In my first post, I described how we decided to travel while working remotely, digital nomad-style. Additionally, we came across several posts that described how people were using house/pet sitting to stretch their travel dollars. One site that was very helpful is The Traveling Housesitters. They have great articles on getting started and even an online course you can take to get you ready.
I have signed up for the course, but haven’t completed it yet. I’ll write a post about that when I’ve finished it.
This seemed like the missing piece for us. Our mortgage on the Ellijay house was (hopefully) being paid by our vacation renters, but we’d have to be very frugal if we wanted to travel and needed to pay for accommodations. If we were able to housesit for at least part of any trip, that would make it easier on our budget.
I started out looking at two sites: Housecarers.com and TrustedHousesitters.com. Both have a similar model (I describe it like Match.com for homeowner and sitters.) Both the homeowners and the sitters pay a membership fee to join the site. The homeowners do not pay the sitters, owners get free home and pet sitting while they travel. The pet sitters do not pay the homeowners either, sitters get free accommodations in exchange for minding the pets and taking care of the home. Evidently this type of exchange has been working for years, Housecarers was started in 2000 and Trusted Housesitters was started in 2010.
Link to article on comparison of the two sites.
Both sites let you browse listings before you join, so that’s what I did for a few weeks. I started with Housecarers.com since it had a cheaper annual fee if we decided to join. We had been thinking about going to Mexico, specifically Merida, for our first international trip. So I was browsing in the Mexico, Central America listings and found a 5-month sitting assignment in Belize.
We had been to Belize several times as a cruise destination. It’s a beautiful county with beaches, mountains, rain forests, Mayan ruins, and the second largest barrier reef. And as a former British colony, the people speak English. As our Spanish is severely lacking, this sounded like a great opportunity.
You have to join the sites to be able to apply for sitting assignments, so we joined Housecarers.com and applied.
You need to put a good deal of thought into your profile and your application letter. I also asked several friends to write recommendation letters for us. We didn’t have any pet-sitting experience per se, but we’ve owned dogs and cats, lizards and snakes, hamsters and birds so we felt well qualified. I also took an online pet First Aid course with ProPetHero. We went through the background check that the site recommends and paid to have an FBI check that we could post on the website.
We sent off our application and the homeowners replied right away. We set up a Zoom call – I highly recommend you have some sort of video call with any prospective assignments, I think it gives both parties a chance to not just put faces to the names, but get a bit of an idea of the people and see if there’s a good connection. (It’s also a good way to check that they have decent internet speed.) We had a lot in common with this couple and hit it off right away. We had our first assignment!
I would say in hindsight that we were very lucky. Most sitters will not get the first assignment they apply for. In fact, the next few assignments we applied for, we didn’t even get an interview.
Cross off Mexico, we’re going to Belize.
Research, research, research. Read lots of articles and blogs on housesitting. Find out the good and not-so-good aspects. Not everyone is going to be suited to this lifestyle. What makes a good profile and application letter? There’s a lot of great information out there on the housesitting websites and in people’s blogs. Learn from their experiences.
Put together a list of questions to ask the homeowners. Again, there are several checklists out there already. Here’s my list of questions to be sure and ask.
Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions — it’s vitally important to know the temperament of the animals you will be caring for and living with. If you ask about aggressive behavior and biting and don’t feel that the owners are being fully honest, I would not take that assignment. It works best all around if both parties are honest and are explicit about expectations and requirements.
Take a pet first aid class either in person or online. You won’t be an expert, but it will give you some knowledge and a handy manual on what to do if the pet you’re sitting for gets injured or ill.
Get the background check the site requires/recommends. This gives the homeowner piece of mind and gives you something to put in your profile when you are just starting out.
Get references. Friends, family members – anyone you’ve ever house or pet-sat for (even for free), dog walked, anything remotely relevant. The Trusted Housesitters site will also let you post your AirBnb guest reviews (you have been a 5-star guest, right?).
Hey, if you are reading this and decide to join either Housecarers.com or TrustedHousesitters.com please consider using my referral links. I’ll get several months added to my membership and you’ll get either a discount or several months bonus on your first membership as well, depending on which site you join.