The biggest cost in international travel is typically lodging. To combat that (because we're not financially independent, let alone wealthy), we house sit for people who are leaving their homes for an extended period of time. Our compensation? A free place to stay, zeroing out that expensive lodging fee for the bulk of our time abroad.
Finding these assignments isn't magic or luck. It's the internet! We've been using several different house sitting websites for a couple months now. We're finding this an fascinating process. We've equated it to online dating services.
The first thing we did was create our profile. We wrote a bit about what makes us good house sitter, gathered a couple recommendations from people for whom we've house or pet sat previously, current photos of the two of us (of course with pets!), and even created a video. Now that our profile complete, most of the "work" is keeping up with the absolute crazy amount of house sitting ads that are posted every day, and applying to ones that work with our available dates and current location. Then we wait. And sometimes wait. And then we wait some more until we get a a response from the host. Most of the time, hosts respond with something like "Thanks for applying, I've a huge number of interested parties, and I'll get back to you, someday". Some ask for more information. Many never respond at all.
We don't get too excited until we're short-listed. That's when the real correspondence begins. It's kind of like getting to know someone before you date them. Emails go back and forth, with each of us providing more and more information. We've even had a Skype video call with one couple. (Hi, Gayle and Eban!) We really liked this, as it allowed us to see each other and ask questions in real time.
I always send more pictures of us during these exchanges so the hosts can get a better idea of who we are, and where we currently are in the world. I also give out our social properties so they can see how we, as real people, interact and share with others. It is truly about transparency. I don't want someone to be surprised by us when we arrive!
The conversation continues until the hosts feel comfortable with us and give us the nod and approve us for the assignment. Then I get to the travel planning, often working with the host to pick us up at the airport, train station, or wherever the major drop-off point will be. Yes, that's ours to pay for. Once the plans are set, a copy of our itinerary is sent to the host.
Typically, I work with hosts on assignments two to three months out, so it's important for me to keep communicating so they keep us top of mind. If the conversation isn't active, I'll email about every two weeks just to check in.
Our stats, so far:
- 42 applications submitted
- 9 applications are still out for review
- 33 rejected
- 3 approved with a possible 4th
That is just under a 10% approval rate. Not bad!
So far we are booked through the later part of March. If you know someone planning a vacation, tell them to skip the kennel and give us a call! And if you want to try this out for your self, I highly recommend TrustedHouseSitters, where we've found most of our gigs!