If you missed part 1 of my housesitting tips, you can find it here.
Let’s do this!
Okay, so you’ve decided housesitting is for you. Time to sign up for a membership, get your profile set up, and start contacting owners.
We have a discount code for Trusted House Sitters! It’s 1dad1kid. If you are joining as a sitter, you get 20% off the membership fee. Homeowners get 3 months free. [Editor’s note: We have not and will not receive anything with your use of the code.]
Your profile is the first or second thing they’re going to see. It will determine if they move on to the next step. So, yeah, it’s a big deal.
- Brevity, shyness, and humility are not necessarily your best friends here. Show your personality! Why should these people give you the keys to their home and put their beloved animals into your care? When being considered for Thailand, do you know how we won them over? They saw our Camel Balls video. Yes, camel balls got us the assignment. It was about personality.
- Sell yourself. What skills and experience do you have that make you desirable as a housesitter? Did you work as a veterinarian technician for 12 years? Do you believe that if you made a piece of toast the whole kitchen has to be cleaned again? Have you owned a home before? Can your partner build a house with just a supply of wood, duct tape, and bailing wire? Dig deep!
- Include photos and/or video. One of my strongest selling points is I have an adorable, photogenic child who is an extreme animal lover. I use that. On our profile, I have some photos of us doing fun things together, but I also have photos of Tigger being extremely cute with pets. I think this is especially important for homeowners who may not be so sure about having a child in their home. When they see photos of how Tigger is with pets, that gives them some reassurance that they won’t have a kiddo terrorizing poor Fluffy.Videos are the future. We haven’t done ours yet, but I’m working on it. They really are a great way of introducing people to you. They can see and hear you which helps them get a better feel for you and your personality. If people feel a connection with you, they’re more likely to seriously consider you as their choice.
- Tell them why you want to housesit. What is your theory about housesitting? Why do you want to do it? Is it just so you can save money? Well, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just be honest and open.
- Look at other profiles. You can search for a housesitter and see their profiles to get ideas.
Making first contact
“Hi there, I’m so and so, and I’d like to stay in your house for free. I’m a great person. Thanks.”
How would you respond?
Since you’re contacting them in this case, they’ll see your email before your profile. Give them a reason to want to view your profile.
- Give them a brief description of your experience as a homeowner or sitter.
- If animals are involved, tell them if you taught the Dog Whisperer everything he knows. If you grew up on a farm with 10 dogs, 20 cats, and a bunch of other animals, that’s good info to share.
- Personalize it. If they mentioned their pets’ names in their profile, make sure you do the same in your email. They love their animals, and they want to know you will, too. If you can’t be bothered to name them, chances are you won’t be spoiling them like mommy does either. If the photo of their kitty made your heart melt and start searching for catnip, tell them that. Just be honest. Don’t make stuff up just to close the deal.Sometimes I’ll make a connection with their pets. For example, one housesit had pet rats. I had pet rats as a kid and loved them, so I shared that and what I enjoyed about them. If they have a breed of dog that you know has tons of extra energy, point out that you know that and can meet that need: “Dalmatians sure have a lot of energy! We love taking long walks, so we’ll be able to give him plenty of opportunities for exercise.”
- Does your lifestyle make you especially suited for this assignment? For instance, they have a highly energetic doc, and you never fail to go for a 5-mile run every day. That would sure get my attention as a pet owner. I work online, so even though we’re active and get out to explore every day, we’re also home for a good portion of the day. That’s good for them to know, especially if their pets are used to someone being home for most of the day.Are they “house proud,” and your home would make a hospital surgical room look filthy? Tell them that.
- Do you have a blog, website, or a Facebook fan page? If the answer is yes, then share that with them. Our site offers homeowners a chance to get to know us better to see if we’d be a good fit.If you don’t at least have a Facebook fan page, I HIGHLY encourage you create one. It’s free and separate from your personal profile. It doesn’t have to be fancy. “Carla’s Homesitting” is a very workable title. Post relevant photos that introduce you (and your family, if applicable) to them. Video clips, photos, favorite quotes, pictures from that time you volunteered at the local animal shelter, etc. It preserves both of your privacy while also giving them an opportunity to see more about you.Give them something a little extra, and you stand out just that much more. This is critical since there are more sitters than there are homeowners searching.
- Get people to do a reference for you. Trusted House Sitters has a function where the person is emailed, and their reference appears on your profile. There are different categories for close friends, employers, homeowners you’ve sat for, etc. For Housecarers you can import the reference as a document so people can view it.
Getting an assignment
As I mentioned above, competition can be fierce, especially for highly desirable areas. The early bird usually gets this worm, too. Often the first person they talk to that they like gets the gig. Sign up for email alerts, but if you’re looking for an area that’s rather popular (like Paris, Hawaii, Bali, Australia or New Zealand), I would suggest you do a search first thing in the morning and later at night (time zone differences) for recently posted assignments on top of getting the email alerts.
Trusted House Sitters has a Facebook page, and they often feature cool housesits. If you like their page, as soon as you see a possible assignment show up that you’re interested in, email the owner right away! You can have an absolutely stellar profile, video, and first message, but if you’re the 25th person to contact them, good luck. It is not uncommon for some people to receive 100 candidate messages!
As the internal messaging systems are a bit clunky, once I’m in conversation with a homeowner, I give them my email address and offer to chat with them via regular email. It’s a lot more convenient.
If I’ve made it to the first round, I always offer to do a Skype call. Skype calls between users are free, so really you have nothing to lose. Even if you have to go to an Internet cafe to have the conversation, it’s worth the little money you’ll have to spend.
During those initial emails, when they’re asking a lot of questions, or apologizing for asking a lot of questions, I reassure them that I understand. They’re entrusting their home to you, and for many people it’s even a bigger deal to trust you with caring for their furry or scaly children. Let them know it’s okay and you understand, offer to put them in touch with others housesits you’ve done (if you have their permission to give out their contact information), and so on.
Confirm dates. Sometimes they need flexibility, sometimes the dates are very fixed. Make sure you’re clear on everything and keep those emails. They can come in handy if there is a misunderstanding later on. I keep every single email conversation with them for at least a year after the housesit is over.
It’s a good idea to offer to arrive 1-2 days early so that you have ample time to go over routines; schedules; how to turn off the gas, water, electricity, etc. Use a prewritten checklist to go over with them to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
If they have plants, make sure you know the watering frequency and if you need to apply plant food, etc.
If there is a pool, make sure you’re clear on the chemical use (if it isn’t salt water) or at least what is expected of you if they have someone to service the it. It’s a good idea to know where the pump is located and how to turn it off and on.
In many countries, you can’t drink the tap water. If that’s the case where they are, find out if there is a delivery service, or a place to refill water bottles. Not only is that important for the environment, but you’ll save a LOT of money on refilling water containers over buying new ones each time.
If there are a few months in between your acceptance and the start of the gig, make sure to stay in semi-frequent contact with the homeowners. Especially if they’re newer to this. It helps reassure them you’re still coming and that you’ll keep the communication going once their precious furballs are in your care.
Is a family out of luck?
If you’ve gotten this far and are still asking this question . . .
I think families may have a bit of an extra challenge getting a housesit, but it’s definitely doable. At the time of publication of this post, we’ve completed our 4th housesit outside of the US and are scheduled for our 5th. I know a larger family that had an extremely nice assignment, and the fact they were a larger family was a bonus for the owners because it meant more people were available to give their animals attention.
Patience is a virtue
The big thing is not to give up. Sometimes it can get frustrating sending out that 20th request only to not hear back, not be chosen, or be told “Oh sorry, we already found someone.”
Be persistent, and it will pay off.
What tips or questions about housesitting do you have?
October 5, 2014
Thanks for all the tip and guidance! Awesome stuff! I do have a question about long term house sits. Do you have to have a special visa or residency permit? I’m a US citizen with a US passport. I know for most of Europe, you can only stay for 3 months and then you have to go outside the Schengen area for 3 months. Do you just hop in and out of countries/Schengen area before your tourist visa expires?
October 7, 2014
For the Schengen Zone, it’s definitely more complicated. It’s one reason we haven’t done a lot of sits in Western Europe. You would need a longer-term visa in those areas in order to do a sit that goes beyond the Schengen time. Occasionally, there are little workarounds you can do, but those aren’t without risks.
July 27, 2014
Thanks for all these tips, Talon! I just renewed our membership to TH and *hopefully* will get an assignment, even though we’re a super-sized family. I’ll let you know, but I am much more confident now. The tip about photos of the kids with pets was a light bulb moment!
July 27, 2014
I’m so glad you found it helpful!
July 26, 2014
Great post! Thanks for all the detailed observations and suggestions.
NExt time I start looking for House Sits I’ll read over this again to tweek my profile, application and interactions with home owners. Fingers crossed. 🙂
July 26, 2014
Glad you found it helpful!
May 16, 2014
Fantastic tips, thanks for sharing. Looking forward to getting into housesitting!
May 18, 2014
It’s a great way to travel.
February 27, 2014
Great tips! Me and Dale have done 3 house and pet-sitting assignments so far and loved them all. We only wish we could get some more of them, as you said patience is a virtue! 🙂
January 11, 2014
Great guide, I’ve been thinking about housesitting and whether it’s for me so this is really helpful and I’ve bookmarked it for when I’m ready for my next adventure (soon I hope!).
January 12, 2014
Great! So glad it was helpful, and good luck on the next big adventure!
July 5, 2013
Thanks for getting this all down in writing Talon!
I’ve been following you for some time and besides your post on why you decided to adopt, this is my favorite. It’s so informative and inspiring at the same time. I think I really need to get my blog back up so I can have a bit of a history and a place to show off my personality.
Hope to run into you two someday 🙂
July 5, 2013
Glad you find it so helpful!
April 10, 2013
This is a great post Talon. In fact, the best I’ve read so far. Thanks so much. Now I know why I haven’t gotten any replies! LOL
April 10, 2013
I’m happy to hear it was so helpful! And ouch about the no replies.
March 2, 2013
Great information! We’ve been house sitting full-time now for seven months in Fiji, Florida, and New Zealand and have 3 more sits scheduled in Australia. It’s such an amazing way to travel, especially for families to have a secure “home-base” to live and cook out of – saves so much money! And we’ve heard from several homeowners that having a family in the home ensures the home always looks occupied…a bonus for everyone!
Best of luck and thanks for sharing this great article to stretch travel dollars!
March 2, 2013
I’m jealous of your Fiji and Australia housesits! I’ve had a heck of a time getting an Australia one. They already have someone by the time I email it seems.
It is such a great way to travel. Glad to hear from someone else doing it this way!
March 1, 2013
This is a fantastic and comprehensive set of tips, Talon! I’ve only been on the homeowner/renter side, but I’m a big fan so far. I just arranged for a housesitter for our next trip using Trusted Housesitters–this will be the third time we’ve used them. It’s so comforting to know that our pets are in good hands (and not missing us!) while we are gone. I’ve gotten a few comments on my post asking about how one can get started as a housesitter–in the future I’ll send them your way!
March 1, 2013
Thank you! I especially appreciate hearing that from the owner side. 🙂 It sure is a great service for both sitter and owner!