We get a lot of questions about starting out as house sitters in our House Sitting Magazine Facebook Group, but we had a new topic this month. Surprising really, as it’s a very sensible question.
A member had quick success in securing their first house sitting assignment on one of the house sitting platforms, but had a moment of mild panic, wondering “What happens Next”. The question was quickly echoed by a number of other members who had all successfully gotten their first house sitting jobs, and were also questioning, “What do I do now?”
You may be surprised to discover there’s a lot more to your first house sitting job than just a quick, “Thanks for selecting me and I’ll see you next month!”
So, here are our top 12 suggestions for what to do to when you get your first house sitting job to make sure it goes to plan without any hiccups:
1. Congratulate yourself for getting your first house sitting job!
Woohoo! You did it! Contrary to everyone telling you how much competition there is for first house sits, you got yourself selected! Take a moment to congratulate yourself. All that hard work, researching the best house sitting sites, writing profiles, creating appealing photos, and sending in applications, has paid off.
Your house sitting adventures have begun!
2. Get all the contact details you can
Many house sitting platforms use messenger systems. These are great for keeping all your house sit correspondence in one place, but if the system is down, the home owner forgets to renew, or you have no internet for whatever reason, it’s important to have another way to make contact with the home owner.
Ask for an alternative method of contact. This could be an email, telephone number, WhatsApp, or Skype address. A telephone or cell/mobile number will ensure you can call / chat, or at least leave a message when you arrive at your house sit destination.
3. Arrange Skype chats or other interviews (if not already done)
Sometimes you’ll find home owners will accept you without anything more than your initial email or message application. Whilst that’s very flattering, we think it’s extremely important to have some form of spoken dialogue to ensure expectations are being met, and more importantly that you have all the correct details about the location, the dates, the handover, the pets, and the duties involved.
This is where your interview questions will come in handy. You can email us if you’d like a copy of our comprehensive list.
You’ll also find some useful pointers on this topics of meeting expectations on this popular article:
4. Send an email confirming all of the most important details
We always send a confirmation email and have a template that includes the following important details:
- Date of Arrival
- Date of Departure
- Full address
- Telephone – landline and mobile (cell)
- Length of Handover Required
- Pets with names and ages
- Pet medications or ongoing medical issues that may run into the sit dates
- Specific duties (like pool maintenance, gardening, solar, off-grid etc)
- Car details (do you need to take them to the airport, or collect at end of sit?)
- Staff Management (housekeeper, gardener and days/times they will be present)
These are all things we will have discussed before confirming the sit.
Get the home owner to check the details and confirm back that everything is correct. A couple of times we’ve had small date changes as the home owner has noticed they’ve incorrectly listed the start date (forgetting the handover period). It’s a good habit to adopt.
This confirmation also ensures that there has been no misunderstandings from the Skype or other chat.
5. Make your house sitting travel arrangements
Once everything is confirmed for your house sit job, you can start to research and organize your travel arrangements. If you are well organized, you’ll already have looked into the costs of getting to your destination, as these will probably have influenced your decision of whether to take the house sit.
Now you can start to firm up on arrangements of flights, visas, transfers etc.
Remember that some smaller countries don’t have such full flight schedules as others, and this could affect the date you arrive. You might need to arrange first night accommodation, or negotiate an extra night with the home owners.
We quite like a night in an Airbnb if we are traveling long haul, as it gives us time to relax and get a good night’s sleep before getting involved with the house sitting handover.
6. Send flight confirmations (if applicable)
Sending copies of your flight confirmation will serve a couple of purposes. Firstly it reassures the home owners that you are actually going to arrive. There’s sometimes concern when selecting house sitters from across the world, Aussies to the USA for example, that they will actually make the commitment.
Secondly, it shows the home owner that you’ve made a financial commitment to the house sitting exchange. Most home owners would feel uncomfortable about making changes or even cancelling a sit when they can see how much you’ve invested in flights and travel.
This works both ways too, and we’ve often found that sending our confirmation prompts the home owner to send us a copy of their flight details too!
7. Does the house sit include a car?
If a car is being provided, you’ll need to check in advance that your standard driving licence is sufficient. You may need an international driver’s license, or you may have to register once arriving in the country.
For instance, we had to get a special temporary licence in Barbados and on our day of arrival, it was in fact a country-wide holiday. This impacted our ability to take the home owners to the airport. These are all things to be considered.
You’ll also need to look into insurance – something else you’ll want to organise before arrival if possible, not just as the home owners are leaving for their vacation!
8. Ask to see a copy of the “Home Book”
If your sit is with TrustedHousesitters, you are now able to request a “welcome guide” from the home owners. Not all members use this as some have their own version which they can send you by email, or it will be printed out for your arrival.
If you can get a copy by email in advance, it’s very helpful to check through and can avoid surprises on arrival. It also helps make the handover less stressful for everyone if you’ve already understood a lot of what’s involved.
If the home owner is new to house sitting and doesn’t have a house sitter guide then you could suggest sending them a questionnaire of your own that they can fill in before the sit begins. This would include information about the pets’ routines, emergency contacts, and so on. Again if a lot of the detail is handled before the handover, it makes the leaving time less busy for the home owner, and you have less to try and take in over a short time frame.
9. House sitting agreements
We don’t personally use a house sitting agreement, but if you want to, this is a good time to put this in place with all the agreed terms. You’ll find most of the best international house sitting platforms have a downloadable agreement that you can use or adapt.
If you want to know more about house sitting agreements and whether to use them of not, click here to read our article – Do I Need a House Sitting Agreement – it provides advice from some of the major house sitting platforms.
10. Research the location
We always research the area, checking Google Maps and Maps.Me (for off-line maps) to see what’s close by the property. Ian loves Maps.me as he finds more detail often that on Google Maps, and it has the ability for him to update it with newly discovered walking trails, or sights not listed elsewhere.
We check maps for remoteness, access to public transport, supermarkets, local sight-seeing etc.
This is another reason why it’s good to have the accurate address. You can check out options for getting to and from the airport if the home owner isn’t providing, or can’t provide that service.
11. Prepare your questions for the handover
Put together a checklist for the handover so that everything you need to know is covered. Give this some thought before you arrive. Take into consideration your location and accessibility to shops and services, the pets, your house sit duties etc.
12. Stay in touch
Maintain a dialogue with the home owners up to the sit. If a sit is in 6 months send an email every 2 months. ALWAYS make contact at least a month before to ensure everything is still on track. If you won’t be booking flights or other travel until closer the date, check in first. You don’t want to purchase tickets, only to find the home owner has changed the dates!
If you keep track of all of these issues you should find yourself having a problem free house sit and you’ll be looking forward to finding sit number 2.
Have we missed anything?
Is there anything you’d do differently for your first house sit?