In this guest article by house sitter extraordinaire James Cave we dive into the fundamentals of house sitting as powerful budget travel hack. Thanks for putting this together James.
Unless you’re travelling in South East Asia, where you can grab a beach bungalow for a few bucks a night, accommodation is the biggest expense for long-term travellers. Camping, couch surfing, and budget hostels are great for making your funds go further, but if you value your own space (and a little bit of the good life) then house sitting could be the perfect solution.
What is House Sitting?
House sitting is looking after someone’s home, and sometimes their pets, while they’re away. While there are some agencies who do this professionally, house sitting is fast becoming a travel trend in its own right. Homeowners get someone to look after their property for free, and in return the house sitters get free accommodation. Although quite a new concept it’s something that’s been written about by numerous travel bloggers worldwide.
While some house sits only last a weekend, others can go on for a few months. For example, last year my girlfriend and I decided to try living in France. We managed to line up four house sits that spanned a total of nine months. All we had to pay for during that time was food and diesel for our car. The homes all had wi-fi, extensive satellite TV channels, and all the comforts of home.
How Do I Become a House Sitter?
Becoming a house sitter opens up plenty of opportunities around the world. After travelling around France we took on a house sit in The Algarve, an idyllic area of Portugal famous for its sunshine and beaches. We’ve been offered house sits in the Caribbean and Singapore, and we’re constantly astounded by the number of opportunities available in Australia. Becoming a house sitter, and landing that all important first step, is pretty easy. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Join a House Sitting Website
You need to go where the house sits are. There are a few house-sitting websites springing up at the moment, but we’ve had the most success with TrustedHousesitters.com as their user base is the most active, they delete old or expired house sits so only homes that currently need a sitter are shown and are always improving the features on their website. At the time of writing they have over 800 homes that need sitting.
Step 2: Pimp Your Profile
Your profile is your opportunity to show people why you’re the right person to look after their profile.
1. Photos. People are more likely to respond to profiles with photographs, so don’t skip on this step. Use photos that clearly show your face. Because most house sits include pets, it’s a good idea to show your animal loving side by including a few snaps of yourself with a dog or cat.
2. Put your skills on show. Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. If you have any skills that would be useful to homeowners, be sure to mention them and give plenty of details: a love of gardening, being great with animals, and proficiency in DIY are all worth a mention.
3. Be honest. If you don’t love gardening, don’t pretend that you do. This could easily backfire if you end up looking after a property with hundreds of plants.
4. Keep it snappy. Homeowners get a lot of applications from potential house sitters, and a long profile could put them off. Break up your paragraphs to avoid walls of text, and try to keep your sentences short and snappy: leaving out any useless information.
Step 3: Practice Your Pitch
The first impression a homeowner will get from you is the message you send when you apply to look after their property. As I mentioned before, homeowners get lots of applications so you have to make sure yours stands out.
Work on an eye catching subject line. The person you’ll applying to will have an inbox full of “intro” and “hello”, so create something tailored to them based on their listing.
The same goes for the content of the email. When you’re writing your pitch, you want to include:
- Quick introduction to yourself, e.g. “I’m James, a 28 non-smoker from Ireland.”
- Explain why you want to house sit for them: is it in a country you’re passionate about? Do you love Labradors? What is it about their ad that caught your eye?
- Explain why you would be the best person for the role: do you speak the local language? Have you got experience administering medicine to sick animals? Do you know how to clean a swimming pool?
- Sign off with a question to open up a dialogue.
Step 4: Get Experience
You have a great profile and you know how to pitch yourself: the next thing to do is pad your profile out with references by getting some experience. It might sound like a vicious cycle (no housesitting experience= no house sitting = no experience) but it’s a cycle that’s pretty easy to break out of.
- Offer your services to friends and family. Not only will this get you a reference, it will also give you a feel for house sitting.
- Rack your brains. Maybe you’ve house sat for a friend in the past without realising it: now’s the perfect time to ask for a reference.
- Ask your employer, landlord, or flatmates for character references. While they may not carry as much weight as a house sitting reference, they can reassure homeowners that you’re a trustworthy and responsible person.
- Apply for local house sits. People are more likely to take a chance on you if they can meet up for a coffee first, so look for assignments in your area and apply.
Step 5: Set up Alerts
Congratulations! You’re ready to start applying for house sits. You can do a quick search on the site, but because new sits are being added every day, I would recommend setting up alerts. This way you’ll get an email every time a new house sit in your chosen country becomes available. Applying early greatly increases your chances of landing the assignment, too.