Housesitting is quickly becoming one of the best ways to explore the world cheaply. By exchanging a free place to stay for home and/or pet care, a housesitter gets a base from which to explore a new area and a homeowner gets trusted care of his or her space and frequently, pets. Based on the growing popularity of sites like TrustedHousesitters.com, housesitting has exploded in recent years as people try to cut costs on pet care and travel accommodations.
As someone who is totally obsessed with this idea and who has used the service frequently to find home/dog sitters for my home in London, I have viewed literally hundreds of housesitter profiles. Here is what sets the best apart from the rest, in order of importance:
- Introductory Letter – The first time you will have contact with a homeowner for a potential housesit will be in your message response to their posting. I get 100+ of these for every post I put up. I always notice when the potential housesitter has made an effort to make their note personal to me and my situation. They use my dog’s name in the subject line, they make reference to the fact that they had a dog when they were a child, they love London, they are also Americans living abroad, etc. These little clues are what tell me that this housesitter has read our listing thoroughly and is serious about the opportunity. I also appreciate it when housesitters write two paragraphs at least, which allows for enough space for a brief introduction, background and enthusiasm about the housesit. On the flip side, if a housesitter uses a generic email response like: ‘I saw your listing! I would love to housesit for you – please check out my profile and contact me!’ they will never, ever housesit for me. I respond to these messages immediately saying that the position has been filled.
- Profile Pictures – I’m a sucker for a great photo. You get just 3-4 pictures for the average profile, so use your spare space strategically. One picture should be a close up of you and/or your partner (some people travel as couples – both people should be in the image). As a dog owner, I want to see one picture of you with a dog. It doesn’t need to be your dog – a friend’s dog, one of you as a child with your pet, I don’t really care. You may say in your message that you love dogs, but do you really? The other pictures are frequently people in fun locations, hiking, traveling, generally demonstrating their zest for life.
- Profile – Trusted Housesitters has space in their profiles for: Introduction, Why I Want to Housesit, and What I Bring to the Assignment/Relevant Experience. Personally, I skim these entries. I am usually already smitten with one or two housesitters from their introductory letter which has already covered some of this, so their reiteration of that information in the profile is mostly just icing on the cake. I like to see that people have good experience with pets, and some fun explanation about why they’re into housesitting. There are so many fascinating people out there! Some people are permanent travelers who take housesitting jobs as a way to keep costs down. Others are retired folks who have flexible schedules. Still others have an affinity for my city and are looking for a housesit in my specific location, so they can spend time in a place they love.
- References – References can be personal character references or references from other housesits. As a highly trusting person, I tend to value my email exchanges and Skype calls over reading references, so as long as there is general positive feedback, I’m comfortable. Other homeowners are more stringent about this and rely heavily on reading references to vet their selection. I know one housesitter that was applying for another housesit and that homeowner contacted me directly for a reference, which I was happy to provide. Once you are in a conversation with a homeowner about the housesit, they may ask you personally for a few more details or contact information from your other housesits. As long as you’re able to comply with the requests, there shouldn’t be a problem. Also, a housesitter is unable to ‘hack’ their references – I get email requests for them and fill out the references on my own, so both positive and negative reports will appear on someone’s profile if there are any.
Given the popularity of housesitting, the field is becoming more competitive for housesitters. Here are a few more tips to be successful as a house sitter:
- As with any transaction, it’s always important to be prompt with email responses.
- If the homeowner has set dates for their travel, those are the dates. While you’re welcome to ask a homeowner if their dates are flexible, there are likely other housesitters who can do the exact dates and may be selected.
- Request to arrive for your housesit with substantial time to overlap the homeowner. We typically overlap with our housesitters for one night, this gives us time to explain how to use everything in the house, allows our dog to get to know some new friends, and basically increases everyone’s comfort level with the situation.
- While we’re away, we like to have regular contact with our housesitter via email or text message. It’s great to keep the lines of communication open, and we also like seeing pictures of our dog enjoying life with a new caregiver. It also makes it easy for us to respond to questions as they arise, usually around our complicated stove.
Housesitting is a great way to see the world, eliminating the massive expense of accommodations in exchange for taking care of someone’s home. Whether it is a flat in central London or a farmhouse in rural Argentina, the experiences and locales vary, which is what makes the service so exciting for budget-minded travelers. Armed with a great profile and following some basic tips, the options for travel and adventure are endless.
Check out TrustedHousesitters.com for more information, or listen to Where to Find Trusted House & Pet Sitters So You Can Travel (an interview with Julie).