So You Want to be a House Sitter

The kinds of house sitting opportunities I'm about to tell you about are available to anyone, anywhere with an email address who can get online to check for offers of house sitting jobs (and then transport themselves to the owner's property of course, but that comes later).

If you're thinking that you would like to housesit to make some extra money, turn

away now. Because if you advertise your house sitting services with an online

matching service such as mine, you won't be paid a cent for your efforts. In fact,

you'll be paying for your share of the bills during your house sitting assignment

(and you may be asked for a security deposit by the home owner).

What is a free house sitter required to do?

While the home owner is away everything continues in the property as usual (that's

where you come in!). Bills need to be paid to keep services connected, plants need

watering, gardens, lawns and trees need to be maintained, mail and phone

messages may need to be forwarded, and pets remain as demanding of love, care

and companionship as ever. While the relationship between home owner and house

sitter is mutually beneficial and based on trust the house sitter is, in effect, working

for the home owner. The house sitter agrees to occupy the home owner's property

for a given period of time. Generally the house sitter is required to be in the

property most evenings and nights (although, like everything, this may be

negotiable), giving the property its usual occupied appearance to deter burglars,

squatters and vandals. Often, there will be one or more animals to care for (these

can be fish, rabbits, cats and dogs, hamsters, goats and horses!)

What costs does the house sitter have?

The house sitter funds all their own day-to-day requirements while on assignment

and generally agrees to replace everything of the home owner's that they consume.

Before the house sitting assignment begins, both parties need to sit down and spell

out who is responsible for which bills. Generally, any vet bills and costs of

maintaining the property should remain with the owner, while the sitter takes care

of their share of utility bills. A security deposit may also be required by the home

owner to insure against any damages. This is negotiable but shouldn't be more than

the cost of a month's rent for a similar property in the area.

How do I advertise my house sitting services?

You could advertise your house sitting services by word of mouth (fellow RVers are

especially in need of house sitters), by company email, by taking out a small

classified advert in a local paper or by sticking your own advert on public notice

boards. All of these methods may attract the attention of a local home owner and

result in an offer of a house sitting assignment.

However, if you are currently in Canada and want to house sit in Florida (for

example) you'll need to 'go global' and advertise your house sitting services with an

online house sitting directory. These websites generally follow two basic models of

business practice. In the first fully online model, house sitters pay an annual fee

(usually around US$30) to create their own sitter available advert which is online and

searchable 24 hours per day. Home owners then search the website's database and

contact house sitters directly. You can also personally respond to any sitter wanted

adverts on the site.

In the second model, the website only serves as an advert for the business which is

conducted by the administrators 'behind the scenes'. For an annual fee (this can be

US$95 or more for the whole package) the business owner agrees to include the

house sitter's advert in either an email or printed mailing list which is then posted

out to an unspecified number of home owners. There may also be the option of

paying to receive a list of sitter wanted adverts by email or post. This second type of

service may seem less transparent than the first - you don't actually know if your

advert has been sent out or how many home owners may have seen it. However, if

the site seems well established and has many testimonials from satisfied customers

then it should be worth the initial investment.

What should I look for in a good house sitting website?

To have any kind of success as a house sitter you need to spend the relatively small

fee (membership fees on the reputable sites range from free to around US$95 per

year) to list with a website that is well-designed and informative, with good usability

and a logical navigation structure.

The website should be easy to find through a search engine. To check how

established a website is and how high they are ranked with the search engines, type

a generic term such as "house sitters" (use double quotes to perform the more

useful phrase search) into the search field of your preferred search engine. Your

house sitting directory site of choice should be listed in the top 100 page returns.

If you regularly use the Internet, you will have your own criteria for what makes a

good website. Peruse the different sites, try out the search function for both sitter

available adverts and sitter wanted adverts. Read through the FAQs section and see

how well-informed you feel at the end of it. If membership on the site is free, join

as a member and create your own sitter available advert. What have you got to lose?

What should I avoid in a house sitting website?

If a website is very badly made and difficult to navigate it's very likely that home

owners will be staying away from the service in droves. Be wary of those online

businesses that ask for a hefty up-front membership fee (anything over US$95) but

offer no guarantee of satisfaction. If a website seems cagey about just how many of

their house sitter members are being offered house sitting assignments and hides

how they operate their business give them a wide berth. Often these websites are

just selling the dream of rent-free accommodation, which never materialises for

their disappointed members.

How do I get started as a house sitter?

Once you've got your advert online you'll need to prepare yourself for any

eventuality (house sitting is like that). If you're not that confident with pets you may

want to get cosy with a few of your friends' cats and dogs to prepare you for the

inevitable pet sitting duties that accompany house sitting assignments. Get your

references in order (or ask the relevant people to become email and/or phone

referees for you) and commission a police background check on yourself to show

home owners that you're not a member of the Beagle Boys (remember them?) Make

sure your passport is current in case something great and last minute comes up.

You'll also need to open an email account that you can travel with (if you haven't got

one already) that has a generous storage limit (Yahoo offers a huge 250mb as

standard). It is crucial that you remain contactable - if you are not from mainland

USA forget about opening a Hotmail account as these are notorious for having a tiny

inbox that is continually going 'over limit'.

Finally, once you've chosen a website (or another method of advertising) don't fall

into the trap of waiting for home owners to advertise their house sitting

assignments so that you can contact them. The vast majority of home owners prefer

to search sitter available adverts and contact house sitters directly. If you don't

create your own advert, no one will be able to find you!

What are my chances of being offered a house sitting assignment?

There are many factors that influence your chances of being chosen for an

assignment. Some of these you can't control (such as your age, marital status and

country of residence) others you can (such as providing references, offering home

owners a security deposit, a police background check and the chance to interview

you for the job before making a decision). The importance of having a well-written

advert describing yourself and your experience in adequate detail (around 100

words) cannot be overestimated.


In my work as a website editor and administrator I come across a great many lonely

online classifieds and forlorn requests on bulletin boards from people who are