Home How To'sHousesitting Episode 9: How to Start House Sitting

Episode 9: How to Start House Sitting

written by Sam and Veren May 21, 2020
Episode 9: How to Start House Sitting

Welcome back to another episode of the podcast!

In this episode, we’ll go over the 10 crucial steps in the house sitting process. Due to the current pandemic, we don’t recommend starting house sitting right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself up for future house sitting success! That means understanding the house sitting process so you can hit the ground running when travel opens up again. 

For a detailed discussion of the state of house sitting in 2020 (current status and future predictions), make sure to listen to episode 6. 

Click Here to Download the 10 House Sitting Tips Cheatsheet!

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What You’ll Learn:

  • Why house sitting is not “Free Accommodation”
  • Why joining a house sitting website is essential
  • How money enters into house sitting
  • How house sitting is like online dating
  • Why your profile is super important and what you should include
  • What NOT to include in your house sitting application message
  • Why patience and flexibility are essential traits of a successful house sitter
  • What to ask and expect when talking with a pet owner about a house sit
  • The importance of “going with your gut”
  • Why strong communication skills are essential for happy house sitting
  • Why you must always remember that house sitting is a responsibility
  • Types of people for whom house sitting is probably not the right choice

House Sitting Links + Resources Mentioned in the Episode:

Episode Main Points and Highlights

1: Join a House Sitting Website

Even the most expensive house sitting website is still a complete bargain when you consider how much you will be saving on accommodation. The amount you pay for membership, you will get back in a couple of nights of house sitting. You’re probably gonna be house sitting for longer than that, but even if you do it once a year for a week, you’ve really subsidized your vacation.

2: Create a Killer Profile

Think of it as your LinkedIn profile but for house sitting. So there’ll be different sections that you can fill in with your experience, why you want to house sit, and what pets you’ve taken care of in the past. You can get external references if you’ve house sat for friends and family before. You also can get a reference from whoever you want to talk about your character. You want to really put time into your profile.

3: Write a Winning Application Message

A very typical example of these self-centered messages: “Oh my god. I love New York City. I’ve always dreamed of going to New York City. I’ve watched movies all my life about New York City, and now I want to go to New York City. Please let me house sit for you.” What’s wrong with the message like this? It says nothing about what you can offer the pet owner. It says nothing about the pets. It just doesn’t communicate anything about the exchange. It’s very much just focused on you and what you want out of it. You’re gonna get passed over when you approach people like this.

4: Be Patient

Take your time with the process. Don’t be in a hurry, trying to just get from A to B. Being engaged every step of the way will ensure that you have a great housing experience. Any of this that you rush, you’ll likely regret it.

5: Be Flexible

You can’t join a house sitting website and expect to get a house sit tomorrow. You also should not join in hopes of getting a house sit for a specific place at a specific time. This is so important when house sitting. It is absolutely not like booking a hotel or an Airbnb. You can’t go on any website and be like, “I want to house sit in Paris from June 5th to June 12th, let me get a house sit.” I’m telling you, we get this question all the time. People book a holiday and they want to subsidize their costs through house sitting. That’s backwards.

6: Have a Conversation

You want to have your questions answered. They’re gonna have their questions for you. It doesn’t need to be a long drawn out thing, you know, 20-30 minutes max and you get a feel for the other person. People think that house sitting is all about the pets, but you cannot have a good house sitting experience without good communication. 

7: Know Your Own Needs/Wants/Limits

What’s a great experience for one person is not gonna be a great experience for another. We all have different needs and wants.

8: Trust Your Gut

This is the golden rule of house sitting. Every other experienced house sitter we’ve ever talked to agrees on this point. If there’s something that you have a slightly bad feeling about, you can’t really put your finger on it, or there is something you can put your finger on. Either way, you need to trust your gut.

9: Get Support/Feedback from the House Sitting Community

Learning from more experienced house sitters is a great thing to do. Develop your own internal system and barometer. Learning from those who have tread the path before you is great.

10: Remember that House Sitting is a Responsibility

Responsibility and commitment go hand in hand. It’s super important that you’re able to commit to the house sits that you sign up for. Don’t be one of these people who go to a house sit, realize that it’s not what they signed up for and decide that they can just leave whenever they want. Maybe it wasn’t close enough to the tourist attractions or some other nonsense. But we’ve heard these stories. We’ve heard stories of people bailing because they found the house sit boring. 

I would just argue that these people are boring. How can you be bored on a house sit? You’ve got pets, you’ve got a whole house and other town. It just makes no sense to me.

These transcripts have been automatically generated and then edited by us, so please excuse any typos, missed capitalization, weird phrasing, etc. Humans talk very differently than they write, as we’ve learned! There are just topics that just lend themselves better to conversations rather than blog posts, but we also want the podcast to be accessible to all.

Hit the green “plus” button below or hit download to access the full transcript.

Sam: Welcome back to the Alternative Travelers Podcast. In this episode, we are going to do a quick overview of how sitting, a kind of house sitting 101. We're going to go over the different steps in the house sitting process.

Obviously in one podcast episode, we're only going to go into each step very briefly. We want to give you an overview of what the whole process looks like as a comprehensive whole. But we want to really be clear that there's a lot more that goes into happy, successful house sitting. So we wouldn't want you to be like, “Okay, I’ve listened to this episode and I know what to do.”

We really want everyone to have a great house sitting experience and there's a lot that goes into each stage. We wrote a whole book on it! So I just wanted to put that disclaimer out there before we get into things.

Veren: So before we start, the most important thing to understand is what house sitting is and what it isn’t. We strongly advise that you listen to our prior podcast episode, “Common Misconceptions About House Sitting” because I would bet money that you’re making one of them. Why? Because everyone we talk to about house sitting holds one of these misconceptions. So make sure you have that under your belt before your listen to this episode.

So let's just make sure that we're all on the same page about what kind of house sitting we're talking about and what exactly how sitting is. So in exchange based house sitting, which is the kind of house sitting that we do, is where a traveler takes care of someone else's pets in exchange for accommodation.

The pet owners get free pet care and in turn they give the traveler free accommodation. This really strongly appeals to travelers because it allows you to stay somewhere at a much cheaper cost. This is not the same as someone who runs a local pet sitting business. We want to emphasize that we do exchange based house sitting.

Sam: Yeah definitely important to remember that. We're all about teaching how to house it to travel.

Veren: In exchange based house sitting there's no exchange of money, you're not being paid because you get the accommodation and you shouldn't be paying for anything because you're providing pet care, which is a very important need.

Sam: We're gonna go through these very general steps in the process, and we're gonna have a little quick reference guide, a little cheat sheet, one page of the steps that you can download.

So don't worry about running to grab your pen and paper, because I'll leave a link in the show notes and you can download that straight away. So just listen and then you'll have that to look back at whenever you want to remember the overview.

Veren: Also, we want to make the point that a non-negotiable prerequisite is that you need to love animals. House sitting is pet sitting. We’re going to go over this again at the end, but this is super important because most house sits involve taking care of people’s pets.

Sam: So yeah, let’s just get into it. The first step in your house sitting journey is to join a house sitting website. I know you’re probably thinking right now, “Wait, Veren just said that there's no money exchanging hands.” But by that we mean between the house sitter and the pet owner.

In order to get a house sit, we very strongly recommend that you join a reputable online house sitting website.

Veren: It's really important to understand that you need the right tools in order to get the house sit that’s right for you. Everyone has different needs, and you can't assume that one service is gonna provide what you need just as well as another. This is something that you're gonna need to look into much more in depth and it's something that will go much more in depth in another episode.

But it's so important that you understand that part of house sitting means joining a house sitting website. There's no real way around that. The better ones tend to cost more money. So if you don't have the money or don't want to invest the money into joining a house sitting website, then house sitting is probably not going to be for you. House sitting on some level costs money. It is a cheaper way to travel, but it's not a way to travel the world for free.

Sam: We definitely want to strongly emphasize that point, because a lot of the talk going around about house sitting is like people are like, “Oh my god house sitting for free! Awesome!” No, that's just wrong. You need money to pay for your living expenses.

You’re getting accommodation for “free” but in exchange for actually doing something, which is taking care of the pets and the home. You still need to pay for your groceries, your transportation, getting there, doing anything you want in the place, and enjoying the place unless you plan to never leave your house. We're recording this during covid times, so I think we've all gotten quite enough of staying in our houses recently.

So you want to make sure that you have enough money. And to that point, you shouldn't be traveling as a house sitter if you're truly broke. Right now, during the covid outbreak and the global lockdown, a lot of house sitters (us included) have been cancelled on. Then you've got to find emergency accommodation. Obviously these are extenuating circumstances but cancellations can happen for whatever reason, such as if someone gets sick.

This is the only cancellation that we've had, but it can definitely happen. If you don't have the money to pay for a place to stay or to change your flight, or this or that. Obviously it's not ideal, and you want to minimize cancellations as much as possible. We have a whole article on handling cancellations that I'll link in the show notes.

But we just see so many people currently freaking out because they've lost their house sits and they don't have the money to pay for a place to stay. I really feel for those people. I mean, like we lost our house sit too, and it's hard. It's a financial burden that we are not used to paying for. The fact is that you need to have enough savings as a house sitter. If you're gonna be doing this full-time or if you're gonna be doing it to subsidize your vacation. We just cannot stress that enough.

So if the thought of paying for a house sitting website makes you think, “oh that's a scam, I don't want to pay for anything without a guarantee that I'm gonna get a house sit!” Then I'm sorry but you just shouldn't be house sitting.

Even the most expensive house sitting website is still a complete bargain when you consider how much you will be saving on accommodation. The amount you pay for membership, you will get back in a couple of nights of house sitting. You’re probably gonna be house sitting for longer than that, but even if you do it once a year for a week, you've really subsidized your vacation. So we really feel strongly about this.

We do know that some people organize a lot of their house sits through word of mouth or through Facebook groups.You can do that, maybe. But you just don't have the support network and verifications that come with a house sitting website, where you can see reviews of other people that have house sat in that particular place. There's a whole system, it's a service, and that's part of what your membership dues goes towards - facilitating these connections.

A lot of times we liken these to dating websites, it's a matchmaking site and both sides have to agree to and do their due diligence on the other party. So that gets into our next point.

So our next point is that when you join a house sitting website, your first step is to create a killer profile. So kind of walk of us through that real quick, Veren.

Veren: Like the dating analogy that Sam used before, you need to pitch yourself on the website. People need to see some kind of representation of you. Any website worth paying for is gonna allow you to put together a very robust profile. You get out of it what you put into it. If it looks rushed and really quickly put up, people are gonna know.

It's like a profile on a dating website. So many of us only want to take a dating site so seriously and act like, “oh this is kind of silly but I'm giving it a try.” There's a reason why certain people find a lot of success and other people don't. If you communicate that you're not taking it that seriously, then people aren't going to take you that seriously. That doesn't mean you can't have a sense of humor about it.

This is your chance to represent yourself online. We go very in depth in our book about the best way to go about this step-by-step, what we do exactly. But in short, you need to make it sound like you're the right person for the job.

Sam: Yeah so it's like the dating analogy. If you want to think of it in a job context, it's kind of your house sitting resume. Think of it as your LinkedIn profile but for house sitting. So there'll be different sections that you can fill in with your experience, why you want to house sit, and what pets you've taken care of in the past. You can get external references if you've house sat for friends and family before. You also can get a reference from whoever you want to talk about your character.

You want to really put time into your profile. We are always revising our profile with new skills that we've added. You're gonna put the most effort in at first, but it's also not a set it and forget it kind of thing. Things change over time, so you want to always be kind of checking back in. We have a whole article on this which I will link in the show notes. We also go into it in our book as well.

After you create your profile - your resume - then the next step is searching for and then applying to house sits. When you do so, you want to personalize your application message.

Again, this is super important but a lot of people just do a cut and paste and they only talk about why this house would be so great for them.

How do we know that this is what people do?

Because we talk to every pet owner that we house sit for and we ask. So many times - a mind-blowing amount of times - people tell us about what crappy application messages that they get.

Veren: A very typical example of these self-centered messages: “Oh my god. I love New York City. I've always dreamed of going to New York City. I’ve watched movies all my life about New York City, and now I want to go to New York City. Please let me house sit for you.”

What's wrong with the message like this? It says nothing about what you can offer the pet owner. It says nothing about the pets. It just doesn't communicate anything about the exchange.

It's very much just focused on you and what you want out of it. You're gonna get passed over when you approach people like this.

Sam: So we liken this to a cover letter. Think about a cover letter that you would write for a job. You wouldn't just say, “I would love this job because it would work so well for me blah blah blah. Please hire me.”

That would be laughable. But that is what people do with their application messages and you're just wasting your time and the person on the other end of the message. So take time to read their listing that they put up about the house sit. Read what they're looking for, mention their pets, mention your experience, and really personalize it,

We have general points that we want to make sure we include in each message, but we never cut and paste. We always personalize it.

Okay, so at this point, you've sent out some application messages, you're all excited and you can't wait to start house sitting. Not so fast! Our next step is be patient. We see this all the time, people being like, “I joined a house sitting website and I didn't get any house sits. No one contacted me.”

First of all, you have to contact people as a house sitter. Second of all, you need to be patient. Again, we keep going back to the job analogy, but it's really true.

It is a job. You're exchanging your labor, taking care of the person's pet and their home, in exchange for staying there. So it is kind of a job and you should be professional about it. You wouldn't apply to one job, not get it, and think jobs aren't for you. So don’t apply to one house sit, not get it, and think house sitting isn’t for you.

You’ve gotta be patient, you really do.

Veren: It's super important to understand that you're likely not the only person applying for this house sit. Pet owners need to spend time vetting their potential candidates. They have their needs that need to be met too.

This is a process and it shouldn't be something that's rushed. If you're gonna entrust somebody with your house and home, you better take some time to make sure you feel very good about the match.

That also goes for you, the house sitter. You can apply to something and then talk to this person and maybe a little farther down the road in your communications, realize that maybe this isn't the best fit anymore or there's a red flag that's coming up.

Long story short, take your time with the process. Don’t be in a hurry, trying to just get from A to B. Being engaged every step of the way will ensure that you have a great housing experience. Any of this that you rush, you'll likely regret it.

Sam: Yeah definitely. Any time that we've tried to rush things, we've regretted it. I'm sure we'll have a later episode on how to avoid bad house sits. We haven't had terrible experiences. Anytime people have a bad experience, it's because they're rushing, without a doubt. They were rushing and they weren't communicating.

So you’ve got to be patient. To give you an idea, we joined a house sitting website - we use trusted house sitters - we joined in the fall, October 2015. We landed a house sit in December for starting in February 2016. We were being very particular with our parameters. We wanted to have a long house sit to try it out, so we were only applying to ones that were over two months long.

But still. You can't join a house sitting website and expect to get a house sit tomorrow. You also should not join in hopes of getting a house sit for a specific place at a specific time. This goes to our next point, which is to be flexible.

This is so important when house sitting. It is absolutely not like booking a hotel or an Airbnb. You can't go on any website and be like, “I want to house sit in Paris from June 5th to June 12th, let me get a house sit.” I'm telling you, we get this question all the time. People book a holiday and they want to subsidize their costs through house sitting. That's backwards.

Veren: Yeah, we really can't stress this enough. I mean, we'd hope that everyone listening understands that there's no guarantees in life. You need to be prepared for sudden changes and unexpected unforeseen events to occur. So you don't want to lock yourself into dates, but you also want to be prepared for things not to work out.

This is the case with anything you apply for. So being able to roll with the punches so to speak is going to be a huge huge advantage in house sitting.

If you insist on doing a certain type of house sit, all the time and only that, you might be effectively blocking yourself from getting great house sits. Of course have standards, of course have specific things that you want to get out of house sitting, but it's just super important that you try to be flexible.

Sam: Yeah this is a common misconception. The idea that house setting is like booking a hotel or it would be and we talk a lot about it in our common misconceptions episode, so check that out if you want to hear more about that.

So we're saying to be flexible, but at the same time, don't let yourself be walked over. You have your own needs, your own limits, and your own desires in house sitting. That is completely fine and you should have some guidelines and ideas about what you want, such as what you will and won't accept.

If you don't feel comfortable taking care of large dogs, then don't apply to those house sits. Just because we're saying to be flexible and be open doesn't mean that you should be disregarding your own feelings about things. We absolutely have parameters of things that we will and won't accept in house sitting situations.

There will be certain things that you will know straight off the bat. You might even be thinking of some things that you'd never want to do right now as I mention it. Then, there'll be other things that you realize over time as you get more experience. So you can say, “Oh I thought I'd be okay with that situation, but I'm actually not. I'm not gonna sign up for that kind of situation again.”

It might not be like anything bad, but it might not be something that you care to repeat again.

We’ve definitely had those experiences and that's totally fine. That’s all part of the experience.

So we're talking a lot about the house sitting experience, the situation, and how to be flexible. These are all things to keep in mind when you're looking for house sits and when you're applying to them.

So the next step is to have a conversation with the person that you are potentially house sitting for. Just because you apply to a house sit and they get back to you, doesn't mean you have to agree to it.

Veren: Yeah this goes both ways. There are pet owners who will reach out to us because we have a lot of reviews and our profile looks impressive since we've been doing this for a while. They'll reach out to us with no message whatsoever, they just send a thing asking us to house sit on a particular day, they just send us the listing. We quickly pass those over.

If someone's not willing to engage us on a conversational level, which we would argue is just what you should do with any other human being, then it's not a good situation. That's already a red flag.

To really get a sense of what you're signing up for, you need to have a conversation with the people with whom you're about to engage in with an exchange or a barter.

It’s so important that you see these people face to face. If you can't, there's always video calls. That's a great substitute and we honestly do not ever take a house sit without having a conversation first. At some point along the way, there needs to be a live two-way conversation.

Sam: Yeah, so what does that look like briefly?

Veren: You basically just say, “hey, let's have a time that we can meet and talk about the sit and just kind of get to know each other.” It shouldn't feel like a formal interview, like your interviewing for a job. It should feel more casual than that, but that doesn't mean that you don't have pressing needs or questions that you need answered.

Sam: You want to have your questions answered. They're gonna have their questions for you. It doesn't need to be a long drawn out thing, you know, 20-30 minutes max and you get a feel for the other person. People think that house sitting is all about the pets, but you cannot have a good house sitting experience without good communication.

We strongly feel this way. I know there are people out there that organize house sits based on email exchanges only. While it may work most of the time, it only takes one bad experience to make you think that house sitting sucks and that you don't want to ever do it again.

This is such an important step, don't skip it! If someone says they don't want to have a video call or they try to weasel out of it, take that as your red flag.

If they're not willing to put aside 20 to 30 minutes to talk to the person that's literally going to be living in their home and taking care of their precious animals, I find that very problematic. There's being shy and there's being introverted. We totally understand that.

But that shouldn't get in the way of literally having conversation with someone.

Veren: What it comes down to is respecting your needs. Sometimes there are difficult questions to ask that aren't the most fun, that might make you a little uncomfortable. You may be concerned about asking them because you're wondering about the answer.

A conversation allows you not to just hear their answer, but also see how they answer and how they act while they answer. That will tell you how honest they're being. Even the most well-meaning people are gonna still want to play down certain things.

For example, if you ask about a dog's level of training and they resort to a lot of euphemisms, such as “they're a bit barky,” that might mean have you signed up for something bigger than you can handle. This conversation is probably one of the most important interactions you're gonna have.

Now granted, you want to make sure everything else you're doing is in place. The profile, the application message, being really clear about who these people are, and the vibe you're getting from them with their profile. By making sure they put enough time in energy into their listing, you're gonna get a sense of the vibe. A conversation is gonna help you affirm and confirm things that you might have previously expected based on all the other exchanges you’ve had.

But it also gives you a chance to address things that you might not want to ask over an email exchange, like the aforementioned example with the bit barky dog.

You ask these questions and you'll be surprised what the answers are. Sometimes, they're just things the pet owners haven't even thought of. That can work in your favor, because then it makes you look more prepared.

Again, we're just glossing over a bunch of things. There's a lot that goes into it. But just have a conversation and get your foot in the door, so to speak. This is what's gonna really help you know for sure and give you that confirmation that this is the right direction to goin.

Sam: Veren mentioned that you'll know for sure either way, and that goes to our next point which is to trust your gut. This is the golden rule of house sitting.

Every other experienced house sitter we’ve ever talked to agrees on this point. If there's something that you have a slightly bad feeling about, you can't really put your finger on it, or there is something you can put your finger on. Either way, you need to trust your gut.

Maybe it sounds too “woo woo” or something but honestly, you're gonna know if that experience is right for you.

Veren: Yeah it's so important to not underestimate your intuition. This is like what we mentioned before with the conversation. You need to really add things up as a whole.

Sometimes a really good practical tool is to do a pros and cons list. Often, if you really really want something, it can cloud your judgment. If you're not feeling 100% that it’s a “hell yes, I want to do this,” then you need to really reevaluate why you want this house sit.

It’s like with anything you apply for. We don't mean to scare you and think that like you’ve got to constantly look out for bad house sits. It's the same thing with jobs, with anything that you sign up for. You’ve got to make sure that what you're doing is a fair exchange.

It's completely fair to not take something, or back out of something (provided that you didn't commit to it already) because certain needs aren't being met . It's super super important that you feel good about it. Whatever tools at your disposal that you can use to help you feel good about it, the more the better. We just really can't stress it enough.

This is also where a lot of social skills come into play. We're for the most part very introverted, but being introvert isn't synonymous with lacking social skills. It's really important that you can trust your read of people.

Sam: Communication skills too.

Veren: Yeah, absolutely. These are skills that some of us unfortunately weren’t raised with. I can say that for myself. I had to learn a lot of my social skills. I had to learn a lot of my communication skills. So it's important to be able to be a great listener, but it's also important to be able to effectively communicate your needs.

Trust your gut is definitely one of the most important things. With any experience in life, even if everything's well-meaning, it might not be a good fit for you.

That's the one thing we want to also stress. What's a great experience for one person is not gonna be a great experience for another. We all have different needs and wants.

Sam: Yeah, definitely. Even when you're looking at house sit listings, sometimes you can feel like something is kind of off. So as you learn more, you can become more aware of the house sits that you want to apply for. So that's another filter that you'll develop. We can't stress this enough.

Our next point is related. When we were first starting out, we had applied to a house sit, we'd been talking with the woman and we were nearby, so we decided to go over and meet her beforehand. When we were there, all these little things just kept adding up. It wasn't a glaring, giant, waving red flag, but it was all these little tiny orange flags.

We left and we really felt unsettled about it. This was in the beginning of our house sitting journey, so we didn't feel as confident as we do now.

Maybe you're thinking, “Ok, trust my gut, but how do I do that?”

So we were there and we didn't feel good about this house sit. But we didn't know anything and thought that maybe these are just normal things. We hadn't done enough house sits yet.

That’s why our next point is to join some house sitting Facebook groups. You can learn from more experienced people. You can get their feedback if you think something is off. You can ask questions, so that's what I did. Everyone was like, “run away, get out of there!”

Veren: We strongly recommend joining Facebook groups because sometimes you need to just air out your thoughts to other people who are in a similar position as you. If they have more experience, even better. You can learn from them. Who knows what kind of questions or things you might need to address that you don't feel like you can appropriately figure out on your own. You need somewhere to look.

These communities online, especially in these Facebook groups, have been super invaluable to us. We use them not only just for house sitting but for many other things as well.

Sam: There are a ton of house sitting Facebook groups. There are regional ones, so wherever you are house sitting, you can look at those and sometimes they'll have opportunities posted there too. So check out house sitting and then your region or state or country.

Then there are broader ones that are worldwide, like House Sitting Support Community Group.

I will leave a link to that in the show notes, because they're really big. House sitting world is another one, then there's our group which is all related to the podcast and you can ask house sitting questions in there too.

If you don't use Facebook, then you can connect with bloggers. Ask them questions. We get emails from readers about house sitting, so definitely reach out to us if you have questions.

Learning from more experienced house sitters is a great thing to do. Develop your own internal system and barometer. Learning from those who have tread the path before you is great.

That brings us to our last point, which is to remember the house sitting is a responsibility.

Veren: Yeah, if there's anything you take away - trust your gut is definitely a strong one - but first and foremost, successful house sitters who find their dream house sits again and again, on some level understand that house sitting is a very real responsibility.

They understand this and that's how they'll end up gravitating towards people who are going to trust them and want to choose them. It's so important that you exude that kind of understanding so that you don't sign up for more than you bargained for or take off a bigger bite then you can chew.

There are so many different kinds of house sits out there, so many different kinds. You need to be a hundred percent sure that you can be responsible in the house sits that you choose to apply for.

Sam: Yeah, unfortunately, well, rarely - we want to reiterate that we're in this episode talking about the things that can go wrong, but that is the exception rather than the rule. The reason why you want to do all these things and have the right strategy and system in place, is so that you don't have a bad experience. That can happen but if you take the right steps, it won't happen.

But that is a big fear that a lot of people have when they want to start house sitting. “What if I have a bad experience?” Again, we'll have a different episode all about how to avoid negative house sitting experiences.

I just wanted to say that, because I was gonna say that sometimes we hear about house sitters that have let down the person that they were house sitting for because they didn't take it seriously and didn't accept the responsibility. That is really frustrating and disappointing.

It lets down the whole house sitting community as a whole when someone isn't responsible. Then that pet owner might think that all house sitters are like that and that they shouldn't use house sitters, and that's really unfortunate.

Just remember that you're being representative of the whole house sitting community when you’re house sitting, so take things seriously. Do you remember some of the examples we've heard, Veren?

Veren: Yeah totally. Responsibility and commitment go hand in hand. It's super important that you're able to commit to the house sits that you sign up for. Don't be one of these people who go to a house sit, realize that it's not what they signed up for and decide that they can just leave whenever they want. Maybe it wasn't close enough to the tourist attractions or some other nonsense. But we've heard these stories. We've heard stories of people bailing because they found the house sit boring.

I would just argue that these people are boring. How can you be bored on a house sit? You’ve got pets, you’ve got a whole house and other town. It just makes no sense to me.

This idea that you would bail on a house sit without an emergency just kind of blows our mind. We would never think of doing something like that after we've committed, unless it looked like it was gonna be disastrous, something crazy would have to happen. It's not a real thing that we entertain.

We know if we want to sign up for something or not because we do our due diligence. It's just not cool to bail on pet/homeowners.

It’s not even just bailing on them, it's about being responsible with the space that you're using and the place you're taking care of. We've heard of people doing things like deciding they’re gonna dye their hair in the bathtub and leave it stained purple.

Remember that this is not your house. It’s going to be your home for a while, but it’s not your house. You don’t own it. It's not your property. So you need to think of your behavior, the things you do and treat stuff with respect. Of course that includes the animals, but it's less likely that the animals are getting their hair dyed rather than the bathtub.

But now that I say that, there's absolutely terrible things that people do, choices that they make regarding animals.An example of people not understanding the responsibility of animals is being told, “Hey don't leave any windows open because my cat likes to go out the windows.” And you end up leaving one of the windows open and then the cat jumps out the window.

Sam: Yeah we are super thorough about vetting everything and so I read the reviews of both sides. Once I saw this person being really disappointed in their house sitter because they treated it like an Airbnb. They were gone 12 hours a day and the dogs were barking all day and it bothered the neighbors. And obviously bothers the dogs too.

If you want to be gone a large part of the day, first of all consider if you should house sit. Second of all, only look for cats and be upfront with the person that your house sitting for. Ask how long they are okay being left alone for.

But you just shouldn't be gone 12 hours a day, regardless, unless the pet or homeowner explicitly says so. Sometimes we’ve seen people be like, “Yeah the cats are totally fine. Just leave them some food if you want to take an overnight trip .” But that is the exception, not the rule, and don't count on it.

Part of the reason why house sitting is so great is because you do have a cozy home that is much nicer than any place you can rent out unless you want to pay for a luxurious Airbnb or something. You're gonna have a nice cozy place to come back to.

Veren: Another thing to understand about the whole responsibility thing, is that exchange based house sitting does help homeowners save money on pet care. But it also gets them a kind of pet care they couldn't really pay for. Often when you do pay for pet sitting, it means someone checking in on your pet. You pay per increments of 15 minutes or 20 minutes or an hour to spend time with their pet and these things keep adding up.

For lot of homeowners and pet owners, they like the idea of having somebody physically there like they are, so that their pets don't feel like someone's gone and their life is still kind of the same stable life.

Part of the idea of this kind of pet care is that it means that much more extra time you spend around the animals. It's a live-in pet sitter and you couldn't really pay for that even if you wanted to. It would be an exorbitant cost that most people who are interested in how sitting would not be able to afford. So it's really important that you understand that.

Pet owners and homeowners want you to be there at the house that they're not saying never leave, but just recognize that taking care of someone's home and pets is a huge responsibility. More often than not, they care way more about the pets than they do the home. They want them to be getting quality care. That means playing with them, spending time with them, sometimes just being in the room while they sit there and you sit there, things like that.

We've seen countless listings of people saying, “I work from home so the pets are used to me being around. Please don't apply if you don't think you can be around for a few hours at a time.” Most people understand that you probably want to do some sightseeing on some level and that's completely reasonable.

But staying out of the house for like eight plus hours at a clip is just - don't plan on doing that if you're going to be house sitting. Just recognize that you’ve got to treat your stay there as if you were staying in your own home with a pet. You wouldn't be out all day all the time - or else you'd get a pet sitter.

Sam: I know. So if this sounds to you like too much work and responsibility, that's fine. House sitting isn't for everyone and that's why we want to be very clear about what it is. We don't want anyone to be disappointed - we want to help minimize disappointment on both sides.

So if you're the type of person that likes to hit the sights at 7am and not come back till 7pm, then house sitting is not for you. Again, that is fine, don't feel bad about how you want to travel. But house sitting is not that kind of travel. House sitting involves being in the house.

You're gonna have the best time if you truly care about being around animals.That's just without a doubt the most important part. The vast majority of people are looking for pet care. In all our years of house sitting, we've had one house sit without a pet and we missed the pets! We're friends with the homeowner and we're like, we gotta get him to get a cat.

So if the idea of spending time around animals doesn't sound good to you, or sounds like too much work, then don't house sit. We can't be any more clearer than that.

Veren: Yeah, it's kind of a non-negotiable prerequisite. House sitting overwhelmingly is pet sitting. It's a rare instance that someone is looking for a house sitter and there's no pet. It’s important to understand that well. We don't want to sound like we're discriminating against people who don't love pets. But I can’t imagine getting any of these houses we've had in the past if we were like, “yeah, we'll give you great pet care, we just don't like animals.”

So it really helps if you love animals and also that you house sit for the kind of animals you love. Don't insist on taking care of cats if you don't like cats and don't insist on taking care of dogs, if you don't like dogs. There're lots of different kinds of animals out there and there's a good chance that if you love animals there will always be at least a type of animal that you'll like to be around. So we can't can't stress this enough.

But yeah the echo Sam’s sentiment, if you don't like taking care of pets, if animals overwhelm you or you’re uncomfortable around them, then saving money isn't a big enough reason to do house sitting. You're just setting yourself up for disaster.

This is why we're talking about this at the responsibility part. Taking care of people's pets is a real responsibility, these are real sentient beings with their own needs and feelings. It's not a coincidence that we're not just avid house sitters, but we’re vegans as well. There’s a huge overlap. Vegans tend to really love animals.

So it's important to understand that. You might think that some pets don't require much care, but they absolutely do. For whatever reason, people think that cats don't need human companionship. But when that’s what they're used to, they will absolutely want that and need that. It’s about the animals, first and foremost. You need to remember that.

Sam: So again, we'll have a link to that freebie downloadable cheat sheet of all these tips. I will link to that in the show notes and you can get that there. I will link to any and all resources that we mentioned in the show notes on our website.

Again, we have written a lot about this on our website so we have a lot of resources there. We also have our book, The House Sitting Handbook, which goes into everything that we talked about, super in-depth. It comes with a workbook to guide you through all these steps: creating your own profile, creating your own message, all of that.

Veren: Remember that house sitting is a process. This is not something you can rush. It's something that can be incredibly rewarding if you're willing to take the time and energy and really invest yourself in it. We want to show you that there's a lot to it. It's one thing to house sit, but it's another thing to have great housing experiences. We want to show you that that's very possible.

Sam: Yes, we’re all about continued happy house sitting.

Veren: See ya later!

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