It’s February. Where I come from this means dull and miserable weather, cold temperatures and basically waiting till Spring comes around. Not this year though! This year, February means rooftop aperitivo’s, reading by the pool and sunny countryside walks.
We’re spending winter in Andalucía, taking care of 2 lovely doggies, Toffee & Charley. Three months in southern Spain, for the cost of 0€! How you ask? Welcome to international housesitting!
How to become an international house sitter?
After an off-the-grid house sit in Spain and looking after an 18th century property in Scotland, we decided that 2020 was going to be the start of our ‘career’ as full-time international house sitters. Since July 2020, we travel from city to city and from country to country, to look after dogs, cats, chickens, or any animal in need of some company when their owners need to travel. 2020 might not have been the perfect year to start, but despite a global pandemic, we managed to live in Spain, France and Belgium that year. Not bad, hey?
So, what does it take to become an international house sitter and how do you ‘score’ the best sits? By all means, read on.
1. You’d better love animals
While it is generally described as ‘housesitting’, most sits involve looking after animals. So if you’re not too keen on dog slabber or are allergic to cats, you might want to rethink the housesitting-lifestyle. This said, you can occasionally find the odd long sit where owners leave for half a year and just want a presence in their house, but competition will be very fierce for these sits!
On that note, can I just grab your attention for a second and make it clear that HOUSE SITTING IS NOT A HOLIDAY!
While you might be living in the most beautiful villa with swimming pool or a luxury apartment with jacuzzi, house sitting means you have responsibilities. What will you do if one of the animals gets ill? What if the water heater of the house breaks down? (True story! Happened on one of our sits) You will have plenty of free time of course, but animals need fed and/or walked, so if you want to take a sit in London to explore the city from morning to evening, then this is not for you.
2. Sign up with one or more House Sitting Websites
‘Where do you find these places?’ is one of the questions I get asked the most. We’re using Trusted Housesitters, one of the biggest house sitting websites. The majority of the sits are in the UK, USA and Australia, but there are also a lot of options for Spain, Asia, France, Switzerland,…
Other popular websites are Nomador, MindMyHouse, HouseSitMatch and HouseCarers.
Every day you can find tens to hundreds of new sits around the world. You generally don’t need to subscribe to see the sits, so dreaming costs nothing! If you want to stick in an application however, you’ll need to subscribe. Trusted Housesitters costs £89/year. (TIP: at the end of this article, you can find a code which will give you a 25% discount) A small price for free accommodation, right?
3. Write a killer profile
Would you leave your dog or cat with strangers you know nothing about? No? Well neither do the home owners. So, start writing and make sure to have a killer profile! Tell about yourself, tell about your love for animals, your experience & why you want to house sit. Make sure to add some photo’s to your profile too. Preferably ones that showcase your love for animals.
If you’re just starting off, it might not be easy to get your first sit, so make sure to include some references from family or friends. Trusted Housesitters allows character references and or animal-care references. Make use of those!
4. Start local
A two week cat-sit in New York or a luxury property in southern Spain? Of course you can apply, but without previous reviews, it might be hard to get the sit. Don’t forget competition is fierce and previous reviews are all-important. How do you get these reviews if you can’t get the sits you ask?
Start local and small. Go for shorter sits, close to your home. Maybe not the exotic place you were thinking of, but you stand more chance to be accepted + if you do the job well, you’ll get these all important first reviews! You don’t need to do a lot of them, two or three excellent reviews will be of great help to score future sits.
5. Apply quickly
It comes as no surprise that sought after locations like London or Paris will be very, very popular. It is not unseen that owners receive over 50 applications for one sit. And no, chances are they will not read them all. So, get in there quickly, apply as soon as you can and you stand a much better chance of getting shortlisted. Most websites will allow you to set up alerts. Fill in the period/location you are looking for and you get notified as soon as a new sit is published. Believe me, you really need these!
6. Write a killer application
Once you’ve found your dream sit, you can apply. Surprise, surprise, you’re not the only one who has their eyes set on free accommodation in Rome. A house sit-application is pretty much like a job application, convince the owners that you’re the best fit! Make the application personal, don’t copy/paste! Use the name of the animals, explain previous experiences that line up with this sit (e.g. if you looked after the same breed) look at the owners profile and looks for common interests and most importantly: let the owner know why you are interested in this particular sit: e.g. ‘I’d love to go to Barcelona‘ is maybe not that great. ‘I love discovering new cities and taking a doggie for a walk provides me with a very local experience’ sounds a lot better!
7. Skype or Whatsapp
It’s rare enough for people to confirm you as their sitter without having a Skype or Whatsapp call. They might shortlist several sitters or maybe they just want to make sure that you’re a half decent person. This is not only beneficial to them, but also to you as a sitter. This is your chance to ask as many questions as possible. And you definitely should! How often do the dogs get walked, does the cat have any medical condition, do you need to muck out the horse’s stable? But also more practical things like: how far is the nearest supermarket, is there a stable wifi-connection in the house, … All very important before they and you accept the sit.
8. Be flexible
Usually people have flights or other transport booked and the dates you agreed on initially, will probably not change that much. But they can. Planes get cancelled and plans change, so be flexible. Especially at the end of the sit. We had home owners that were stuck in the UK for over a month, which meant we had to stay on (which, let’s face it, in Southern Spain was hardly a punishment). Be flexible about that, the animals always come first!
9. Have a back-up plan
By that I don’t mean ‘accept two sits at the same time in case one falls through’! Once you make a commitment to a home owner, stick to it! But you never know what happens, so have a back-up plan in case the sit doesn’t happen. This is especially the case for full-time sitters who have no accommodation back home and live from house sit to house sit. A back-up plan can mean applying for another sit, or if needed, have enough financial means to get you through the period of the sit.
We were originally planning to start with full-time house sitting in April 2020 and had confirmed sits up to November. Due to you know what, none of these sits actually happened! We were lucky to find other sits for most of the time, but we did have to make use of the occasional Airbnb.
Make sure you factor that in!
10. Ask for a review
Reviews are super important! Make sure you get them after every sit! Most home owners will provide them automatically, but don’t be afraid to ask for one in case they forget. The more and the better your reviews, the more chances you stand to get that gorgeous looking sit on the Italian countryside.
You can leave reviews for the home owners too, and you should. It gives future applicants an idea of what to expect.
So, what do you think, do you have what it takes to become an international house sitter? If you’d like to subscribe to TrustedHousesitters, you can use this code to get a 25% discount: “RAF139785“