House Sitting: The Key To Affordable Long-term Travel
People we meet often ask us how we can afford to travel from place to place like we do. When we tell them we do a lot of house sitting, they’re always surprised and follow up their question with “How does that work?“.
What is House Sitting?
It can easily cost several hundred dollars to put two or three dogs in a kennel for a week while the family is out of town. Instead of paying that high cost, wouldn’t it be awesome to find someone trustworthy who can watch your pets in your own home for you? And for free?
That’s where house sitting comes in. You stay at a homeowner’s house and take care of their pets while the homeowner is away.
How Do You Find House Sits?
There’s a website for anything these days. So far, we’ve been using a service called TrustedHousesitters.
TrustedHousesitters helps connect pet owners with people willing to care for their family pets while the owners are away. The house sitters stay at the owner’s home while they care for the pets.
There are plenty of benefits to this.
For homeowners, their pets get to stay at home while being spared the stress of sleeping in an unknown kennel for several days. In addition to knowing their family pets are personally cared for, homeowners can also rest assured that their homes are looked after while they’re out of town.
For traveling families like ours, we can stay in an area for several days or weeks at a time at no cost, while benefiting from the love that pets can bring.
So How Does It Work Exactly?
So far we’ve only used TrustedHousesitters, but this applies to pretty much all similar house sitting websites.
First You Create An Online Profile
First you need to create a profile. You’ll be applying for pet-sitting jobs so you have to show the home-owner why you’re the person/family to choose to look after their home and pets. You explain your story, include some photos of you with pets, and you need to get some references.
Then You Search For Sitting Gigs
You can search for available house-sits based on geographic location, and by date which is what we usually do.
You can filter your results to tighten up the location (on the beach, in the mountains, downtown, etc), and to specify certain amenities (does the location have high-speed Internet?, will I need a car?, etc).
You can even filter down the results by the type of pets you’re comfortable watching, like just cats and dogs, to reptiles, to farm animals.
The results you’re presented with are basically the profiles the home-owners had to create when they joined TrustedHousesitters. The results will include photos of the home and of the pets. The more photos they provide the better because it helps you decide where you’d want go.
Each search result shown includes the number of applications a particular home-owner has received to date. This gives you an idea of your chances to land a sit. The fancier homes will get more applicants for sure. So if you’re willing to go out of the way a bit, it’ll be a lot easier for you to land a gig.
Next You Apply For A House Sit
Now it’s time to pick the house sit you’d like to do.
When you hit that “Apply” button, you’ll have to include an initial message to the home-owner. It’s definitely worth typing up a really good introduction message before hand, especially if you want to land more than just a few gigs.
Introduce yourself and explain your desire to house-sit for them. Invite them to read your profile, and offer to answer any questions they may have and even to connect over FaceTime or Skype.
A short Skype session is definitely something you’ll want to do and all home-owners insist on it. You get to meet the homeowners “in person” and they often, in our experience, even give you a tour of their home : ). It also gives you an idea of the quality of their Internet, which is a big deal for us.
What Kinds of Pets Do You Watch?
As a family, we used to have dogs, cats, and small aquarium fish as pets so that’s easy.
We’ve never watched hobby-farm animals, like chickens and ducks, but we’d love to do so with a bit of education from the home-owners.
Do You Ever Meet The Home-Owners?
We prefer to, but you don’t always get to meet the home-owner’s in person. We once did a sit in Maryland where we weren’t able to meet the home-owner as she left earlier in the week. She had a friend start the house-sit, and we finished it up.
In our previous communications with the home-owner, we had instructions to get the house key from a lockbox. We never met the dogs with the home-owner present, so we were careful when entering the home. We were armed with dog biscuits but we didn’t need them at all as the pooches were super friendly.
But we definitely prefer meeting the owners before they leave the home so they can help introduce us to their pets, and show us around the property.