Housesitting – a few tips for beginners

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House and pet sitting means moving around, a lot.  It’s probably not the lifestyle for those of you out there who enjoy a slow paced and predictable routine. But if you’re not fazed by the thought of packing all your belongings and moving every few weeks to an entirely different location, then read on!

Scheduling – how do we organise our sits?

We use Google Calendar for our housesitting schedule. It’s great because we can share the calendar between us and make changes when we need to, often on the fly. We link this calendar to our housesitting website so that our upcoming sits are able to be seen by our blog visitors.

Here’s our calendar from late August to early October 2016. We had three housesits booked and a short stop in an Airbnb (the yellow bit) to fill a small gap in our schedule.

calendar
Our Google Calendar – a different colour for each sit

Duration – How long should you sit for?

The majority of owners need housesitters for just a few days, up to about two weeks. These short term jobs make up the majority of housesitting jobs advertised online. If you’re really flexible and happy to move around a lot then you’ll probably enjoy housesitting.

Short term assignments would be fine if neither of us were working. However, we’ve learnt that it’s just far too difficult for us to contemplate having to change homes more often, AND work out how we will get to our jobs from another new location. So we only choose sits of at least three weeks and preferably longer. Two months is a real bonus and three month sits (the longest we have done have been about three months) are brilliant because we really get to settle in.

Location – where do we choose to sit?

I’m working full time and need to be commutable distance to London. By commutable I mean normally within the M25 Orbital Highway. We will look at jobs outside the M25 if there is a regular and fast train link into central London. We’ve had a few sits outside the M25 in places like Claygate in Surrey and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. These locations offer a regular high-speed train service into London.

6280793533_8f6b2cf8b0_b
The M25 – we try and stay inside the blue line

Of course you’re probably not going to limit yourself to staying within a reasonable distance of London. So as they say – the worlds your oyster!

There are housesitting opportunities available in many countries.  We’ve limited our search to just the UK, but we’ve seen many opportunities advertised in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Owners requirements – know what is required of the sitter

Finally, and before we apply, we have a look through any photos that the owner has supplied with the listing and we carefully read their advert.

A lot can be learned from how a homeowner composes their advert. What are their requirements? How strict are they about arrival and leaving dates? What procedures have they mentioned with their house and their pets?

We see adverts that are possibly ideal locations and dates but the owner has such demanding requests that we decide to give it a miss. Often these demands centre around their pets and include such demands as “you must not leave our pet alone for any more than three hours at one time”, or “we require you to send daily email updates (including photos) of our pet”.

We are not being judgmental here but we know quite quickly when a housesitting assignment is likely to turn into a bunch of dreaded chores rather than an enjoyable time in a new location.

There’s a blog post in how to effectively communicate and discuss requirements with home owners, so we’ll leave that for a future update!

Applying for a sit – a typical email application from us

So, if we’ve ticked all the boxes so far, we are at the stage where we would apply. Here’s a typical message we would use when first applying for a new housesit.

“Dear (insert owners name).

We are Teresa and Tim, a Canadian/Kiwi couple who have been house-sitting since arriving in the UK from Wellington in March 2015. We would be delighted to look after (mention pet names), if you should think us a good fit. We have a lot of experience with cats, including some from rescue backgrounds.

We both work in central London during the day (Tim as a property surveyor, and I as an EA), and after hours are often curled up at home with a good book or some music, and at weekends we’re often on walks or otherwise exploring London. We would be happy to give the cats as much or as little attention as they need. Tim is a keen hand in the garden and I like keeping the indoors tidy and clean. Please see our profile for more detail.

We are currently sitting in (insert current location), and at the end of the month we shift to (insert next location) to look after two cats for six weeks. We’d be delighted to speak further, by phone or email, or to come and meet you and the cats to see if there’s a fit. We can of course provide references and proof of clear police checks.

Thank you very much for considering us!

Regards,
Teresa & Tim

The reality of housesitting – waiting for a response

Once we’ve sent a message it’s just a matter of waiting for a reply. Here’s where housesitting is probably a bit like internet dating. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to like your profile or how you look, and really it’s just a numbers game of getting as many applications out there until you get some bites!

trusted hit rate picture
Our housesit applications – with colour coded status labels

Our hit rates – how quickly will you get a sit?

We analysed our housesit application hit-rate a little while back. Here’s how we’ve fared:

Trustedhousesitters.co.uk
Number of sits applied for: 143
Number of confirmed and completed sits: 7
Hit rate: 5%

Housesittersuk.co.uk
Number of sits applied for: 52
Number of confirmed and completed sits: 9
Hit Rate: 17%

The figures speak for themselves, but you will see that it takes quite a few applications to get a few bites.

Now, don’t be discouraged because there’s a very important caveat here.  Remember that we now only sit in Greater London.  We have to be somewhere where we can commute to our jobs.

If you’re not working or you’re a digital worker and can be based anywhere, then you’ll probably apply for many more sits than we do.  We can’t guarantee that you’re hit rate will be higher than ours but by spreading your search across a wider area – say all of the UK or even internationally – you’re likely to encounter many more sitting opportunities.

In my next post I’ll look at a few more more tips for those of you looking getting into housesitting.

p.s. photo credit for the cover image this month goes to our much loved furry friends Carla and Nelson. We spent 6 enjoyable weeks hanging out with them in North London.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. expatpatty says:

    Thanks for this post & the useful tips. I am just getting into cat-sitting in Wellington. So far I have not joined an official housesitters site, but I have set up a Facebook page & am using word-of mouth to get sits. You have given me a few things to consider.

    Like

    1. Tim says:

      Hey that’s great that you’re getting into it and happy to be able to help. Word of mouth is a good way to get sits and I’ll talk a bit more about that, and other options, in a future post. Best of luck with your sits!

      Like

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