Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 11 - House Sitting Nuts and Bolts

I'm always fascinated by how fascinated people are by what we're doing.

It doesn't seem to matter who we talk to or where we are... when we tell someone that we got rid of all our possessions and travel full time as house sitters, people immediately stop what they're doing and start firing questions at us:
- what did you do with all your stuff?
- how does it work?
- how do find these places?
- do you travel in a RV?
- what did you do with all your stuff?

We also get a lot of questions from people who want to do this for real themselves, and they have more specific questions related to the "nuts and bolts" of making it happen. So in response to them, here are the dirty details of how to be a full time house sitter.

Web Sites
The first question people normally ask is "How do you find the houses to sit for?" The fact is, there are dozens of web sites devoted to house sitting, but we've narrowed our searches down to these five:  $20/yr - and you can only see the available house sits if you're a member  $25/yr - you can browse available houses before paying but you must register in order to apply for one. This is the same for the next 3 as well.  $30/yr  $50/yr  $114/yr

We've found that using these 5 web sites together provides us the best opportunity to sweep for available sits. Sure, $239 (total) sounds expensive but considering the fact you are living RENT FREE every year, it's really not that much money. Certainly cheaper than even one month's worth of rent/mortgage or even a hotel if you use one of these for vacations.

When we are trying to fill our schedule, Charli checks each of these sites at least 4 times per day. It's amazing how many people respond to a desirable opportunity. We've had some owners tell us they get 50 applications within a few hours and become so overwhelmed by responses that they pull their ad or start ignoring the emails. That's why you have to be quick on the trigger, otherwise you can miss the perfect house sit for your plan.

Note: There are many other web sites as well for this, but these are the 5 we've settled on which have worked great for us.

Your Profile
The most important thing a house sitter needs is a good profile. This will be the first piece of information a home owner will look at to determine if you make the cut as a candidate. In our profile we provide a friendly picture, a reason why we house sit, background information about us personally and professionally, and the reasons why we would be good house sitters for the owners and their pets. Think of it as a personal resume. Giving up their home and pets to complete strangers is a huge leap of faith for a home owner, so your profile needs to convey the sincerity and trust that they are looking at the right people for the job.

Getting Selected
After you've registered with a web site and applied for a house sit, the steps for being chosen as a house sitter can be different for every situation. Typically the process involves an initial response from the owner in a message from the web site indicating they would like to learn more about you, which is then followed by a few emails. From there an owner may request a phone call to conduct an interview, and sometimes this is done via Facetime or Skype.

Once the owners are comfortable you aren't ax murderers, the details of the engagement will be discussed. This is when you find out the specifics about the pets, house, gardens etc and the expectations of the owners. This is also when the deal is normally closed and the sit can be locked in on your calendar.

A few weeks before arriving at the house, we provide the owners with a list of items we like them to review so we can make sure we have all the information necessary to care for their pets and home. A few examples of what we want to know are:
  • Pets - food, meds, vet info, feeding/walking schedules, personality quirks
  • Property maintenance - lawn and garden care
  • Emergency - pet hospital, plumber, water main shutoff, breaker box
  • Schedules - garbage/recycling, lawn service, pest control
  • Technical - wifi password, router location, how to program the thermostat, how to turn on the 5 different remotes needed to watch a TV show
  • Local information - best restaurants, events, car repair
Before, During and After
Normally we find that arriving 2 days early makes for the best transition. On the first day we like to get there in the afternoon and spend the evening just relaxing and getting to know each other. The next day is spent going over all the details listed above and the owners preparing for their travels.

After the owners have left we keep them updated with frequent emails on how things are going, including pictures of their pets. They appreciate knowing that everything is being taken care of and the interaction helps form a stronger bond between us.

We have found with every house sit that by the time we leave, we have gained new lifelong friends who we always look forward to seeing again.

When the owners return home we plan it so that we will leave the next morning. This gives us the day to update each other on how it went at home and what they did on their vacation. We want to make sure that we turn their house back over to them as quickly as possible so they can get their lives back to normal without having to worry about guests.

After every house sit it's important to collect a review from the owner and add it to your profile. Accumulating good reviews is the best way to ensure you'll make it to the top of the list in the future. 

As we've said many times over the last 10 chapters... house sitting is an amazing way to travel, save money and experience the world in intimate detail. If you are respectful, take good care of their pets, communicate often, and leave their home clean and yard properly tended to, you will be successful house sitters and will enjoy years of exciting adventures. It's really that simple.

Oh, and don't be ax murderers.