Free accommodation, anywhere in the world, that’s a joke right? Nope, totally possible!
As a house and pet sitter, I have completed 27 housesits in 6 different countries. I was even able to line up my sits consecutively and lived rent-free for 6 months while traveling and seeing the world!
My secret is Trusted Housesitters, a website for travelers to arrange a mutually beneficial agreement where you look after someone's home and pets while they are away on vacation, in exchange for accommodation.
The website has global short and long term listings and is $129 for an annual membership. If you compare with hotel costs, upon completing just your first night at a house sit you’ve essentially had the membership pay for itself! I’ve been able to visit places I’ve never dreamed of going, travel long-term, live like a local, and meet some really amazing hosts (and pets!).
Pets are most happy when they are home and have their normal routine in place, kennels are expensive and can be traumatizing for pets and even make them sick; there are paid services like dog walkers but then the dog or cat is still left alone most of the day. A housesitter provides the perfect solution to maintain pets happiness and comfort.
I’ve compiled a guide on how to create the perfect house sitting profile, how to give a successful interview, and how to be a great housesitter.
1. Pet care
This website is a solution for pet lovers who like to travel. To be a great housesitter, you should genuinely enjoy spending time with animals and have extra time on your trip to care for them.
The majority of house-sits will have pets you need to take care of, this can range from just one low-maintenance cat to an entire farm!
I have seen a few housesit assignments that don’t have any pets but the majority do. These are the owners beloved fur babies and you will need to make sure that you have ample time to meet the owner’s requirements for them.
I work remotely so I am home often anyhow and this works really well when looking after pets, but if it’s a short trip you should ask yourself if you can really make enough time to care for the pets. If you're hoping to start working online, use these 6 steps to get started. Another option to work remotely is to teach English online.
For example, can you really give a hyperactive Labrador 3 walks a day plus playtime on a week-long trip to Madrid while visiting all of the tourist attractions you want to see? Probably not.
Read the listing carefully and ask the host what is expected of you to make sure it's a good match.
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2. Your profile and getting your first sit
Your profile is the home owner’s first impression of you.
To make a good one, you need to add clear good quality photos of yourself and especially active photos with animals, write about yourself and experience, and gather references and verifications.
Signing up for Trusted Housesitters (TH) is a very straightforward process. Once you’ve made your account just fill in your details.
Now, in my experience owners generally scroll to see your reviews before anything else, the site is kind of run by reviews and in the beginning you won’t have any but that's okay! There is an option to add personal references from people you know, get as many of those as you can. If you have any social media profiles or a web presence it’s a good idea to add that as well.
The best thing you can do is be personable, honest and professional when creating your profile.
Then, you should make a video! Show owners that you are a living breathing person and you are excited about this venture, be yourself and share your experience with animals. If you have any hospitality, childcare, or service industry experience it is a good idea to include that too. Also mention any first aid qualifications, if you’ve administered pet medications, worked with pets with medical or behavioral issues, walked multiple dogs, cleaned pools, are able to do repairs yourself, etc. Make sure to go through all the verification processes the site offers.
Now, since you don’t have reviews from anyone on the site it might take a few applications before you confirm your first sit. I suggest starting to look for short sits close to your home. Last minute listings, listings in remote locations, or new listings that don’t have reviews from previous sitters are your best chance at scoring your initial sit.
My first house sit was on a farm of 8 sheep, a dog, 2 cats, 3 chickens, and 2 ducks... in a rural French town with a population of about 1,000 people; they needed someone last minute and admittedly it wasn’t my first choice but I had to get started. The next interview I had, the homeowner said to me, “Wow you worked on this farm, I’m sure you’ll be able to handle our cat no problem!” and so it went.
3. New listing notifications
A great feature that TH offers is to receive alerts once a new listing is live.
Since hosts generally choose from the first 1-3 applicants this is a great way to be the one of the first to apply and how I have scored numerous gigs. You really want to be in the first 3 applicants to have a shot at getting an interview.
This feature is available on the app and via email and you can set it by location so make sure to have those turned on!
4. The interview
Most interviews will be via video chat, phone call, or meeting in person beforehand if local.
My best tip for the interview is to just be yourself! I know that’s cliche but it’s the truth. Just share your experiences, why you think you are a good fit for their assignment, a little bit about yourself, and most importantly Ask Questions. You may be surprised at how many pet owners I’ve spoken to who recall countless interviews where the sitter never once asks about the pet!
While you have other tasks, the most important part of your job is caring for and spending time with their beloved fur baby.
Questions you should ask are about the animal’s personality, what medications they take, how old they are, if they’re good with other animals/people, do they have any special needs, etc. You should know the pet very well before arriving at the home. There is a guidebook that will be sent to you after being accepted for the sit but you should still ask questions.
You must make it known that you are taking the job seriously and that you care 100% about the pets.
It also doesn’t hurt to enquire about the homeowners trip and get to know them! I’ve actually met some really wonderful hosts from Trusted Housesitters. I became good friends with one of the hosts I stayed with in Romania and since I was staying longer after their sit we were able to meet again and do some touristy things together!
Some hosts may also invite you to stay a night or two before and after the sit so you can get to know the pet(s) and so they can get to know you! Remember this is a platform for travelers so you can meet a lot of really amazing people this way.
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5. Commit 100%
Assure the homeowner that you are 100% committed.
As per the Trusted Housesitters rule book: “Once you have agreed to sit for an owner you should not cancel, unless under exceptional circumstances such as a serious illness or family bereavement.” For this reason, you should not apply for sits with overlapping dates or with requirements you are not sure you can fulfil.
If they have had many sitters in the past, chances are that they have had a few of them cancel last minute, which as you can imagine, is a homeowner’s worst nightmare!
It is your responsibility to commit to them 100% and make sure you are able to travel to them. For home/pet owners with a history of unreliable sitters, this is the most important thing you can say during the interview.
6. How to be a great house sitter
Communication is key.
Make sure to have all of your travel details arranged and confirmed in advance, especially when travelling by air. I send my flight itinerary to the homeowners once I book. Always show up on time and let the hosts know of any travel delays immediately. Decide beforehand what is the best way to contact them while they are away and what times are the best to check in.
I suggest checking in with a photo or video of their pet(s) at least twice a day, but you can agree to a level of contact that suits them.
They are trusting you with their pets and their personal belongings so you need to do everything you can to honor that trust. I treat each assignment like it’s a job and I want the owners to feel secure that their pets and home are in good hands.
This means, never inviting guests that have not been agreed upon before the housesit, maintain cleanliness, and report any damages or illness with their pet immediately to the owner. If there's an issue with their pet, no matter how small, immediately contact the owner and vet.
The owner will provide vet information in the guide book and there is also a vet hotline provided by Trusted Housesitters.
At the end of the sit, you will need to clean up after yourself.
I go a bit overboard with this, I want the owner to come home to a sparkling clean house, sometimes I even go the extra mile and start cleaning windows or polishing silverware! But I’m one of those crazy people who actually likes cleaning.
I always wash and replace the sheets so they can crawl right into bed after a long day of travel; and just generally make everything spotless and put everything back as it was when I arrived.
It’s also a great idea to leave some essentials in the fridge like milk or bread for those first moments back. I’ve baked muffins before, left a bottle of wine, and have even heard of some sitters preparing meals! It’s not expected but it’s a token of appreciation for a wonderful stay.
When you leave, give an update on the status of anything that may have changed while they’ve been away.
7. The fine print
Make yourself aware of the Trusted Housesitters Code of Conduct and Sitters Guidelines Blog.
While not common, some homeowners want you to cover the cost of utilities, etc. while they are gone. I’ve only seen this requirement for long-term sits of 3 months or longer, otherwise it is not usually required.
Some might also ask you to sign an agreement, which is offered by Trusted Housesitters which you will go over together, again this is generally for long-term sits.
Alternatively, there are some house sitters out there that charge for their services as well. There are some other websites that give you the option to add a fee but Trusted Housesitters is strictly for sitting in exchange for accommodation.
Always make sure to respect any differences in culture, lifestyle or religion that you may experience while carrying out the house sit. Be mindful of local laws and customs and be warm, open, and friendly to the owner’s friends and neighbours.
Be aware: Under no circumstances should you leave the sit without first speaking with the owner and ensuring adequate arrangements are in place to care for their pets and home.
Should you need to cancel or change the arrangement you’ve made, other than in exceptional circumstances such as a serious illness, family bereavement or a valid concern for your personal safety, you are actually in breach of the Code of Conduct, and will lead to account suspension while the case is reviewed.
In the event that the homeowners have to cancel their trip or come back sooner than planned, it is a good idea to have a backup plan for accommodation in mind.
Great now you’ve completed your first sit, time for reviews!
The owner will receive a notification to leave you a review and you will be requested to leave feedback. The best thing you can do is leave an honest, fair, factual review about your experience.
This will help other sitters decide if this sit is a good match for them! And that’s it!
Once you do a few house sits, it will be easier to be accepted for more and more and you can travel around the world house sitting!
Want 25% off your membership? Use my referral link or Promo Code RAF200504 when you sign up for Trusted Housesitters!