The Ultimate Guide to House Sitting Jobs: Part 3 | Searching, Applying, & Getting a Great One!
If you’re looking to house sit full time, occasionally, or just want to try it out for the first time, being able to find a great house sitting job is important. Having completed 40 house sitting jobs we’ve perfected our methods through many ‘lessons learned’ and are sharing our tips and tricks to find a great house sit, apply for it, and get it!
Our goal is to have this article be the ultimate house sitting guide and in it we’ll share our secrets, including how to house sit for beginners, the not so glamorous side of house sitting jobs, and how to score the best house sitting jobs among high competition! To fit in so much information we’ve made it a multi-part series, so don’t miss any of it!
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Once you’ve signed up for a house sitting website, created a fantastic house sitter profile, completed security verifications, and uploaded references and reviews, you’re ready to find your ‘perfect’ house sit!
Searching for House Sitting Jobs
While you can wait for a homeowner to use the house sitting website’s search option and hope you come up in their searches, you probably won’t get very far, very fast.
Generally, the house sitting community works by homeowners creating a listing with the details of what they’re looking for and sitters taking the initiative to search and apply for house sitting jobs.
Apply For Everything and Accept Anything?
If you’re new to house sitting and you have the feeling that you need to apply for everything you see, set that need aside for the moment.
Even if you have zero house sitting experience, don’t sell yourself short! You know what skills you have to offer and what tasks and responsibilities you’re comfortable taking on.
Establish a ‘minimum viable house sit’ baseline and be confident in yourself. Meaning, don’t bend your morals, don’t commit to do more than you can, don’t do without amenities you deem as ‘must-haves’, and don’t spend more than you’ve budgeted on travel costs.
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Finding a Great House Sit Checklist
As you obtain more experience from previous house sits, you’ll come up with your own ‘Finding a Great House Sit Checklist’, but in the meantime, here are our suggestions of what you want may want to consider before applying.
Some house sits come with a large list of responsibilities (think a farm or a bed and breakfast) while others are minimal. Before applying, be sure you can reasonably complete the tasks as outlined and don’t over commit yourself.
It’s helpful to understand the amount of time you’ll be spending caring for the home and pets, and how this will or will not interfere with your sightseeing plans. If you’re unsure about something in the listing, don’t assume and contact the homeowner before you commit.
Consider all your methods of travel, from flights and trains, to ferries and buses. We use Rome2Rio for a quick list of options available to get from point A to point B. Be sure to consider dollar costs, or point/mile and tax costs if you’re traveling using awards.
Also, don’t forget that your travel needs don’t end once you arrive, you’ll still need to get around the city. So, calculate public transportation, rental car, Uber/Lyft, and/or gasoline costs as well.
Cost of Living
Prices for groceries, restaurants, gasoline, and general living can vary dramatically from city to city. Before applying for a house sit, you’ll want to be sure you can afford food and other necessities.
When we’re considering a house sit we keep in mind the overall time it’ll take get there.
So for example, don’t overlook the length of your flight and layovers, the number of train connections, or if you also need to take a bus to your final destination.
House Sit Dates
It seems obvious to only apply to a house sitting job with dates that fit into your schedule, but it can be easy to overlook logistics and timing.
If you’re house sitting full time then you’ll want to be sure that you have sufficient time between house sits to travel, arrive, and complete a proper handover with each homeowner. Try to avoid scheduling things too close, as travel often comes with delays that you can’t avoid.
Tip: If you’re house sitting as a couple, you can always split up to start/end house sitting jobs separately. Just be sure to get the approval from homeowners ahead of time.
A possible house sit may look perfect, but it’s easy to forget about seasonal weather.
Before applying, be sure to check the weather averages for the time of year you’ll be sitting. Consider temperatures, snow, rain, wind, and humidity. In addition, while it’s not quite weather, we always consider the amount of daylight that we’ll have while visiting.
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for homeowners to go on vacation when weather in their home city isn’t ideal. We’ve noticed that winter months are popular for house sitting jobs in areas that experience extreme cold and snow, while summer months are popular for listing homes in areas with extreme heat and high humidity.
Availability of Goods
This isn’t usually a concern in developed countries or large metropolises but if you’re off the beaten path or in a less developed country, you may find it difficult or very expensive to buy something specific. For example, depending on the country, we’ve had difficulty locating US size 14-15 shoes, affordable sun block, or xylitol.
Before committing to a house sit, you’ll want to be sure that your preferred amenities are within reach.
Consider where grocery stores, cafes, and shopping centers are in relation to the home. In addition, if you’re walking you’ll want to be sure that walking paths and sidewalks are adequate and safe (we use Google’s Street View).
Tip: Some homeowners will list their location as being in a large and popular city even though they live in a nearby suburb. We mitigate surprises and long commutes to city centers by asking ahead of time for their neighborhood or nearby cross streets.
What to Look for in a Great House Sit Listing
Occasionally we find ‘hidden-gem’ house sits, meaning we weren’t sure about them from the listing but after conversations we were excited about the opportunity. But more often than not, we can tell right up front if a house sit is something we want to pursue or not.
We’ve learned over time to look for a few key indicators within a house sitting job listing.
Plenty of Pictures
There’s a reason they say a picture is worth a thousand words!
For us, it’s ideal to not only have images of the pets we’ll be caring for, but also of our surroundings. Like the garden, living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc. This gives us insights into where and how we’ll be living.
For example, we’ve arrived to a home to find that they weren’t currently using chairs because they were trying out a lifestyle of sitting on the floor (or cushions on a pallet). The location and friendly homeowners made up for this downside, but it did mean we were sitting on cushioned pallets for a week.
We highly recommend looking at images closely. A house sitting job not having something may be an inconvenience or it could be a show stopper. Things you may want to look for:
How large are the pets and can you handle them?
How much grooming might the pets need?
Is there a television?
Is there a desk or adequate workspace? As digital nomads this is important to us. As a couple, we like to work side by side (yes, we’re that couple!) and look for a dinning table.
What size is the bed? Is it a mattress or a futon?
Does the space look well cared for? Tidy?
Ceiling height? We’ve turned down opportunities because Sergio is too tall!
How many live plants are there?
How big is the lawn that may need care?
It’s All in the Details
We’re as transparent through the house sitting process as possible and therefore hope the same of the homeowners. The first sign of this, and the homeowners personality and expectations are in the details (or lack there of) in the listing.
We appreciate a well thought out listing that gives us clear details on the homeowner, the home, the location, the pets, and the responsibilities. Our favorite listings will have things like:
Location down to the neighborhood, nearby park, or cross-streets.
An introduction to who the homeowner is. It’s not a dating profile, but we do like to have a sense of who we’ll be house sitting for.
The number of pets, breeds, names, and ages.
Clear responsibilities. For example, not just walking the dog but for how long and how often. And not just watering plants, but how many and how often.
Actual internet speeds, not just a general ‘basic’ or ‘high-speed’ label.
Amenities. For example, is there a washer and dryer or a microwave?
Look for themes. Pay attention to things that seem to be mentioned again and again.
Personality. How a listing is presented often showcases a homeowner’s personality.
On the other hand, you may consider listings that are very structured and regimented to be a red flag. We’ve shied away from listings that list dozens of specific responsibilities and/or request a schedule down to the half-hour be followed.
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Previous House Sitter Reviews
If a listing shows previous sitters, we pay close attention because there are a few scenarios we see occur.
Sitters Don’t Leave a Review
Unfortunately, not everyone leaves a review and this is just how it goes. However, if there has been several previous sitters and all or most of them don’t leave a review, that could be a red flag.
The Stars Don’t Match What’s Written
We’ve seen reviews that leave 4 out of 5 stars, but then have only positive things to say. This often makes us scratch our heads.
We’ve also seen the reverse, 5 star reviews that list several things that didn’t go well or as expected. This again could be a red flag.
What’s Written is Important
The most common type of reviews we run across are 5 stars and all positive. Many reviews will be a short statement of how great the homeowner(s), home, location, and pet(s) were. Others will be longer and possibly a wealth of information.
With a careful read (and of course experience) we can often take away clues that help us decide if it’s a good fit for us or not. Most often what’s written in the review is straight forward, but other times it’s a matter of reading between the lines. For example:
Mentioning that a pet was a bit anxious and always at their side could have been something endearing they wanted to convey. Or it could have been a way of gently pointing out the frustration of constantly tripping over them or having them on kitchen counters, tables, laptops while working, cooking, etc.
A sentence about how the pet was incontinent or vomited often but that pee pads and cleaning supplies made it not a big deal, may just be a way of mentioning something that was a surprise to them and in fact was a big deal.
A comment on how great the neighbors were and how they helpfully checked in on them several times during the sit could be an alert to noisy or over protective neighbors.
With that said, of course sometimes what is written means exactly what it says!
Notice an Overarching Theme?
Everything we look for has a common thread, and that’s detail and effort put into a listing.
We take house sitting seriously, therefore we’re a good fit for homeowners who not only appreciate that but also take the time and effort to do the same. This is usually clear from their listing.
We also recognize that this is our style and may not be others.
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Sometimes Imperfect is Perfect!
We could spend countless amounts of time searching for the absolute ‘perfect’ house sit and never find it. We caution that it’s possible to fall into analysis paralysis and simply over think it to the point that you never actually apply to a house sitting job. In these moments we fall back to the Pareto Principal.
We’ve had many, many amazing house sits but none were ever perfect right out of the gate. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve had a few less than ideal house sits, and one that in hindsight we wouldn’t do again.
The fundamental reason we have a process for finding house sitting jobs at all is to filter out the (for us) less than ideal house sits. We attribute our thorough process to be a key factor as to why we’ve had so few poor house sitting experiences.
Questions to Ask Homeowner(s)
The ideal house sit listing is chock-full of information and pictures from the homeowner. However, even a detailed listing may not necessarily have all of the information you need to make an informed decision on committing (or not) to a house sit.
After applying for a house sit and starting a conversation, it’s wise to ask questions that’ll give you an even better sense of the homeowner, their pets, their home, and expected responsibilities.
Knowing What to Ask
Knowing what questions to ask before you commit to a sit takes forethought. However, nothing is going to make up for good old-fashioned experience!
As with most things, after each house sit we complete, we do a ‘lessons learned’ session and review the positives and negatives of the experience. From these conversations, we’ve developed a comprehensive list of questions we ask each homeowner before we commit to sitting for them.
Naturally, over time you’ll do the same, but for now, here are some examples to get you started!
What’s the personality of your pets? Do they do well with other dogs, adults, and children?
What’s the feeding routine of your pets?
Are there plants (indoor or outdoor) that need watering?
Does your home have _______ amenity?
Are there medical concerns to be aware of, or medications that will need to given to your pets?
Would you please clarify _______ (insert point(s) that needs clarifying from their listing)?
Would you please provide additional pictures of your home or pets (if there weren’t sufficient in the listing)?
Tip: We prefer to ask these questions in written form as we can always refer back to the answers later if needed for clarification. There’s still a benefit to doing a video chat though! It’s a great way to get to know the homeowner’s demeanor, and them get to know yours.
How To Apply for a House Sitting Job
Once you’ve found a great house sit, it’s time to apply!
Our first application was a nerve wrecking experience indeed, but once we clicked apply, we made peace and understood that it was no longer up to us!
Tip: We weren’t invited to house sit on our first, second, err… fourth application. It took refinement of our application and determination. Eventually we started a conversation with a homeowner and ultimately they extended an offer for us to sit for them. If you don’t get your first house sit, or even hear back from the homeowner, don’t worry, it’s common! Take it from us, even with 40 house sitting jobs under our belts, we’re still turned down and sometimes, don’t even get a response!
Moral of the story? Don’t feel defeated, keep searching and keep applying!
A Couple of Things to Keep in Mind When Applying for House Sitting Jobs
First, remember that every house sit listing is public and accessible to hundreds or thousands of sitters. So, when you’ve found that ‘perfect’ house sit, there are almost certainly many other sitters who have, or soon will see the same listing and love it too. The sooner you apply, the closer to the top of the ‘stack’ your application will be.
Second, every time you apply for a house sit, you have an opportunity to make a great first impression. Think of your initial message to the homeowner as your cover letter when applying for a job. It’s the first thing the homeowner will see and it can make or break your chances.
How to Write a House Sitting Application That Stands Out
Don’t copy and paste the same generic application letter for every listing.
Switch shoes for a moment and write your application message from a homeowner’s perspective. What would make you feel confident that a sitter was a good fit for your home and pet(s)?
Personalize your message by using their name and the name of their pet(s).
Introduce yourself and convey through your writing that you’re professional, responsible, and kind.
Make an effort to connect with the homeowner.
Let the homeowner know that you’ve read the entire listing by referencing details from their listing in your application letter.
If they ask for specific requirements in their listing, let them know you can perform them.
If applicable, reference previous experience that makes you qualified to house sit for them.
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Our ideal house sitting job probably isn’t going to be yours. For the same reason, not all house sits are a great match to every sitter. Be wise, take inventory of what experience you want to have, submit an application with consideration and thought, and most importantly have fun.
House sitting is an adventure that opens the doors to amazing experiences and great new friends (furry and human)!