The House Sitting Process Explained
Unlike the other forms of house sharing, like Airbnb or Couchsurfing, house sitting requires you to plan for the sit, while also taking on more responsibility than merely just staying at someone else’s house. Getting started in the house sitting game takes some patience, but once you’re up and running and following the process, it’s a fantastic way to meet new people and explore the world long term – without stretching your budget.
Here is an essential guide to help you prepare for the sit, excel in the role and build an excellent house sitting reputation.
Sign up to apply for sits.
Firstly, you need to sign up to one, or several, house sitting websites; there are a bunch out there, based both domestically and internationally. The sites I use when travelling around Australia are aussiehousesitters.com.au and mindahome.com.au. There are some other equally as capable sites out there, but these two subscriptions have worked for me just fine for now. There is a small sign up fee (usually $50-$70), so I don’t want to sign up for services I won’t use.
Create a knockout profile.
Then you need to create an online profile that is going to attract homeowners. Give the readers an insight into your life, background and experience with animals. Show that you’re a reliable, caring person and explain why you’re interested in house sitting. It could be that you’re saving money for your first home, you love pets but can’t commit to your own, or you simply want to travel and meet new people. Allowing yourself to be honest and open with home-owners gives you the edge when building their trust.
Keep your eyes peeled for daily email alerts.
Most sitting websites will send out regular automated emails listing the house sitting opportunities created in the last 24 hours – make sure you’re on top of these. Depending on the date and the location of the stay, some homeowners will receive hundreds of applications and will only have time to sift through the first dozen. It pays to get in early.
Prepare like it’s a job.
You should treat every house sitting application like a possible job opportunity. Write a personalised house sitting request, supply a list of personal and professional references, include a police check (you can purchase these online), show up to any meetings on time, dress neatly and be interested in the position. This level of organisation will show you are committed to the role.
During the stay
Get started in your own backyard.
I’ll be honest, getting ‘a start’ in house sitting isn’t an easy task. My advice is to take on any ‘job’ you can get your hands on – even if they’re just for only a night around the corner from where you live. Building a resume that includes real-life experience shows you’re a committed and reliable sitter.
Just be normal.
This one might sound a bit obvious, but just be yourself. Deep down, homeowners just want a normal, domesticated person to maintain the status quo while they’re away. If you know pi to a million places, that’s great! But that won’t get you far when you’re taking care of someone’s belongings. Do you know how to pack and unpack a dishwasher? Use gardening tools? Empty a kitty litter tray? Showing you know these basic skills will put everybody’s mind at ease.
Start a checklist.
Most home-owners supply a relatively comprehensive list of any expected duties. Once you’ve arrived and you’re settled, set reminders to complete these daily (or weekly) tasks. Trust me, you don’t want to be the person who forgets to water, and nearly kills, that pot plant at the back of the property *looks around sheepishly*.
Don’t be a complete tightass.
In my view, house sitting is the best way to cut costs for long-term travel. You save outrageous amounts of money by lining up sit after sit after sit. So please, don’t be a complete tightass. If the dog treats or the kitty litter unexpectedly run out, go and buy some more. If the cat loses his or her collar somewhere in the neighbourhood, buy another one. Replace the premium pet food with the same brand and mix as before. Compared to your savings on accommodation, these trivial expenses are just a drop in the ocean.
Know your animals.
It’s vitally important to know the possible health issues that can arrive with particular animals. I’ve been lucky enough to have looked after happy and healthy pets so far, but it’s wise to plan for the worst. Did you know that lilies are poisonous to cats, similarly to chocolate being toxic for dogs? This information should be in your knowledge base.
Keep in contact.
You should keep in contact with the homeowners throughout the entire process. Whether it’s sending a quick ‘hello email’, texting them a picture of their pets or passing on any important-looking mail, it’s always appreciated at the other end.
Leave the house tidier than you found it.
It may not always be possible, as some houses are immaculate, but do your best to leave the house in a cleaner condition than when you arrived. I always do at least a quick vacuum and wash my bed sheets before I leave. Just don’t get too carried away trimming hedges or getting pets clipped, this can be annoying for the homeowners if they like things a certain way.
Leave a welcome home present.
I always try to leave a small present for the returning homeowners; with the price depending on the length of the stay and the responsibilities were undertaken. Even a block of chocolate or a six-pack of beer with a note saying thanks are a welcome surprise.
Ask for references/recommendations.
Once you’ve completed the stay, be sure to request a recommendation for the website or for the homeowners to be one of your references. Rallying a loyal group of references is the quickest way to build trust within the house sitting community.