The Ay! BE's and See's of Housesitting.
Honesty is the best policy.
Ay! Always ask questions! Yes you will be living in someone else’s home for free, but remember you are providing a service. It’s an exchange, the homeowner isn’t doing you any special favors. It isn’t unreasonable to ask what size bed you’ll be sleeping in, what the neighborhood and neighbors are like and definitely about the pet you’ll be caring for. Or else you may find yourself in a bunk bed a few feet away from a bustling fire station while the family pet that was described to you merely as “lively” snarls viciously every time you cross paths.
SEE where you’re going! Google Earth, Skype, make use of technology. For the record the above worst-case scenario never happened to me but I’ve had beds and bedrooms that were much smaller than described, owners who found workarounds for lack of heat or a/c that was far from my ideal situation, and even unwanted guests. Which leads me to my next point.
BE honest! Don’t try to make something extra appealing to the point of straight-up lies. One homeowner also had student boarders and assured me every time we spoke that the overlap would only be a week where he and I would be in the house together because when the semester ended and he’d be returning to his country. Well, he failed a class and ended up staying to do make-up classes. Not only did I now have a permanent extra person, I was put in the position of being caretaker to her pets and her boarder! This person never washed a dish, took out any garbage or replenished commonly used supplies like toilet paper. These services might have been inclusive of his boarding, but not by me! Add to that the homeowner never contacted me to inform he’d be staying on or thank me for putting up with it. I had to find out from him when the date he was to be leaving came and went.
Learn from Goldilocks and find your perfect match.
Enjoy meeting new people & trying new things!
That’s extreme and the worst of what I’ve personally experienced, but if as a homeowner you know there are problems with air conditioning or heat, be upfront about the use of fans and space heaters. Some may lose interest but not everyone will. The odds of you finding no qualified person to care for your home under whatever the current conditions is really low because most aren’t coming to spend a lot of time at the house anyway. Unless you live in a sewer with a rat named Master Splinter, given enough preplanning you’ll find someone. There’s the backpackers and 5-star vacationers but the odds of someone being upset that things are not as advertised they leave early forcing you to scramble for a replacement or abandon your vacation is much higher. Don’t call a refurbished closet doubling as a bedroom “cozy” to entice.
House sitters need to BE honest too! One of the absolute worst things you can do is lie about your experience and end up destroying someone’s prized plants or accidentally mistreating their pet because you overstated your experience with Hungarian Sheepdogs or rare ghost orchids. With stints at vets offices, wildlife centers and animal shelters, my animal experience is extensive. When I house sat a diabetic dog I didn't need training on giving the injection, but if I had the homeowner would have been willing. The homeowner themselves had to be trained by the vet when the dogs illness was discovered, so why wouldn’t they figure someone else could pick it up too? What I can’t do and won’t even try is mow lawns or shovel snow. That’s not a match for me, this city girl passes every time.
I arrive a few days early and sometimes stayed an extra week or so when I’m in between assignments. This is ideal to know the daily routine of the pets. I’ve had homeowners go out of their way taking me places so I’d know where to shop, what to do for fun, introducing me to neighbors to turn to if there are any problems and really looking out for me. This while they’re preparing to embark on their own vacation!
Ya gotta give some to get some.
The more you have to offer, the pickier you can be.
Taking a u-turn back to the homeowners for a moment, BE attractive! Not talking aesthetics, but your home, area and attitude. It’s a trade, what do you have to trade? I’ve seen ads that are just a laundry list of requirements, like it’s a job application. No pics of the surroundings, mention of tourist attractions. Just this is what Fido likes, this is how my home needs to be kept, the end.
One ad demanded the sitter be on site during the day for walk-in’s to his pottery shop adjacent to the home. In another, a snarky lady wrote that any sitter applying needs to make sure to “follow my instructions to a T” in caring for her 4 giant rabbits that could never be picked up and required extensive daily brushing EACH taking several hours a day. It was no surprise at all those ads run for months and the bunny lady even rewrote hers apologizing for the earlier tone that “may have scared people away”. They didn’t get many takers and why should they have?
Don’t forget that the person sitting for you isn’t a family member or friend doing it out of the kindness of their hearts or because someone homeless grateful for a roof and four walls, they want to vacation. Yes the trade off for that is putting in some work, but they’re not indentured to you. Homeowners save money not having to board their pets, o matter what they claim they’re not looking for sitters just because Fido “would feel more comfy at home”.
I have a pet bearded dragon I boarded for 13 days, the bill came to just over $400. For ONE lazy lizard that sleeps in a tank, doesn’t need to be walked, talked to or in any way entertained! If you paid a house sitter you’d still save money, especially you exotic and multiple pet owners!
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Let fate lead the way.
BE open to new experiences! Understand that listings near beaches in Mexico will be hotly contested. TrustedHousesitters recently started showing how many applicants a listing has and an apartment in the heart of Paris can easily have upwards of 40. If you can, consider a quaint, lesser-known city or a lake instead of a beach.
If there’s anything you think I forgot on this subject, or if you are a homeowner/house sitter share your thoughts in the comments!