We have received so many questions about housesitting that we’ve decided to write a blog about it. (Seriously, if you have questions just ping us and we’ll answer!) We have now done house sits in South America, Africa, Europe….quite literally around-the-world. Interestingly, all of our house sits have been in places we never planned to visit – whole countries, like Ecuador and the UK, or cities, like Johannesburg. For us, it’s opened the door to a whole avenue of adventure we hadn’t even considered while helping us save quite a bit of money along the way. Plus, we now have a whole lotta new fuzzy friends!
In case you haven’t heard of it before, housesitting is when homeowners ask someone to stay at their house and take care of things while they are away. This almost always includes petsitting, though it doesn’t have to. Sometimes someone just wants a person/couple/family living in their home to make sure it stays safe. Usually, though, they want to keep their beloved pets in the environment they’re used to without the stress of a kennel or boarding. There’s no end to the pets that need care (chickens, horses, donkeys, birds, fish, turtles and, of course, the occasional pot-belly pig), but we limit ourselves to dogs and cats.
Housesitting has been an invaluable part of our trip. First off, it saves us money as we have free lodging while we housesit, and sometimes also free food or a car. Thanks to housesitting, our RTW trip will be about four months longer than we originally planned. Four months! More important than saving money, though, housesitting gives us a chance to do regular stuff like watch TV, cook our own dinner (a treat when you’re on the road a long time) and pet the puppies. It’s a chance to take a break from the go-go-go of travel and just relax a bit. We get to meet neighbors and become a tiny bit involved in the community where we are staying. For a couple of weeks at a time, we get to be locals and it’s awesome.
When we housesit, we catch up on a lot of blogging and take care of planning the next leg of our trip, but we also focus about 90% of our energy on the pets we care for – walking them an insane amount (really, we are champion dog walkers), brushing, petting, chatting, playing – we’re on it! We figure it’s really the one thing we have to get right – to make sure the owners come home to happy, well cared for pets.
Here’s how we’ve done it:
Sign up with a housesitting website. Housesitting works a lot like an online dating site (which we were also successful at thanks to match.com). We are signed up with TrustedHousesitters.com. It cost us about $99 for a year and paid for itself within days of our first sit.
Make a profile. The site asks you to create a profile to let possible homeowners learn more about you. With the help of Aaron’s cousin (thanks again, Mike!) we have a swanky video included that shows people our own home and lets them get to know us a little bit. We’ve been happily surprised by the number of prospective clients commenting on our love for brownies. Means they’ve enjoyed our video enough to watch to the very end! A good video, perhaps with a little bit of humor, makes a difference, so spend some energy on this part.
Apply for housesits. Every day we get an email from TrustedHousesitters.com. In fact, there are so many housesits out there they have started sending out an email every 12 hours! If we see something we like, we apply right away. Then: fingers crossed. We figure it’s best to apply if we’re at all interested – we can always decline later if things don’t seem right. We’ve also found that homeowners can get inundated with applicants, so being there early REALLY helps!
Interview. Hopefully the clients like our application and contact us. Usually the next step is to talk over Skype. (You could certainly use Facetime, Whatsapp, etc., but we’ve been happy using Skype) Sometimes the clients are interviewing multiple people, sometimes they offer us the sit right then and there! You just figure it out as you go.
If everyone likes the situtation then that’s it! Show up and get to work!!
Things we’ve learned:
Apply immediately. There’s a lot of competition out there, so the second we see something good we write a letter of application and send it off. And not just some form letter…when we write we tell our prospective clients exactly why we are interested in THEIR housesit. We do start with a base letter that has all the static things like our emails, background, etc, but then we personalize it as much as possible to their ad. Good video + personalized application = high success
We’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing us. I like to say picking housesitters is a big leap of faith and really shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s also a leap for us because we want to know that we will be staying in a safe area, that we understand their pet’s needs, that we’ll be able to get to a grocery store, and, most of all, we want to make sure that we have chemistry with our clients. If something goes wrong (and anyone who owns a pet knows stuff goes wrong!), we will need to work through it together so we are always looking for someone who seems reasonable.
So there you have it! House & Petsitting in a nutshell. Now, if you’ll excluse me, little Looby and Maddie need their walkies (that’s what it’s called here in England, walkies). Then it’s off to the village for a pint. See? How great is that? Pretty great, indeed!! In the next few months we also have sits lined up in Ireland and Spain – can’t wait to explore them both!
If you are interested in signing up for TrustedHousesitters.com, let us know. We’ll be happy to send you a referral letter which will give you a 20% discount on your first year! Full disclosure: it’ll also give us an extra two months, so everybody wins!
www.Trustedhousesitters.com – website we use to find assignments – this is the only one we have used personally. It has been great for overseas sits and especially has lots in Europe and Australia. Not as much within the US, but some.
www.Housesittingworld.com – website about housesitting from folks who have pretty much made a career of it. Our first sit, in Ecuador, was one these ladies had also done! Scroll down their site and they have a book out about housesitting.
www.hecktictravels.com – long-term travelers (Canadian) who do a lot of housesitting. They also have an e-book on how to become a housesitter under the House Sitting tab.
Here are just a few of the many other websites you could sign up with to look for housesits (we have not tried any of these so can’t give advice on them!):