So, you want to become a credible, sought after house sitter and you're all geared up and ready to get started. But... all you keep hearing about is how you need references and practical house sitting experience.
Don't let this put you off!
With a little bit of effort, you can raise your house sitting credibility to a level that will help you become a house sitter and secure more house sits, more often. The suggestions in this article will help you become highly recommended time and time again.
It's like most jobs (and let's be clear, house sitting is a job, albeit a very nice job), you need to show that you can do what's being asked of you. For international house sitting, it can be more difficult as there's an exchange of trust that doesn't usually involve any remuneration.
You'll be looking after someone's most precious possessions, their homes and pets. Home owners will want reassurance that you are trustworthy, reliable, honest, love animals and won't trash their house or leave them in the lurch at the last minute.
And this is all totally understandable.
What makes a good house sitter?
So how do you get over this initial hurdle and raise the bar as far as credibility is concerned? Well, one of the most important things is to know what will make you a great house sitter, and take that on board from the moment you begin house sitting.
Remember, we all started out the same way!
When we first got into house sitting four years ago, we didn't have any house sit cred either! But we knew our strengths. We were reliable, competent homeowners, well traveled, experienced with pets, but we knew too that we had to find a way to convince the home owners of our credibility - show that we were up there with the best of the other applicants.
We looked at the problem in the same way we'd marketed products in our prior businesses. The main difference being that we were now the product!
How could we sell ourselves, our relevant skill-sets, and our personas, and how would that benefit and provide service to the home owner and their pets?
Our life experiences had shown us that to be genuine and honest was far better than the bullshit approach!
We figured that if we focused on this with full transparency, while expelling all the doubts a home-owner might have, someone would give us a try. After all, we knew others that had been in the same boat and succeeded.
Getting started as a house sitter requires research, input and effort
Simply sitting back with the hope that eventually our ideal house sit would fall in our laps wasn't the way forward to achieve any measurable success. We treated the whole process like a change of career (which it was), and acted accordingly.
It was a lovely discovery to find home owners warmed to our openness. It also wasn't long before we were on our way with our first sits booked and a set of great 5 star house sitting references to reassure anyone we were applying to.
To help build your house sitting credibility we will cover:
- How to get your first house sitting reviews
- Using skill sets to generate references
- Who to ask - Our reference checklist
- The benefits of creating your own personal house sitting website
- What if I'm new to house sitting platforms?
- How important are ID & security checks?
1. How to get your first house sit reviews
We knew that a strong profile and good house sitting references would help us to get started as sitters, so before registering on any platforms, we took a few pro-active measures:
Offer to sit for friends and family - We suggested to friends with pets that they might like a weekend away. We were happy to pet sit for them, in return for a house sit review. Two of our friends took us up on this almost immediately. We enjoyed a couple of long weekends away, and received two genuine house sitting references on completion. We also discovered we did actually enjoy the process of living in someone else's house, following their routines.
Use your Airbnb or other reviews - We use Airbnb a lot, so we set about creating a word document with all our great reviews from hosts. Ian had done a lot of couch surfing too during his "100 Goals in a 100 Weeks" challenge, and we added in these reviews too. This all helped demonstrate that we were clean, tidy, and respectful of other people's space. There were quite often character appraisals as well. We don't use these any longer, as they aren't necessary, but they were a great way to add to our credibility initially.
Get character references - We also asked a couple of long standing friends with pets, if they would give us a character reference. A couple is enough - we think it could be seen as overkill to start out by bombarding a home owner with too many references that aren't about actual house sits. We did however make sure that 2 of our references would happily talk on the phone or by email to provide more information if necessary.
Build a personal house sitter website - Finally we turned our attention to creating both our own personal house sitting website (more on that below), and our house sitting profile, which we duplicated on four different house sitting platforms - TrustedHousesitters, HouseCarers, HouseSitMatch and HouseSittersUK.
Create Facebook & Instagram pages - This is up to you and will depend on how transparent you like to be. Facebook pages are popular now to share to your Facebook friendly homeowners. We set up both so that we could share our lifestyle and be totally transparent online.
Make a house sit video - We also created a video so home owners could get a better "feel" for us as people.
2. Using skill-sets to generate house sit references
You know, the great thing is that most of us already have skills that are relevant to house sitting.
We’ve all lived in homes, cleaned up after ourselves, rented, owned or perhaps even managed rental properties, watered house plants, looked after the garden, done some basic DIY, or fed the neighbour’s cat while they were away.
Many of us grew up with pets and already have the common sense animal care knowledge that can be applied to a high percentage of straight forward house sits.
Think back over your life – you’ll possibly be able to identify quite a few skills that can be incorporated into your profile. Some of these might also enable you to ask for a relevant reference.
If you helped out at the local dog rescue centre, for instance, this could be a good place to ask someone to vouch for your temperament around animals.
3. Who to ask – Our house sitting reference checklist
- Family and friends who you’ve unofficially house sat for in the past – Many of us have actually already house or pet sat for family and friends, and what better place to start than here for relevant references!
- Family, friends, neighbours – maybe you’ve baby sat, watered plants, checked the property during vacations, helped with neigbourhood watch schemes, volunteered in the community, walked a friend’s dog…
- Landlords, Holiday Rental Agencies, Airbnb or Couchsurfing Hosts – If you’ve rented a property in any of these situations, you could ask for a reference. Make sure the landlord or host talks about your reliability, how well you cared for the property, and whether you were able to deal with simple DIY issues yourself.
- Employers and colleagues – Useful for character references that demonstrate trustworthiness. If you are a professional, or had a past professional career such as doctor, lawyer, teacher, vet etc., remember to feature this in your profile and get a colleague to mention this too in their reference. Or if you’ve worked in law enforcement, security, military, or a service industry, this could be very relevant as well. Your colleagues or boss might also be good people to offer your house sitting services in return for references!
- Teachers and professors – For younger house sitters, your tutors might be a good source of a character references. They can talk about your ability to learn new skills, or verify any outstanding accomplishments.
- Vets, Animal Rescue Centres, Pet Trainers – If you’ve owned a pet the chances are you have built a relationship with your local vet – this is another good source of a pet related reference.
4. The benefits of creating your own personal house sitting website
Is it really necessary to have your own personal house sitting website?
In all honesty it isn’t, but something I’ve learned after 15 years of owning a business, is that a little bit of extra effort really does go a long way. A bit of a cliché I know, but one I totally believe in.
We wanted to maximize our chances of success. After all, house sitting was to become our full-time way of life. We’d sold both our houses, and this was now the new focus in our lives. So taking the time to create a website, and a Facebook Page was an important part of our overall process. And it’s paid off time and time again. We’ve been told on numerous occasions that we were picked because of the professionalism of our website.
So no, it’s not a requirement. If you don’t have the skills or ability to create a stand-out website, then don’t worry about this at the outset. Concentrate instead on making your house sitter profile the best it can be.
But, if creating a website is something you’d like to learn more about, take a look at:
One of the biggest benefits of having a website, is that you can put ALL our house sitting references in one place. So, if you are members of several house sitting sites, it won’t matter. Your references page can also be formatted however you like – we like to put individual images that relate to each house sit.
Take a look at our website – LongTermHouseSitters
5. What if I’m new to house sitting platforms?
Well, this will depend on the house sitting website you use. Some allow you to attach a document which can contain cut and pasted copies of all your references, from all of the sites you’ve used. Others only allow references to be requested from home owners after a completed house sit on that particular platform.
Be creative and think outside the box
When we put more focus on using TrustedHousesitters as our primary house sitting platform, this is what we did:
- We included a number of our best references at the end of our profile. We’ve since seen people but a quote from a reference at the top of their profile, which is an equally good idea.
- In our application message, we told the home owner that we were new to this particular house sitting platform. We explained that not all our references would be displayed. Instead we provided a link to the “references” page of our personal website.
- We reassured home owners that there were a couple of people we could put them in touch with. They could be contacted by email or phone to verify the credibility of our profile.
- We created a video to “show” better our personalities.
- If we were in the same country and close enough, we offered to visit, and if not we always offered to talk via Skype.
On TrustedHousesitters you can request additional character references or reviews via the dashboard options. But, as mentioned earlier, it’s probably best not to go overboard with these – try instead to get some genuine pet sitting references.
Take the time to really understand how each platform works
- What are the maximum number of pictures that can be uploaded? (put as many as possible)
- Can you upload an external PDF or word document? (this can contain all your reviews)
- Can you put a link to an external website or Facebook Page?
- Is it possible to request references from home owners on other platforms?
- What happens to my references if I let my subscription slide? On Nomador for instance, you’ll always have access to your references*.
* The new May 2018 GDPR privacy rules may affect how your personal info is kept and for how long – we will be asking the platforms about this and will update this article as they respond.
6. How important are ID & security checks?
More recently the best international house sitting sites, have begun to offer ID, police checks, or both. Sometimes these are chargeable, sometimes not.
The latest website to offer this service is HouseSitMatch. They have introduced FREE ID checks for all registered members, including home owners, through HOOYU.
We would suggest you complete any simple ID checks available. If you want a police check in your home country you’ll probably find you have to renew it each year. If like us you are fully nomadic, this is a more difficult process. Subsequently, we’ve never gone down this route, and to date it hasn’t affected our ability to get sits!
Criminal record checks aren’t mandatory for house sitting, but for some home owners it adds another level of reassurance – I would suggest this is a small percentage though from what I’ve seen on the platforms over the past 5 years.
Hopefully this guide will have given you plenty to think about. If you follow our tips, it shouldn’t be long before you have some good references or reviews under your belt.
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Last updated on August 12th, 2019