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How I got my first house sits | Remote Swap

That skyline view is the view from my bedroom in my very first house sit. Not every sit has had postcard views, but they’ve all been fantastic experiences.

Becoming a house sitter can seem a little intimidating. There are so many people looking for houses to stay in and some sits can be very competitive, it seems like it’d be impossible to stand out. And why would anyone trust you when you don’t have any references yet?

The first step is to sign up for Trusted Housesitters.

Fill out your profile completely

You’ll be sending personal messages to each homeowner, but you’ll still want to include the most important pieces of information in your profile.

One of the questions they ask is why you’re interested in house sitting. Are you looking for a cheap vacation? Are you thinking about relocating and want to check out the area? Are you traveling full-time? You don’t have to go into a lot of detail, but it gives people an idea of who you are.

The photos you upload are an opportunity to demonstrate who you are. They don’t all have to be pictures of you and the adorable animals that love you. I have pictures of me with my friends, family, and me out being a nerd. Maybe you want to share a photo of a favorite trip, the renovation you just finished, or of your garden.

The critters

The first questions homeowners have are generally about your experience with pets.

  • Have you pet sit before?
  • Have you had pets of your own?
  • What animals have you taken care of?
  • Have you given medications? What types?
  • Are you comfortable with aggressive, anxious, or large dogs?
  • Are you comfortable with their regular walking routine?
  • How much time will you spend with the pets?

Life as a house guest

Some people are very particular about their homes, while others are much more relaxed. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum and what you’re comfortable with is key to a good experience. If you’re not the type of person who keeps things spotless and puts things back exactly where you found it, you’ll want to steer clear of places that are a little too perfect in the photos. If you’re a neat freak, don’t apply for sits where they’re even messy in the photos.

  • How tidy are you?
  • Are you vegan, vegeterian, Kosher, Halal, gluten free?
  • Are you willing to follow kitchen restrictions?
  • Are you okay with going scent free?

Your house skills

There’s more than just pets, there’s also the house! Most sits just ask that you collect the mail and water plants, but there are plenty of sits that involve more household care.

  • Can you keep houseplants alive? How about specialty plants?
  • Are you handy around the house?
  • Are you a proficient gardener?
  • Do you know how to use different type of heating systems?
  • Are you familiar with sump pumps, wells, and septic systems?
  • Do you know how to take care of a pool?

Transportation

Some sits include access to a car and many locations require sitters to have a car of their own.

  • Do you have a drivers license?
  • Do you have a car of your own?
  • Will you be arriving in an RV, camper, or van?

How you make your money

Yes, house sitting allows you to stay in other people’s homes without paying money for it. This isn’t a charity or a shelter, so they want to know you have a place to go before and after.

  • Are you taking a big trip you’ve saved up for?
  • Are you on vacation?
  • Are you between jobs?
  • Will you be working remotely full-time or part-time?
  • Will you be going into an office?

Prove that you’re trustworthy

What information would you need to know about someone before handing over your beloved pets? Start with that!

Get references

Maybe you haven’t house sat through Trusted House Sitters yet, but you’ve probably house sat for friends. You can ask those friends to leave you references on THS.

Have you used CouchSurfing, HomeExchange, AirBnB, or another site with references? Providing a link to your other hospitality and home swapping websites is a great way to provide social proof.

Be googleable

There’s a ton of information about me online. It’s easy for potential homeowners to verify things about me and get a feel for what I’m like if they want to know more about me.

  • Do you have a website of your own?
  • Does your company website include information about you?
  • How about schools you’ve attended?
  • Do you volunteer with organizations that have information about you online?

Lots of full-time house sitters have dedicated Instagram accounts. This certainly isn’t necessary, but if your social media profiles are public it doesn’t hurt to post a few adorable pictures of you and some furry friends.

Applying to a house sit

You can search for house sits by date or location, but sits in popular tourist destinations get scooped up quickly. You can sign up for emails that provide a list of new sits. People in places like New York, London, and Paris can easily get 10 applications in an hour and they’re certain to find someone lovely among those first few.

The listing

Read all of the information in a listing before you apply. There’s no point in applying for a sit you wouldn’t actually want! I sometimes find myself doing some quick searches to get a better idea of what to expect.

  • How much will it cost to get there and to your next spot? How long does it take? How frequent are flights/trains/buses? Do they need to be booked in advance?
  • Once I get there, will I be able to get around? Can I walk everywhere I want to go? Is there public transportation? What taxi services are available? Will they be leaving me a car or a bike? Could I rent a car easily?
  • Does their house have a comfortable space for me to work?
  • Can I get to the grocery store? Could I get groceries delivered?
  • Will I be staying in the main bedroom? In a guest room? In a separate suite?
  • Can I take good care of the pets and house and still have time to do the other things I’d like to do?

 

What I look for in a sit depends a lot on what I’m hoping to get out of the experience. Sometimes I want to be right downtown and it hardly matters what the house is like, because the dog and I will be out exploring. Other times I’ll pick places where I can throw myself into a project and work without distraction, other than critters to keep me company and listen to me when I proof read. Know what you’re looking for before you respond to a listing so you don’t find yourself in a sit that’s not the right fit for you.

Your message

Your message should be personable and address any concerns in the listing, without being longer than it needs to be.

  • Address them by name and mention the pets by name
  • Why do you want to visit the city?
  • Will you be working? Site seeing? How much time will you be spending with the critters
  • Do you have experience that makes you particularly well suited to this sit?
  • Where are you coming from and going to?
  • Will you be able to meet with them ahead of time? When would you arrive in the city?
  • Do you have any concerns about the sit being the right fit, like transit accessibility or making sure they have reliable wifi?

I don’t necessarily address all of these in every application. If someone’s listing doesn’t include a lot of information, I keep my message short and might ask for more information. If a listing is very detailed, I make sure to address anything in the listing that stands out to me.

After you apply

Some people reply to every application they get, others will simply choose someone and not reply to the people they don’t select.

It’s not uncommon for people to ask to have a video call over Skype or WhatsApp with two or three applicants before making a final decision. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions you have.

Remember, the vetting goes both ways! I’ve withdrawn my application for a sit after chatting with the homeowners. I haven’t encountered anyone who made me uncomfortable, but I have realized that a sit wouldn’t be the right match for me.

If someone seems nervous about having a stranger in their home, I’ll often offer to provide them with a scan of my ID or ask them if there’s anything I can provide to make them feel more comfortable.

A few times I’ve been able to meet with homeowners after applying, when I happen to be in the same city as them.

Other times, homeowners have chosen me just by looking at my application and messaged me to arrange my arrival details.

How people choose a house sitter

Sometimes homeowners choose someone because they’re objectively a better fit. Maybe they have experience that makes them well suited or have lots of good references. Perhaps they applied first or were able to meet in person.

Other times, the decision comes down to things that are less quantifiable or outside of your control. Maybe they just liked the vibe of someone else’s profile or they both happen to play the violin or are both from Minnesota. Some homeowners prefer retired people, while others think a young person will do a better job of keeping up with an energetic pet. Maybe they would rather have a couple or absolutely don’t want a couple. Maybe it’s because they’re homophobic or racist or just don’t like the way you look. You’ll probably never know why someone decides not to pick you in these cases.

The decision process might not always be logical or fair, but when someone is deciding who they’d like to trust their pets and home with, they get to make that choice.

Luckily, there are lots of house sits out there waiting for you.

Confirming a sit

I apply to a lot of house sits. Even when I have a specific date range and geographic area in mind, there are usually still one or two listings a day that meet my criteria. Once I apply for a sit, I more or less forget about it unless I get an email back.

Once I’m in communication with a homeowner, I add it to the possibilities I’m currently juggling. My overall travel might not have a logical trajectory, but each of the pieces fits together so I’m not spending a ton of time or money in transit. I’ve turned down some great opportunities because I had others where the dates worked out better or were easier to get to. Know your priorities.

I’ll check with the homeowner before I book flights or make any travel arrangements. I’ve found that plenty of people are happy to have me arrive a day early and stay a day late to make my travels easier and give us time to go over things in person. Some people prefer this, especially with dogs who need time to adjust to new people.

Remember, a sit isn’t confirmed until the homeowner has chosen you through the THS interface and you’ve also confirmed it.