Curious about whether housesitting is right for you? In this post we’ll look at what it is, how it works, what to expect, and how to get started. We’ll also share some tips that we’ve picked up from our experiences along the way. We’ve been incorporating housesits into our slow travel for the last year and it’s been a positive and rewarding experience for us, our kids, and the homeowners.
Housesitting is basically a value exchange. The homeowner needs someone to look after their home, and most often, pets. The housesitter, in exchange for staying and looking after things, receives accommodation at no charge. However, we have seen a few longer-term housesits where the homeowner requests that the sitter pay for a portion of the utilities, particularly through the winter months. But these aren’t very common. Housesitting is gaining popularity worldwide and sits can range from a few days to many months.
The homeowner lists their housesit on a housesitting website and outlines their details such as dates required, location and size of the home, number and types of pets, and items needing attention such as a lawn or garden. They may also specify their ideal housesitter, ie. a single person, a couple, a retired couple, a family, etc. We’ve never had anyone request a criminal record report but that is possible. Some websites will show you how many sitters have applied for each housesit -- this is where experience becomes important in landing the most desirable sits.
We’ve noticed that the people who are open to having sitters they don’t know stay at their home are pretty easy going people, in general. They’re happy to have guests stay in their home and know that their pets are being looked after. And often the homeowner will go to great lengths in providing a list of all the area has to offer to make the sitter’s stay a happy one. While away, some homeowners like frequent check ins, mostly to know how their pets are doing, while some are content to relax on their vacation and leave their phone alone. As petsitters, we have to respect the owner’s wishes in how they want their pet to be treated. It's not our place to modify behaviours or ignore their instructions because we don’t agree with them. Our job is to care for their pets the same way they would.
The housesits we’ve done in Australia and Canada have been full of rich experiences. We’ve met wonderful families and cared for beautiful animals -- all sorts of dogs, cats, fish, a calf, even a pet pig! Some houses have had swimming pools. Some have had great neighbours that have become friends, too. Our travel philosophy is living life the way the locals do, and we believe that living in a local’s home is one of the best ways to do that.
Does housesitting sound like something you’d like to do? Before we talk about how to start applying for housesits we’ll share a few tips to help set you up for success:
- Your profile and bio on the housesitting websites are key. You need strong verbage that tells people what you’re about and how you can help them. For ideas, you can view ours here.
- Build rapport quickly on the initial call, and suggest a video call on FB messenger or Zoom. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. Be confident in what you’re offering. Ask lots of questions and listen. When given the chance, people will talk all day about their pets. Give them reasons to feel good about you.
- Maintain a clean presence on social media and invite homeowners to look you up when you apply.
- Don’t apply for housesits that are over your head. If you don’t know anything about horses, it’s probably not the best time to learn when you have nobody to help you. The last thing you want is wishing the housesit would end sooner! That’s no fun.
- You’ll feel much more at home if you match your family’s characteristics to the homeowner’s, ie. we’re a better match to housesit and care for a family’s home and pets than for a single person living in an apartment with a solitary cat.
- Make a list of what’s in the fridge and pantry when you arrive and replace those items if you use them during your stay.
- On the day the homeowners return, stock the fridge with a few fresh groceries and put some fresh cut flowers on the table. Wouldn’t you appreciate that if it was the other way around?
There are quite a number of housesitting websites to choose from. Most involve a membership fee of around $100 annually. The sites we’ve used are:
www.trustedhousesitters.com - Worldwide
www.aussiehousesitters.com.au - Australia
www.housesitterscanada.com - Canada
Find a site that works for you and begin working on your profile. If you’re brand new, with no housesitting experience, you can ask friends and relatives to write character references for you. That’s what we did. Then start applying for lots of housesits wherever it is that you want to go! And let us know how your housesitting experiences are!