Have you been considering housesitting as a way to travel and live affordably? Then read this blog. In this article experienced housesitter and petsitter Kelly Hayes-Raitt offers her experience and 11 top tips on how to get started as a housesitter. Read on to learn more.
Top 11 Tips – How to get started as a housesitter
When people first hear about my peripatetic traveling lifestyle as a global housesitter, they often ask two questions: Why are you traveling so much? (“I’m on the run,” I deadpan) and How can I do this?
When I started housesitting internationally 10 years ago, housesitting for strangers (especially strangers in another country) was still relatively new. It was easier then to “break in.” Today, though, there’s a lot of competition for housesitting assignments – especially when there are now thousands of experienced sitters with dozens of positive reviews.
But the housesitting landscape is changing. As more homeowners recognize the benefit of having a caring, responsible person pamper their pets at home and maintain routines, the opportunities for sitters are increasing.
How to start as an international housesitter
If you are thinking of housesitting as a fun thing to try, then you need to think carefully about your next steps. So here are my top 11 tips for getting started as an international housesitter:
Join a small housesitting platform
Join one of the smaller housesitting sites such as HouseSitMatch. Posts on the larger sites can draw 30 or 40 applicants – daunting competition for a newbie! But the smaller sites offer less competition and increased customer service that is often personalized. I can attest to HouseSitMatch’s unparalleled hands-on support.
Other advantages of being with the right platform is they will have guidelines, templates and support documents to help you understand what best practice looks like. Make sure they have a responsive administration so you can ask questions about housesitting and petsitting. A good platform will support you in your endeavours.
Start housesitting locally first – Be ready when friends ask ‘who knows a petsitter near me’
This gives you a chance to meet the homeowners and pets ahead of time. This gives you a “leg up” on sitters traveling from foreign countries. It is worth doing if you possibly can. Especially during these times when airlines are still regaining their footing following the pandemic, your proximity provides extra peace of mind for the homeowners that their sitters won’t get caught up in airline delays and cancellations. Also, since you know your area, language and culture, a local housesit reduces the variety of new things you need to adjust to.
Engage your current network – Tell them of your aspirations to housesit
Let friends and family know that you are available to care for their pets. If you know an experienced sitter, ask for his or her help. I’ve offered repeat sits I’m not available for to my trustworthy friends to help them break into housesitting. It can be such a help.
Housesit during high or peak holiday seasons
During the summer and winter holiday breaks, more homeowners travel while fewer sitter seem to venture away. This reduces your competition and increases your chances of securing a great housesitting assignment. It seems counter intuitive but it’s true.
5. Apply for shorter housesitting assignments for holiday housesitting
If you are interested in holiday housesitting then apply for shorter housesitting assignments. And there is usually no shortage of holiday cover housesitting in all kinds of locations.
However, longer housesits are usually more desirable for most long term housesitters. This is because they provide more stability as you are in one place for much longer. They also offer more opportunities to explore a new area so you if you are in one place for several months you can live like a local, rather than hop to a new place week after week. Longer housesitting assignments also offer a chance to amortize any travel costs incurred. Thus shorter sits usually have less competition and give newbies a chance to build experience and references.
Create a compelling housesitter and petsitter profile
Your profile will work best if it highlights your experience with animals, your adaptability, your resourcefulness, your experience caring for homes and gardens, and your sense of humor. Let your personality shine! The owner of HouseSitMatch, Lamia Walker, helps new members draft their profiles. It’s a lovely specialized (and free!) service.
Write a personalized introduction letter as a housesitter
Focus on what you can offer the homeowners and their pets. Read their advert carefully and if you speak to the homeowner listen to their detailed description of the pets. Mention their pets by name when you talk to them. If you enjoy gardening, cutting the grass, watering and weeding plants or tending a vegetable garden then let them know in your letter of introduction. These maybe skills they would appreciate especially for garden care in the summer. All of these skills are worth mentioning in your personalised introduction letter.
Video chat with your potential hosts
Have fun during the video chat and be sure to ask a lot of questions. Ask about the pets’ routines and needs (walks, medicine, toilet habits, bedtime routines). Ask about the home’s quirks, the neighborhood, anything that is important to you (proximity to public transportation, nearby walks, wifi dependability, etc).
Is housesitting right for you? Ask yourself
Consider taking the quiz “Is Housesitting Right for You?” in my book How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva. The quiz will illuminate the things that are important to you in a housesitting assignment so you can find the “right” fit. Housesits come in all shapes and sizes and not all will work for you. For example, I’m a single city girl, so I don’t apply for the sitting assignments in rural areas that will leave me feeling isolated. Other sitters, though, love those tranquil country locations! Knowing what works for you – and what doesn’t – can make all the difference in your experience.
Be sure to ask for housesitter references – It shows you are a trusted housesitter
You can even ask a homeowner whether s/he would be willing to leave you a reference before you accept the assignment. (“As you know, I’m new to housesitting. If I do a great job, would you be willing to leave me a reference – and if there’s anything I can improve upon, would you be willing to let me know personally?”) Immediately following a housesit, I email the homeowner a draft of my review of them and invite them to make any changes. And I request them to draft a review of me.
Be honest about your pet care and housesitting skills
Finally, be honest with yourself about your limitations and current travel needs. Are you looking to go sightseeing and explore a new location? Then don’t apply for a sit to care for a puppy who needs walks every 3 or 4 hours or a mature pet that needs you nearby. However, if you are looking for a quiet writing retreat then that puppy housesit might be perfect for you! Think about dovetailing what your hosts need with your current situation. It makes for a better match in the long run and satisfaction all round.
End note on how to get started as a housesitter
I hope that in this article I have helped guide you through the core questions to help you decide if housesitting is for you. The most important thing is that you consider your own appetite for housesitting and you are honest with yourself about your skills and temperament. Only then can you ensure that as a housesitter you make the most of housesitting as an opportunity to travel and live affordably and you offer a good service. Then and only then, housesitting is a real win win for both you and the homeowner.
Author – Kelly Hayes-Raitt
Kelly Hayes-Raitt jokes that she sleeps around…usually with animals. She’s been a fulltime housesitter since 2011, when she cared for her cousin’s two kitties and a friend’s lab, before exploring outside the US. Her first overseas housesit in east London during the 2012 Olympics hooked her on international sitting! Since then, she’s had 58 unique housesits in 23 countries throughout Europe, SE Asia and Africa.
Further reading about housesitting and housesitters
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitters and house sitting in London useful.