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Why You’re Struggling to Get Your First House Sit

written by Veren Ferrera January 10, 2020
Why You’re Struggling to Get Your First House Sit

We know exactly what you’re going through right now as a newbie house sitter.

You keep applying to house sits that sound amazing, yet you never hear back.

What gives?

Is house sitting just a big scam?

Are all these pet owners just stuck up?

Maybe house sitting just isn’t worth it.

Or maybe you’re going about it all wrong.

Veren here, the other, less gentle half of The Alternative Travelers, who loves to take inflated egos down a peg (while The Sam aka the girlfriend deflates mine). I’m going to give you a healthy dose of house sitting reality. And I’ve got the chutzpah to do it: we’ve been house sitting since 2016 with nothing but a long trail of perfect reviews to show for it.

So why exactly aren’t you landing that first sit?

You’re very likely making some typical newbie mistakes.

You may have already chosen a house sitting platform, written a profile, sent application messages, and yet you’re still not landing house sits.

But have you considered the pet owner perspective? You know, the actual people who own a pet and created that house sit to find pet sitters? A big newbie mistake (and a bad house sitter one too) is to only think of yourself and what you’re getting out of the house sit exchange.

Remember that there will always be plenty of house sitters to choose from in popular destinations (which is probably where your “dream sit” is, if we had to guess). Since pet owners in these popular places will always have a steady supply of house sitters, they can afford to be very picky from dozens of applicants.

So what can you do to help even the odds? How do you get that very necessary first house sit and avoid the newbie pitfall that sends the vast majority of wannabe house sitters into the sitter quitter abyss?

As experienced and highly sought after house sitters that have been doing this since 2016, we’ve learned a thing or two or five. We’ve even written an entire book on house sitting (click here to learn more about The House Sitting Handbook).

So without further ado, here are the top five reasons that you’re not landing that first house sit.

1. You Lack Patience

In the modern age of the internet, we’re used to requesting and receiving exactly what we want within seconds. Many prospective house sitters assume that house sitting will be the same way.

I can’t blame most people for thinking and behaving this way, especially when modern house sitting is overwhelmingly facilitated online.

But sorry, house sitting just doesn’t work like that.

Read More: Common Misconceptions of House Sitting

House sitting is a process. Like any skill or endeavor worth pursuing in life, it takes time, effort, and strategy. When we first started house sitting, we spent months in the preparation stage: researching sites to join, creating our profile, and last but certainly not least, applying to house sit after house sit.

Eventually, we landed our first sit, which is still one of our favorites to this day.

The point is this: you must keep trying. The only difference between us and other house sitter quitters is that we didn’t give up. Don’t quit too early, especially before you’ve had a real chance to start. You may be just a few applications away from landing a great sit, so stick it out!

2. Your Profile Desperately Needs Work

This is one of the biggest mistakes that newbie house sitters make. They slap together whatever fun factoids they like about themselves, then skip to applying to the first incredible sounding house sit they find. Coincidentally, this is the same issue plaguing most online dating apps and resulting in terrible user experiences for most.

Why do I mention online dating? Because using online house sitting platforms is a lot like dating apps. You put together a profile to represent you. So if you do a shit job, people will see shit and simply move on.

To get anywhere in the online world of house sitting, you need to treat it like it’s a job. You wouldn’t just show up to an interview and hand the boss a single paragraph description of yourself, or worse, one sentence.

We liken your house sitting profile to a résumé. It needs to sound impressive and sell you for the position. It lists related experience, skills, and background. If you’re not hitting upon these basics, you’re giving every homeowner who glances at your profile all the reason to not read for a micron of a second longer.

Read More: How to Make a Great House Sitting Profile
Include photos in your profile…with pets!

3. Your Application Messages Suck Hard

Sam and I are always blown away by just how little work would-be house sitters put into their application message to house sits.

We’ve picked the brains of every pet owner we house sat for, namely, asking why they chose us. A recurring theme is how spot on our application message is, while the rest of the messages they’ve received are underwhelmingly half-assed, self-centered dribble.

Usually, these messages look somewhere along the lines of this: “OMG I just love [insert where house sit is] and I’ve always wanted to visit there all my life. Please please pick me!”

What’s wrong with this sort of message?

It doesn’t address the pet owner’s concerns whatsoever. It’s completely focused on what the house sitter wants, beginning and ending there. Messages like these don’t even make any mention of the pets that they’d be caring for!

A great application message connects to a great profile. Whereas the profile is like a résumé when applying for most jobs, you need a cover letter and that’s exactly what we liken your application message to. Your first message to the pet owner of a house sit needs address key points in order for them to even consider you.

Read More: How to Write a Winning Application Message

4. You Apply to House Sits You Have Almost Zero Chance Of Getting

There is such a thing as house sits out of your league.

House sitting has increased dramatically in popularity, which means there are a lot of house sitters out there trying to land house sits. If you consider the numbers, you start to see the big picture: almost every single house sit has at least several applicants. Only one gets chosen. So that means a lot of house sitters constantly get denied sits – even great, super experienced ones.

So why bother with sits you have no chance at? Part of this is recognizing that sometimes you literally don’t qualify. And this can happen in two ways.

One way is how the vast majority of beginner sitters behave: applying for highly competitive sits aka popular tourist destinations aka probably your dream destination. Everybody and their cousin wants to visit New York City, London, Paris, and all the usual global alpha plus cities listed on shirts and posters.

So what does this have to do with having the right qualifications? If there’s a cat and you can handle cats – what’s there to miss?

These house sits have insurmountably high application rates. Why would any pet owner choose someone with no reviews over someone with at least a few? And then when super experienced sitters roll up with dozens of 5-star reviews – it’s a no brainer. Pet owners get to cherry-pick from the veritable cream that rises to the top. Trust us – we’re swimming in that cream and its oh-so-nice beating out the competition.

Now some of you may think it’s worth gambling on this since we can’t say with 100% certainty that you’ll never get lucky, but this is showing a poor understanding of probability. When everyone thinks there’s nothing to lose to applying, everyone applies. But if you had to put money down, and hear that your odds are 1 to 10, or worse, 1 to 20 – would you still bet? Think of that every time you consider applying for what we dub “dream sits”.

The other way sitters don’t qualify is that for some house sits, regardless of popularity, you literally don’t qualify for. This could be a “female” only, or “couples” only, or “mature” aka retired, only. And don’t you dare think somehow that the pet owner will make an exception for you. If you don’t meet the explicit requirements that the pet owner lists, don’t waste your time – you’re bound for disappointment. And if you still apply, they’ll likely assume you didn’t read their listing carefully, so you’re definitely not getting picked.

If despite all these reasons to not apply to sits you don’t “qualify” for, you still think you have nothing to lose when applying to sits – you’re wrong.

All the time you spend applying to sits you have no chance in house sitter hell of getting is time lost spent applying to amazing sits in less popular locations that you actually had a shot at. And when you look back at the past few months of no success, at best it will be discouraging, and at worst, makes you give up on house sitting.

Read more: NYC House Sitting 101 for Pet Owners and House Sitters

5. Your House Sit Search Game is Weak

There’s more to house sitting than just picking the region of your dream house sit.

There are so many things to consider.

First, there are the explicit search filters, like the length of house sit, type of pets, and location. If you’re being too specific, you may be missing out on great house sits for arbitrary and superficial reasons. Now if you are allergic to cats and only search for house sits with dogs, totally understandable. But if you’re one of the not too uncommon pet indifferent individuals who are only interested in saving money AND don’t like animals, you’re going to have a hard time finding petless house sits.

Then there are the not so explicit things you can search for that have yet to be incorporated into the search engines provided by online house sitting platforms.

One that we’d love to see happen? Some analytics that show the past frequency of house sits for a particular region. But for now, we have to settle for what we can see at a glance. For example, one quick search will show that there’s a ton of house sits regularly posted in the UK, but only a few per year in Latin America.

While we’re not claiming to cite actual numbers, if you take a good look at searching in different regions, you’ll see some just have way more than others.

But you’d never know this if you’re making another house sit search mistake:

Not searching enough.


Let’s use us as an example. We’re full-time house sitters. House sitting like this allows us to travel full-time. So when we are looking to book house sits, we also have the pressure of lining up house sits back to back, so we have to look several times daily (we are also very picky but can afford to be – someday that may be you).

Whereas a newbie, with house sitting being something they are interested in trying, has all the time in the world to find their first house. Yet if you’re struggling to find that first sit, it could very well mean you’re not searching enough.

Our suggestion? Look at least daily. We say at least, because ideally, you want to look several times daily. Set alerts for regions (make sure you sign up for an online house sitting platform with this functionality). It’s imperative that you apply to house sits asap, as applying too late is another reason you may be struggling. If you’re not on top of searching, how will you catch a great house sit in time?

So there you have it – the very likely reasons why you haven’t landed your first house sit.

However, if you ever hope to land a dream house sit – that’s too big of a goal to handle with one article.

And we know just the tool to help you figure it all out: our new book, The House Sitting Handbook. In it, we spill all our tools, tips, and strategies that we used to take us from beginners to pros, to use house sitting to change our lives.

The House Sitting Handbook clickable banner


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