How to be a House Sitter – A personal journey

So you want to become a house sitter? Well it’s not rocket science, anyone who’s ever lived in a home has been a house sitter, however this “How to” guide is for everyone considering House Sitting as a lifestyle choice.

Although not a “professional” in the true sense of the word, I’m a very experienced house sitter and the following “guide” is based on my personal opinions, observations and expectations… yes, I’m also a home owner who’s engaged pet and house sitters on many occasions, with great success.

First lets talk character and personality, for at least one of you, if a couple considering house sitting. For starters you must like people and love animals, not just your own either, there is a big difference! You need to be an excellent communicator with a good sense of humour, motivated and proactive, be flexible, adaptable, reliable, energetic, practical, organised, unflappable, a good housekeeper and most of all absolutely, honest and trustworthy.

It goes without saying that you love and want to travel, the main motivation for becoming a house sitter, but with the travel comes responsibility, pet and house sitting isn’t a free ride and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. I have enjoyed wonderful opportunities abound throughout the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA just to name a few locations, in fact house sitting can take you around the world. Every property is different, home owners have different needs, there is no such thing as a typical house sit, that’s what makes this lifestyle choice interesting, exciting, sometimes challenging, but never dull.

Now for the practicalities of how to become a house sitter. You need to choose the best web based service to register with. My personal preference? www.trustedhousesitters.com  here’s some of the reasons why; a relatively young company the owner Andy Peck manages to maintain a personal touch whilst reaching out globally. Sitters are encouraged to develop profiles for maximum effect, the web site is growing rapidly and with that comes more worldwide listings, they still have far to go in this huge market place – as a house sitter looking for sitting opportunities and a home owner seeking sitters that’s what I want. The web site is user friendly, the FAQ (frequently asked questions) concise, informative and helpful.

Next step create a profile, browse existing profiles for ideas and note the ones you find attractive, why? because homeowners probably will to. Gather together references, good ones, ideally personal, character and employment. Homeowners will check them, I always do. Provide a Police Background check if you can (more info in the FAQs. (UK; ACPO Criminal Records office, Canada www.rcmp.grc.gc.ca)  Include up to date photographs and you can even add an easy to make video if you’d like to), home owners need to feel comfortable with the amount of information you provide and remember there are more sitters than homes needing sitters, no matter what site or route you choose to take …… make yourself stand out, for the right reasons! (NB: Right now on Trustedhousesitters.com, there are so many homes coming onto the site, we really need more sitters!)

Offer to do local sits, look after friend’s pets, volunteer with animal charities, think like a home owner. Ask yourself what would I look for in someone I was going to entrust my beloved pet and home to, someone I had never met, pet and house sitting is based on trust. Make yourself available and be willing to go the extra mile, it will pay off believe me.

Once you’ve joined, paid your registration fee for, 3, 6 or 12 months $30, $45 and $60 with trustedhousesitters, posted your profile and it’s been approved you’ll get updates, daily, by email about the latest house listings. Applying for house sits is simple but again make your message stand out, sound interesting and enthusiastic give concise information, remember the home owner may receive a number of “applications” all at once, so never too much, they will read your profile anyway ….. although you have to get them interested enough to go to your profile.

Most home owners will reply promptly either with a yes, no or we’re thinking about you, and others. Acknowledge their reply with a simple thank you and then wait.

As a home owner my biggest challenge has always been choosing from the many excellent sitters who apply, it’s not that any are perhaps better, just different. My choice is often that the sitter has appealed to me on a personal level, for example I adore all animals but have a very soft spot for Springer Spaniels, I’ve had six altogether my last one Holly passed away four years ago, if the sitter even mentions Springers immediately we have something in common.

When you’re offered the sit confirm your availability, asap, home owners, particularly where pets are concerned are anxious to finalise arrangements so they can get on with preparing for their trip. Short of incapacitating illness or similar emergencies don’t let the home owner down by cancelling, only commit to a sit if you’re 100% sure it’s what you want and can do.

Make yourself available, communicate as much as they desire, e mail, phone, Skype, personal visit, if requested and possible. Ask all the right questions, they may be as new to this whole concept as you are. Most important is getting all relevant information concerning pets and their care; feeding, habits, character, behaviour at home and when out, how they act with other dogs/cats/people. Veterinarians info, health issues. Broach, tactfully, the subject of health care in an emergency, life threatening or otherwise. All of this will give the homeowner a sense of well being and confidence in your ability confirming in their minds that they made the right choice.

Most home owners appreciate you arriving the day before their departure – this way nothing gets overlooked and if you need extra coat hangers, draw or cupboard space that can be easily sorted out. If a long sit and there’s a mutual agreement for you to pay utilities, meter readings can be taken any quirks about the house can be pointed out. If a car is being left for your use any damage, scrapes etc can be noted and insurance checked. Ask for a list of local tradesman contacts they use, garage etc. If they have anything that is vital and a must do or not do they will tell you but should they forget anything unless they are going to Outer Mongolia or the Moon with the numerous forms of communication today it’s NOT a problem.

Keep in touch with them as much as they ask, especially where two or four legged, family members are concerned, keep the home/garden/window box the way you find it or even better. Be mindful of their home, the way they live, the neighbours and their environment. Finally I always try to leave two or three days free either side of the specific dates, just in case there are any, unavoidable, delays with the owners return. The last thing they will need is to worry about getting home, something they may have no control over.

I’ve been a house sitter for four years, it’s my new career, I may not get a salary but my rewards are something money can’t buy. My house sitting journey has taken me around the world, I’ve met some wonderful people, made life long friends, had the joy of looking after some precious souls, yes that’s how I see all animals and I will continue my journey  for as long as I can.

I had no template when I started house sitting and I don’t pretend to be an “expert” but I truly care and that’s what it’s all about.

Enjoy your journey, good luck and happy house sitting!

Angela has been traveling the world for the past 40 years. Her career in International Marketing took her across Canada and the US and since the mid 80s has lived in Italy, N. Africa, India, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia with husband John, a Petroleum Engineer, now retired. Self-professed nomads with a shared passion for travel and animals, they continue to travel the world having adopted an affordable travel lifestyle: Pet and house sitting. Some five continents, many amazing homes and wonderful four legged friends later, Angela is the resident in-house expert, advising home owners and house sitters at Trusted House Sitters and a regular contributor to travel blogs sharing experiences of life away from the travel brochures, living like the locals. You can read more at www.housesittingperfected.com.