We’ve found another way to reduce our travel expenses dramatically. We watch people’s houses and pets while they’re away in exchange for free accommodation.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a comfortable leather sofa in front of sliding glass doors that lead to a patio overlooking a small river. Four bedrooms, 3.5 baths. Sunroom. Living room. Den. Fully stocked kitchen. The river along the back of the property. Sea across the road in front. In the south of Ireland. Also read my Top 10 Tips for House Sitting in Europe.
In my view are tall trees covered in healthy green moss with shimmering water from the nearby river. I should be out on that Adirondack chair on the patio, but the glare is just a little too bright on my computer screen. Over my shoulder, I can see the rooster and 5 hens watching me. Three dogs are in the kitchen, one out in her pen, and a horse happily peruses his pasture.
This is my home for the week. My daughter and I are living here for free. We pay no rent or utilities and hired a rental car to travel from Dublin.
We are house-sitters.
So, what did it take to get house sitter jobs?
Sign Up with House Sitter Sites
There are several good house-sitting websites out there to match you with homeowners for great house sitting jobs. All require membership fees for house sitters. For this sit, we used TrustedHousesitters.com.
Decide How Much Time You Have to Devote
There’s a difference between housesitting for relaxation, weekend getaway, vacation or retirement and becoming a house sitter seriously. Determining how long you can devote to your first, and subsequent, house-sits will help you choose how to present yourself in your personal profile. Each house sitter sites require profiles. Some websites make it easy for you to match the type of animal you’re interested in watching (avoid cat allergies), length of stay and destination.
Create a Rock Star Sitter Profile
This provides owners their first impression of you. Ask not what they can do for you. Cater your answers to the needs of the homeowners, not your travel desires. Most house-sits include pet care. Exude your love for all things furry. Let them know what you can do for them.
Set Your Animal Limits
A single cat will likely require much less time and attention than a small farm. If you’re going primarily to sightsee and vacation, be sure to choose a low maintenance pet. You still are responsible for that being’s safety, so don’t dismiss it. But don’t sign up for several dogs that need to be walked or given medicines every few hours if you want to go sightseeing all day. It will be a bad match. Matching your energy level with the household’s needs increases your chances of a great match.
Obtain Great References
If you haven’t house-sat before, you’ll want to canvass friends and colleagues and housesit for them in return for a well-deserved and glowing reference. Strangers expect to trust you with their homes and faithful pet companions. Make sure your references prove they’re right to put their faith in you.
Input Required Info ASAP
You’ll need to provide proof of identity, citizenship, and references. Whatever they ask, get it to them as quickly as possible. The sooner they can certify you, the sooner you can reach out to homeowners in areas you’d love to visit.
Identify Your Special Skills
Adding your skills to your profile will help homeowners choose you over the next available person. It will also allow you to make great matches. If you’re great with a particular animal, say so. If you have a green thumb and you see a home with a great garden, reach out.
Get a Little Extra Training
If it’s been a while since you’ve been around pets or been responsible for a home, ask for help before you go. Volunteer at a pet shelter. Ask a handyman how to do basic things around the house. The more you do to identify and prepare for potential emergencies, the more comfortable you’ll be walking in that first door. And you can mention it in your profile.
Create a Checklist
Brainstorm all the things you can think of that could go wrong with a house or with animals. Create your checklist. Consider all the things you might tell a babysitter. Important emergency numbers. Where the fire extinguishers are. Nearest exit. Meet up point outside the home in case of a fire. Telephone number for a nearby helpful neighbor. The names, ages, types of pets you’ll care for. Their diet, exercise routine, and sleep habits. What special characteristics will make it easier for everyone to get along right away? All these things will help you understand what might be required of you. This way, if there’s a problem, you’ll be able to handle it swiftly, rather than panic
Interview the Homeowner
Hopefully, they’ll already have a description of their home and pets’ routines typed up for you. If not, please create a checklist or template with the information they provide for you both to review. The more prepared and organized you are, the more you’ll impress them with your capacity to care for their home.
By the same token, as you chat, whether on the phone or online, pay careful attention to all the cues. If the tone of the conversation feels “off” to you, trust your gut. Turn them down.
By following these simple tips about how to become a house sitter, you are well on your way to scoring your first few house-sitter jobs in Europe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have mine.
House Sitter Jobs: How To Score the Best Ones was written by Gail Clifford