How To Get House Sitting Assignments
Would you be mad if you found out we only paid for about a month's worth of hotel nights in our entire year of travel, 2015? It's true, and I'll tell you how we did it.
For most normal people, the biggest cost of travel is lodging. Resorts, hotels, VRBO, Airbnb, hostels... all of it ads up, and every dollar spent on lodging is a dollar you can't spend on food, entertainment, or keeping a lifestyle of travel going.
But that's not how we did it. And honestly, I don't think we'll ever do it again. Here's why!
House Sitting = Free Rent or Free Hotel Nights!
Housesitting is literally the concept that got us going, enabling us to become The Opportunistic Travelers. And we bought into the concept big time. I just did the math, and of the 360 days we traveled in 2015, less than one month was spent in a hotel or hostel. That's 11 months of free rent. How can you afford not to travel like this?
With housesitting, the bargain struck is quite simple: In exchange for some very basic services -- feeding the animals and keeping the place tidy -- we stay rent free in people's homes while their away on their own travels or vacations.
Three weeks in a lovely three-story villa in France. A few weeks in a great suburban home in Denmark. Six weeks at two different houses in England. Two months in a gorgeous flat in Spain. Three months in a live/work building in Thailand. Two months in two great places in Australia, one of them overlooking a private airport. A few weeks in Hong Kong, a few more weeks in Thailand... what an experience!
Yes, that happened to us the very first year we decided to make housesitting the trick that got us around the world.
You can do it too!
Most of the places above -- including the three month stint in Thailand -- came from a single source: Trusted Housesitters. Think online dating meets couch surfing. Home owners list their needs and members (you need to become a member; it's totally worth it!) apply for the assignment. If you're picked, you work out the details with the host and book your travel! Yes, it's that simple.
What's the catch?
No catch. Seriously. And no money changes hands. You're doing them a service by looking after their property, and they're doing you a favor by letting you stay rent free. In some cases, they'll even leave you a car or other means of transportation. That happened to us in Thailand and in Australia. And in England, one of our assignments picked up half the bill of our rental car -- which we didn't even need!
How to make sure you get picked more often than not.
This is the part that's more of an art than a science. Even though we were brand new to the international house sitting world, we were very successful in getting the assignments we wanted. Again -- we only had to pay for one month worth of hotel stays. I'd call that success. And we still get requests from homeowners we've never met. So yeah, we've got a pretty good system. And I'll teach it to you for free. I won't even make you buy an ebook!
Step 1: Fish Where The Fish Are
Housesitting assignments just don't fall out of the sky. You have to be in the marketplaces where homeowners are looking for sitters. Luckily, we live in the internet world, and almost all of this happens online. So your first step is making a profile on various housesitting services. There are many, and I'll list the sites we've personally used, either to gain housesitting assignments or where we still have a profile in an effort to gain future assignments. We strongly recommend creating profiles on all of them. We have. Don't put your eggs in one basket, as different sites attract a different sort of clientele
- TrustedHousesitters.com - If you only make one profile (which we advise against,) make it with TrustedHousesitters.com. It's where the majority of our leads and assignments have come from, and is a site we check on almost daily, as new listings from owners looking for house sitters are posted quite often. Start here. But don't stop here.
- MindMyHouse.com - Lots of listings in the UK, and is where our second assignment came from. Very much worth the trouble.
- HouseCarers.com - A combination of listings from both the UK and Australia. But very nice properties are often listed. We've had some great dialogs with homeowners on this site, but we've had to beg out due to other assignments.
- LuxuryHousesitting.com - The name says it all. There isn't a specific area covered, but the homes all fit the "luxury" label. We were days away from staying in a lovely villa in Italy found on this site, but it was for longer than our remaining visa days.
Step 2: Make Yourself Look Good
And by "you" I mean your profile. Fill it out completely. More is better. Even if you (like we) have never done this, state your current experience. Have you owned homes before? Say that! Have you had the pleasure (and pain) of being a landlord? Talk about that! Are you a handy person? Do you have experience working on a farm? Volunteered at your local animal shelter? Look or the things that set you apart from the lazier group and make you an invaluable person to the homeowners!
And while we're on the topic of looking good: use a video! All (I think) of the sites will let you upload a video. And I can almost guarantee you've a device in your pocket or purse that will let you record a video of you right now. So do it. Figure out what you want to say and record yourself saying so. If you have pets you can include in the video -- all the better! Be authentic. Be friendly. Look like the people who you'd want staying in your house while you were away.
Step 3: Be Flexible
Not everyone travels as open-ended as we did. But even if you have a set, two-week vacation that you can't deviate from, you might still find success landing a housesitting assignment. Start by planning way out in advance. Six months isn't too far to look! And be open to different places than the standard "vacation" spots. We would have never thought about spending three weeks at the start of winter in France, but it turned out be an amazing experience!
Step 4: Check It Every Day!
Many homeowners will wait until short time -- sometimes less than a month -- for assignments. Others list the same needs year after year. Regardless, it's a race against the clock (and every other person looking for an assignment) once it's posted. Without a doubt, we had the best luck getting on a homeowner's short-list of candidates when we were one of the first applications.
Look, it's you and a bunch of other qualified people on these services. Assume the homeowner will have lots of options. It's not enough to be one of them. You want to be one of the first ones!
Step 5: Be Proactive
As soon as you get a bite -- a homeowner saying they've looked at your profile or is keeping you in mind -- try to get a call or Skype session scheduled. They'll appreciate the effort and your initiative. Plus, it gives you a chance to make an even stronger first impression... before anyone else! Of the times we could get a home owner on Skype, we always got the assignment. Always. It's the secret sauce!
Step 6: Don't Give Up!
I'll be honest. The first few weeks were pretty rotten. No one was picking us. And we had already sold all of our stuff. Then an assignment with some livestock as part of the deal came up. I grew up on a farm, so looking after some chickens wasn't a big deal. And they picked us! Not long after that, our second assignment came. And then our third. Our forth... and suddenly we found ourselves with a lot more flexibility to choose where and when we wanted to go. And what an experience it was!
That's how we did it!
Everything written above is completely true. We documented the whole experience on the first season of our travel podcast, which you're more than welcome to listen to if you need proof. But what you really need to do is this: just do it! There are places you can stay for free -- for a short term or long -- just waiting for you to say yes. Do it!