After a year enjoying the wonders and delights that Slovakia has to offer, we have decided to up sticks and search for pastures new.
As part of that change, we are changing the way that we live life by becoming “transient teachers” – online teachers who travel around the world house and pet sitting.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of house sitting or pet sitting, let us just take a moment to enlighten you about house sitting.
House and pet sitting is an idea similar to babysitting, but where with babysitting you would leave you wee one with someone for a few hours, and have to pay for the privilege, with house sitting you leave your house and pets with someone for a longer period of time (anywhere between 1 day and 6 months), while you stay somewhere else, and without any money changing hands.
You could be house and pet sitting in New Zealand, New York or somewhere in Europe, house sitting travel is an international job that can take you all over the world.
The benefits for the owner are that their animals and possessions are being looked after at no cost, while for the house sitters they are able to live in and experience a country for a short period of time without the costs of paid accommodation.
Beginning the process – How to get house sitting jobs and is house sitting safe?
To enter this growing community requires quite a bit of research and work.
Firstly you need to navigate the house and pet sitting world online. Choose the best website to sign up to, this incurs a fee to ensure you are serious about house sitting.
Also make sure you have references and police disclosures ready to add to these sites to give homeowners peace of mind and as testament to your character.
Your fee and the home owner’s fee plus references from previous sitters should tell you how safe the sit is.
Generally it’s very safe and people are properly vetted, but it’s also something we naturally worry about.
Which is the best house sitting website?
We settled on three main sites that seemed to be the best options for us, mainly through a combination of coverage, frequency of new listings, cost (it’s not free) and recommendations.
There are others around, but they mostly specialise on certain countries or regions. What we needed was a website that provided international house sitting.
Another little titbit of advice is to check Facebook for community groups such as House Sit Match (another house and pet sitting website), and House Sitting Café which are two that we recommend.
Depending on your location there might be country specific groups to join too.
The house sitting websites we have signed up to are:
Trusted House Sitters – 89€ per year, 25% off if you register through the link
Mind My House – $20 per year
House Carers – $50 per year, 6 months free if you register through the link
Writing your profile – How to start house sitting
Starting your house and pet sit adventure starts with signing up to websites, paying money and writing your profile.
A good profile on these sites is all important. As new sitters, without previous experience, it is the only information that home owners have to go off.
Fortunately the sites help you out by having it all laid out in sections, though the headings are all the help you get with writing it.
For inspiration, a good idea would be to look at some of the things that other sitters have written and have a think about what makes you unique, trustworthy and responsible.
This profile will be visible for home owners searching for sitters as well as what they look at when you apply for sits.
If like us you are a couple applying for house sits together then often you just need one profile on each website and you can add the same information – it might just be a bit longer!
Work and life experience – What’s relevant to house sitting assignments?
We thought that our lack of experience in the field would go against us, but actually we had LOTS of relevant experience.
Two years ago we were hotel managers of a dog friendly hotel with resident dogs, we worked and lived full time on a farm in Italy caring for children, a vegetable garden, farm land and a menagerie of animals.
Sometimes we looked after the farm for three/four days at a time, so we have house sat! In a previous life we also managed bars and restaurants, lived in remote places and have experience in various fields such as support work and have young carer experience.
All of these attributes paint us as trustworthy and responsible people with a sense of adventure and a penchant for living in unique and remote areas.
Your work experience is highly important in showcasing these things, and personal experiences such as being a young carer, volunteering, owning pets and knowing your way around the garden are all useful bits of information to the home owners.
Your reasons and motivation to be a house and pet sitter
Homeowners want to know that the person they allow into their home to live rent free is there for the right reasons.
For us we want to travel in a way that allows us to immerse ourselves in local life and we are massive animal lovers. Seriously, we go to bed watching cat videos and are endlessly amused by animals and the natural world.
We’ve added in our profiles that we love animals, grew up with various pets, volunteer with animals and have sought out jobs where being in remote locations with unique natural surroundings and animals are part of the deal.
Our real struggle is we can’t have dogs or cats while we live the lifestyle we choose, and pet sitting answers all of our dreams because we have a lot of love to give.
Everyone will have a different reason – maybe you’re retired, work online, travelling on a budget and sometimes those reasons and needs overlap. If you don’t love animals, don’t choose pet sitting and look for house sitting jobs with no pet commitment.
Be genuine and hope that comes across when you’re writing your profile. It was a worry for us because we thought people would think we’re just using as free accommodation to travel, but we’ve conveyed how important it is for us to meet new people, really get to know a culture and give our love to some new furry friends.
Other useful bits of information to include on a house sitting profile
Alongside your passion for this way of life, your relevant life and work experience and your motivations, you really need to include practical information and your unique selling point whether that’s as a couple or as an individual sitter.
Gardening – Are you green fingered? Do you have experience with house plants? Can you mow a lawn? These are all things you are likely to be asked to do, and if you can show you have them green fingers in some kind of way then you are much more attractive as a sitter.
Driving – Do you have a clean license? Often it will state that the sitter needs a car or there is a car offered with the house sit. In either case it’s good to let homeowners know that you can drive, or have a car or will be able to drive their pet around safely.
Police disclosure – It’s not necessary for all websites, but we have included that as teachers we do have recent police disclosures.
DIY experience – If you are a keen handy man or woman put this is your profile. People will often have little chores that you could do. Leaving their house in better shape is a great attribute.
Cleaning experience – We have both worked in luxury hotels, and regularly cleaned these hotels to a highly professional level. Maybe you’ve worked in hospitality, hotels, at events, been a cleaner or like Jen even worked as a support worker and cleaned a home for adults with disabilities to a medically clean standard on a daily basis.
Pool cleaning/maintenance – You might have experience with cleaning and maintaining pools or hot tubs which is a desirable skill to have.
About me – This section can cover your current situation, recent life experience, previous careers plus you want to paint your character with what you like to do – hobbies, whether you’re outdoorsy and perhaps even a little insight into your life.
Pet sitting – You’ll want to reiterate that you are responsible and focused on keeping pets safe, which is really your number one priority on a pet sit. Add any information on your experience with keeping animals or volunteering with them.
Applying for your first sit – International house sitting and pet sitting jobs
Once you have your new kick-ass profile, then you start finding and applying for your sits. Each site makes this step very easy, with simple search features that can be filtered based on your wants and needs (such as locations, dates, Wi-Fi, etc.). Set up text alerts and download the app.
A lot of the sites also allow you to set up notifications when new sits become available for a range of criteria that you define. These can be very helpful as a lot of housesits can receive large numbers of applications and will sometimes only look at the first few that come through, so it is always best to apply quickly (we have had the most success with places where we were one of the first to submit an application).
The house sitting application
Once you have found the first sit or two that appeal to you, you will then need to progress through the application process.
The best way to look at this is as if you were applying for a job. After all that is pretty much what you are doing, even if it is only a “job” for a few days or weeks.
Most sites require you to send in some kind of email/letter to the homeowner and this is best treated like the kind of cover letter that you would send in to a potential employer.
In it you should outline things such as who you are, a little bit about you, why you are housesitting, why you would be a good sitter, and any other information that you think might be helpful or interesting to the owner such as your sitting experience or pets you have had in the past.
Perhaps you’ve kept the same breed of cat or dog, or you have looked after exotic pets – try to personalise each application to the homeowner and don’t copy and paste the same thing to everyone. It’s also great to research the area they are in and include why it appeals to you.
Ask the homeowner questions about the house sit
Another BIG thing to include in your application is to not only outline your skills, but to also ask questions according to your needs or their needs.
Be honest with yourself and the owner’s needs, and include these in your application.
This is a level of professionalism you really need to showcase. We need high speed Wi-Fi to teach and write online – so we verify with each owner that’s something their property has or it’s not a viable option for us.
You might need a car, to be allowed out the house for more hours than they specify and you can even ask if they need DIY or gardening done as part of the arrangement.
Your own health and physical limitations might be an issue too – there could be many things you need to ask.
If the owner doesn’t specify a routine for their pets, this is also something you should ask about and also check if pets need medication or grooming care.
Whether its dog sitting, cat sitting or alpaca sitting, they all have a routine and need some grooming!
Arrival dates might need to be negotiated, and keep in mind that owners will often leave aside a day before you start to meet them and get to know the house and pet routines.
Homeowners will have certain criteria, so you have to think about their needs and whether you can fulfil them and if something isn’t clear then ask them to be more specific.
Helpful questions might include:
- What is the daily routine of your pets?
- Do they require any medication?
- Do you have a good Wi-Fi connection?
- Are there nearby shops and amenities?
- Would I have access to your car?
- What is your pet care and grooming routine?
- Will I need to do any jobs around the house or garden?
- How long can I leave your pets in the house at any one time?
- Are there public transport links?
- Are there any parts of the property I’m not allowed to go into?
It really does depend on where you go, what the homeowner requires and what you need from the house sitting job. The trick is to not ask a million questions but sprinkle a few throughout and not overwhelm the homeowners.
Things not to say in a house sit application
These are things we know people have included in their applications which are either not needed or big no-no’s!
This is not a time to offer unwanted advice on how people look after their pets – it’s frankly a little strange and everyone has their own routines and eating habits etc. and you’re not a voice of authority even if you are an experienced dog sitter or adept at cat sitting.
Don’t write short and impersonal applications with no personality, even if you’re doing it quickly, you don’t want to come across as unprofessional or in a hurry…or boring!
It’s not all about you – make sure you are thinking about their needs too and don’t make false promises with things you can’t realistically do or fulfil.
Do not apply if you’re not fully committed, and if you get another sit after you’ve applied make sure you write to tell other house sits you’re no longer available. They are relying on their house and pet sitters, so don’t agree to something if you think you might have to bail.
Show them your availability and set up a call.Another great thing to add is how flexible you are on the dates advertised and to mention that you have Skype or WhatsApp etc. to set up an online call. If you live in the same city, you could even meet in person.
Most house and pet sits will start with a call to ensure you are who you say you are and vice versa so it’s essential to state this in your application.
Accepting a House and Pet Sitting Job
Assuming they like your letter and profile they will usually then try and arrange an actual interview of sorts, which tends to be through something like Skype or WhatsApp (that being said, the first sit we managed to secure accepted us without any kind of interview, with the first real contact outside of messages coming until a few weeks later).
Again, this works much like an online interview for a job with discussions about what the sit entails, your responsibilities etc., but may also include things like a virtual tour of the house/property, an introduction to the animals.
Some sits may also request that you do an in person visit to meet them, though this has not yet happened to us.
This is also the perfect time to ask those other questions you didn’t include in your application or go over what you wrote in your application and to state your intent and how you’ll be spending your time on the sit.
Always have at least two or three questions to ask, and remember this is a professional service you are providing so show you are confident and experienced.
It might be agreed on the call that you will be the house sitter, but you might also have to wait to see how other interviews went.If all goes well, you should now have your first sit arranged!
Where we are now – have we got any house sits since signing up?
The short answer is yes!
We went through all this work, getting signed up to sites, applying for sits, etc. expecting it to take some time for us to secure our first stop. Several of the places that we applied for never got back to us, not even to either confirm our application, or to let us know that we had been unsuccessful.
However, after only a few days of applying to places, one couple got back to us, and clearly happy with our profile, gave us our first confirmed sit.
Then, over the next few days more responses came in, almost all positive and wanting to either offer us sits or arrange interviews.
Where we are going – House sitting Europe and house sitting UK!
In fact, we actually had to turn a few down because they clashed with ones that were already confirmed, to Jen’s slight chagrin (there were a couple she really wanted to do that were a day or so too slow!).
Before long we had managed to sort enough places to nearly cover us from the moment that we have to leave our beautiful little flat in Bratislava at the end of September, right through until the middle of February.
This is not to say it was easy, or that everyone will be as lucky as we were. One sit we managed to get purely and simply because while we were not the first to get our application in, it was the first one that they read, and literally within a couple of hours of the sit being placed we had a Skype call arranged with a provisional offer in place.
Now we find ourselves merely weeks away from our first ever place where we shall be looking after all manner of beasts (dogs, pigeons, bees and alpacas) for two months in the wonderful region in Italy known as Tuscany.
We love this area, having previously spent last summer looking after a farm and two children in the neighbouring area of Umbria, and can’t wait to return (we even refer to Italy as our second home, we love it that much!).
After that, we are returning to the UK (split between England and Scotland) for December to February, both for housesits, and so that we can get some life admin sorted. The searching continues all the time, either looking for those short few day sits that can nicely slot into the gaps we have currently, or looking further ahead to where we will be going next year once we reach February.
Final Advice – Is house sitting worth it?
House sitting is fantastic exchange between homeowners and travellers or retirees who want a real cultural experience, or remote living and pets to look after.
This isn’t a paid job normally, it’s a way to live rent free if you do it full time, but you do it for the fulfilment and the experience not to mention it’s helping homeowners massively having people who give their time to making their home and pets their number one priority. It’s also giving us the sitters a chance to live in unique places, meet new friends and look after pets.
Finding tips on house and pet sitting
Not only are there the sites and services out there that you can use, but there is also a thriving social media community around, on things like Facebook and such, not only where sitters can share thoughts, ideas, tips etc., but also where some homeowners advertise and search for people outside of the main services.
The whole community, from what we have experienced so far, is very friendly, welcoming and helpful. After all, even the most experienced of them were at some point complete novices like us, and are usually willing to help you avoid the problems and pitfalls that they have had to deal with the hard way.
One couple we were in contact with was Brooke and Buddy from Trailing Away who offered us invaluable advice to get started which you can read about on their blog.
To paraphrase the old saying, “Research, Research, Research”!
Before we even really began on this journey we both spent hours researching online which sites were the best, talking to other sitters that we knew on Instagram, or that we found on Facebook for their advice, and looking into other helpful information, such as online magazines.
We love House Sitter Magazine, which is free to subscribe to, has an app you can install on any Apple or Android device, and then you can download and read their entire catalogue, which is full of what I think is really helpful information.
If you want specific types of house sitting jobs like luxury house sitting jobs or long term house sitting jobs then it’s important to use resources to see how these sits work and you can filter these sits and set up alerts on your chosen house sit website.
Thank you for reading and we hope this helps answer any questions you have on how to get started with house and pet sitting.
Follow our future house and pet sitting adventures through our Instagram – @hoopla_adventures for daily updates and probably some silly stories!
Disclosure: There is the inclusion of affiliate links in this article, but we have written this using our own personal experience.