The swollen (Canadian) Mississippi River near Galetta, Ontario, Canada. Photo taken April 22, 2014.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Galetta, Ontario, Canada. Just west of the capital city of Ottawa.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? North Bay, Ontario. Arrive April 24th.

And after that? Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. Arrive April 25th.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Want to Housesit? Top Tips to Get Started...

This is the first of a two-part guest post by James Cave of Trusted HouseSitters. As you know, we like to housesit and when James offered to give you all some valuable information, I thought it was worth sharing!

Want to Housesit? Top Tips to Get Started

My name is James, and I housesit full-time along with my partner Jemma. Currently I’m into my fourth housesit in France, having housesat across Portugal and the UK as well. 

For me it’s the perfect way to travel: it’s cheaper than an apartment and much more relaxing than a hostel or hotel. It also usually involves some pet care (we’ve looked after cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, turtles and alpacas) which is a real bonus: both Jemma and I love pets so dog walking and alpaca herding never feel like a chore.

Getting started is the hardest part. When I first began house sitting there was very little real information of how to go about applying for housesits and what homeowners were looking for. Trial, error and lots of persistence was the only way forward. You can imagine how happy I was when Trusted Housesitters ran a survey of all its members and handed me all of this information about what homeowners look for when choosing a sitter and what some of the “most successful” sitters are doing to get all of the top housesits. 

James and Jemma house and pet sitting!

Here’s a few of the nuggets I gleaned...

Start Locally
It’s very interesting to look at the differences between those who’ve been unsuccessful in getting any housesits and those who’ve done quite well for themselves; say 6-10 housesits. The figure that stuck out to me was that for 60% of those people with 6-10 housesits, the first housesit they took on was national, not international. So while you obviously want to look after chalets in Switzerland and beach houses in the Caribbean, the evidence suggests you’re better of applying for those nearby – and getting a bit of experience – first.

I experienced this when I first signed up with Trusted Housesitters. I was browsing through the latest house sitting jobs and noticed one just down the road from me in Edinburgh where I was living at the time. Even though I already lived in Edinburgh, and the housesit was actually a little out of my way, I took it on. It got me one of my first references on my profile, some really great experience in pet sitting and, rather unexpectedly, I got to see another side to Edinburgh by living in a new part of the city.

James and his alpaca friend!

What Does Your Profile Say About You?
House sitting is all about trust and unsurprisingly, those who were offered more housesits had more trustworthy features on their profile. For every trustworthy feature (references, photos, police background checks etc) there’s a jump in “successfulness”, often by as much as 25%.

Tip: You don’t just need to add house sitting references to your profile. If you’re starting out you can add character, landlord and employment references. If you’ve housesat for friends and family (and it’s really recommended that you do) you can also get a pet sitting reference that way. Police background checks are really easy to obtain too - most countries enable you to apply for one online for about $10 or it’s as simple as popping into your local station to register for the information.

Top Tips from a House Sitting Pro
Angela Laws has been house sitting for more than five years, as well as taking on house sitters for her own home in Canada. Some of the assignments she’s picked up recently are enviable to say the least: townhouses in London, mansion apartments in NYC and beach houses in California.

As with any “job” application, Angela says to read it thoroughly and get a grasp of what the home/pet owners are looking for. “I’ve had pet owners tell me that they get applicants who never even mention the animals”, she said when I asked her what her ‘secret’ was. A home owner and former pet owner herself, Angela’s real ‘secret’ is empathising with homeowners: she’s able to make a connection and has a genuine care for other people’s home and pets.

So there you have it, three tips to get you on the right track:
  1.       Start Locally – Build up your experience by taking on housesits nearby
  2.       Get References
  3.        Read the description thoroughly and make sure your application reflects what the homeowner is looking for.
In part two Rachel Martin, director of Trusted Housesitters, shares a few of the things she’s noticed and recommends. 

11 comments:

  1. What an interesting post. I knew nothing about any of this. Great job!

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  2. yep nice post and maybe very useful in the future for us...

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    1. I had a second thought that us bloggers might have a leg up on the trust scale since a possible client can read everything we have done for the past couple of years...

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    2. You are quite right heyduke50. Each time we have housesat we have been written about our daily experiences in our blog plus they can see what type of people we are just by following along on our adventures.

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  3. Great information . . . we live out in the country and find it difficult to find house sitters . . . I'll check out the site! Thanks

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    1. Definitely give it a try. There are lots of people out there that want the peace and quiet of the country and enjoy doing outdoor activities or just relaxing and looking at the nature around them.

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  4. butterbean carpenterFebruary 5, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Howdy R&K,
    I'll never get to use it, but this was great advice for someone who's going to want to house-sit, thank you!!! Y'all are always trying to assist people in the most unusual ways; y'all are cooool !!
    Ruth, we picked up off of another blog about your dad's surgery and put him on our 'hurry-up & get well' prayer-list; he can do it if anyone can!!! Y'all sure cheered him up this last summer!!!

    Hope your travels are all on sunny days, now!!! Go hike a mountain for me!!!!

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    1. Thank you very much for thinking of my Dad. His operation went well and he should be home by now. We will be calling him shortly. They had him up on his feet the very next day and other than some pain he said he felt good. It takes a lot to keep him down so I am sure that he will be back to normal quickly. I just hope he doesn't overdo himself.

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  5. Hi Kevin & Ruth,

    Thanks for your brilliant blog. I've just signed up (with a big discount thanks to you!) to find assignments via Trusted Housesitters. I have decided to go further than the 'here and there' jobs and look for a long term of housesitting. I'm excited/nervous, to let go in such a way and hope that one house will link neatly on to the next. I'm following your blog now. I just wanted you to know how grateful I am.
    India

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    1. So glad that this post has helped you! We think that housesitting is a great way to travel, explore and especially to meet more locals in the area. Happy that you are taking that big step, I am sure you will love it!

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