter travels a long way to do the sit, as their costs for altering transport arrangements and finding alternative accommodation could be substantial.
What can I do as a House Sitter to make the housesit run smoothly?
Sitters can do a few things to make the sit go well and avoid problems.
1. Keep the homeowner informed about your arrangements in the lead-up to the sit. For example, time and date of arrival. I always send our homeowners details of our flights or transport once we arrange them.
2. Try and arrange a personal handover at both ends of the sit. It’s so much easier to understand the finer points of their house and pets.
3. Work out how you will communicate during their absence. Do they want pictures of their pets? How many and how often? Once you know, make sure you comply with their requests.
4. If they are open to it, connect on their social media profile and follow their travels. Because we’ve traveled so widely, we can often provide helpful information for them. We love seeing our homeowners enjoy themselves worry-free because we’re looking after their homes and pets.
5. Treat their property as well (or better) than you would treat your own.
6. Follow their instructions for their pets to the letter, even if you suspect they don’t abide by their own rules (e.g. number and length of walks, food exclusions, household rules, etc.) Unless, of course, you feel it’s may harm the animals..and then it gets tricky. Seek clarification from the owners or get an expert opinion in these cases.
7. Advise them of any problems immediately and get permission to take action if it wasn’t in your original agreement. Of course, in the case of an emergency, use your common sense.
8. Ensure their house is as clean or cleaner as when they left at the end of your sit.
9. If they are arriving home late, think about preparing some dinner or providing a few snacks (and maybe a cold beer or wine) so they can relax when they get home. (Especially if you’re staying that night to facilitate a personal handover, which we often do.)
10. Write down any issues you experienced or things they could have done to make things run more smoothly and (diplomatically) go over them upon their return so they can consider changing them for their next sitter.
What Do You Need to Do to Get 5-star Reviews and How Important Are They?
You’re not always assured of getting a 5-star review, even when you believe you’ve done everything the homeowner asked and were delighted when they got home. Some people just don’t believe in perfection, I guess.
However, if you:
- Communicate well and keep the owners updated on the health and happiness of their pet
- Notify them if anything goes wrong and deal with it if possible
- Greet them with well-groomed, happy pets, a sparkling clean home, and
- A diplomatic list of everything you’ve noted that they might need to deal with in the immediate future
…there’s a good chance you will get a 5-star review. And that’s important. Housesitting sites seem to be a bit like Airbnb. If you act like a responsible adult and don’t completely screw something up, a 5-star review is usual. With many sitters available, even a 4-star review can turn a homeowner off.
On sites where homeowners get to review their sitters, you usually get the chance of a reply. If you get less than glowing feedback and feel it is unjust, it might help if you calmly and logically give your side of the story. However, getting into a slanging match will only make the situation look worse. If you feel it is particularly unfair, then you may be able to get the housesitting platform to step in and adjudicate and perhaps get the review removed if they think you have a case.
One of our homeowners gave us a 4 for “Organisation” because we hadn’t downloaded and read the welcome guide before we arrived, even though he acknowledged we were riding fully loaded bicycles and probably hadn’t had a chance. I just replied that it was challenging reading the guide on a smartphone, and I had it on the top of my list of things to do when we arrived and could access my computer. The overall score was 5, and the rest of the comments were overwhelmingly positive because everything was perfect when they got home, and we’d managed the consequences of a huge storm. Thankfully it hasn’t impacted our ability to get more sits 🙂
Wow, that turned into a MEGA post. I think I’ve covered everything, but if I haven’t, feel free to comment or ask a question in the comments below. And if you’ve got friends who you think would like this information, please share it with them or on your social media pages.
Don’t forget to get our free PDF with 8 Tips To Create A Winning House Sitter Profile and maximize your chance of scoring fantastic sits in amazing destinations.
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