My husband and I retired back in 2009, and since we live in Victoria, Canada we spent most of our winters traveling while our son and his wife took care of our home.
Then it happened. In 2013, just as we were scheduled to leave for six months to Southeast Asia, our son and his family relocated to Alberta, and suddenly we had no one to look after our property and possessions.
Not willing to give up our semi-nomadic existence, we searched for an alternative.
We checked with friends to see if they knew of anyone – they didn’t. Next, we asked neighbours who traveled, who said they left their homes empty and paid someone to check them, but they had no pets or plants.
Finally, we checked the internet and discovered the house sitting network and learned how to find house sitters online. We signed up with TrustedHousesitters and have been inviting sitters in to look after our home ever since.
Why not house sit too?
During our research, we were amazed at all the house sitting opportunities around the world and since we had a long backpacking trip ahead of us, we thought perhaps we should check them out.
By the time we boarded our flight to Thailand, we had our own sitter arranged as well three separate short sits lined up for ourselves in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Chiang Mai.
Our house sitter selection process
Everyone has their own way to find house sitters, but as we sit on both sides of the fence, we have an appreciation not only for the homeowners’ needs but the sitters’ as well. We know that experienced sitters can be booked for house sitting vacancies quite far in advance, so we try to get our sits advertised as early as possible.
Once we know our dates, we update our house sit profile with current photos of our home and a description of the area and its amenities.
We include exactly what we are offering, what the sitters’ responsibilities will be and what our expectations are. After numerous sits, we have now anticipated many queries and answer them at the outset in our profile.
We then post our house sit dates, and since we live in a fairly desirable city with few responsibilities for our home, we tend to get 25 to 40 applicants. Although most of our sits are three to six months long, so that does thin things out a bit.
As we receive applications, our inbox fills up in the order people apply and we usually allow two days before changing our status to “reviewing applicants”.
Meanwhile, we read all the intro letters and prioritize them with the tags available on our house sitting platform.
We don’t worry too much about the order applications come in since we don’t get hundreds, but if we did, we would set a cut-off number. So if you’re interested and willing to commit, don’t delay in applying.
Send us more than just a link to your house sit profile!
The intro letter carries a fair bit of weight with us. We want to know enough about you (what you have to offer and why you’re interested in sitting), to carry on and look at your profile. This doesn’t have to be lengthy, a few paragraphs is perfect, but just putting “see my profile” is a big negative for us.
Another negative is to ask a lot of questions in your letter.
Unless we have left out some key information in our listing, save your questions until you make it a little further along in the selection process.
If the intro letter seems like we may be a good match, we will follow the link to your profile.
The quality of your profile is important
To be seriously considered as a house sitting candidate, you should put some effort into building your profile. There should be no blanks here – your photos section should be full, you should have a video, references and a good description of your skills and experience.
Though it may sound like we only choose experienced sitters, we consider anyone who has a full profile right from the start.
Taking time to write a good profile and choose a few photos really shows you are committed. Profiles will fill out over time and references will grow, but always start with as much as you can pull together. For example, in the beginning, references can come from friends or employers.
Ongoing communication with house sitters is important
We send updates, via group emails, to everyone throughout the house sitting selection process.
Once we have prioritized our candidates, we send out two separate emails, one to our top two or three applicants letting them know they are being considered and that we would like to interview them further, and another to everyone letting them know we are reviewing applications.
It doesn’t take much to have those two or three top applicants disappear – some may withdraw, some won’t answer, or some may not suit – then we have to go back to our original list.
We have learned to move this process along quickly, taking only a day or so to contact our short list, ask and answer any questions, set up a Skype interview, then check references and make the final commitment.
At this point, we let all the applicants know we have selected a sitter and thank them for applying.
A good Skype interview with our top candidates is important for asking and answering questions, doing a quick tour of our home and requesting references.
We know from experience that many sitters are juggling multiple applications, so if you take an extra day to choose, you may lose your top sitter to someone else!
What we do after we’ve selected a house sitter
Once we have selected a sitter, we send them our house manual and maintain periodic communications until the sit, as we want the sitters to be comfortable with us before they arrive and feel free to ask any questions.
The most important things for us when you sit at our home is that you keep us informed of any developments, let us know if you would like guests to stay over, when there is a delivery, if there is a problem, etc.
We also want to receive our house in the same condition we turned it over – we don’t want it redecorated, or rearranged (both have been done!). We like it the way it is, so feel free to take photos that will help you remember in six months how it looked.
House sitters should know that homeowners are going through the same process they are. Offering, vetting, prioritizing and ultimately deciding on a sitter can be stressful; we too have to trust our instincts and go forward with optimism!
Listen to your heart
House sitting has given us some fabulous experiences, a true taste of life in whatever community we are visiting, along with some great attachments formed – both furry and human!
Having a home base has given us the best of both worlds – travel and a stable community. A good balance for us so far, but we always knew that if we ever came home and didn’t feel excited, then it was time for a change.
That feeling happened after two great sits in the Caribbean this summer. So this year we will downsize, letting go of our home base so we are free to house sit and travel full-time.
Louise Vachon and her husband Martin are from Victoria, Canada. They retired young to spend more time traveling after full careers in the Canadian Military.
They love the sense of community, and the delight of animal companions that house sitting offers. Having now enjoyed a travel and part time house sitting lifestyle for over nine years, they are currently working on letting go of their home base, and becoming full time travelers and house sitters.
To share their adventures they are working on building a new website: WeSitAround.com
You can also find them on Facebook