By Becky Wong
One of the ways we travel around the world is by housesitting. We look after people’s homes and pets while they are away and often work remotely from their homes. We deliberately choose homes with pets because we love spending time with animals!
I can hear some of you asking out loud right now, “What exactly is house sitting?”
Housesitting is a cross between Airbnb and a work exchange where homeowners place their property, possessions and pets in the trusted hands of housesitters to look after for an agreed set period.
Through housesitting, homeowners can leave for extended periods of time with complete peace of mind that their home and pets are in safe hands. For us as housesitters, we get to live rent-free in exchange for the responsibility of looking after their homes and pets while they’re away.
The more you housesit the more you’ll build your checklist of details and questions to ask the homeowners before they leave to avoid last minute surprises and make sure you are fully prepared.
Here I’ll share what we have learned over our years of housesitting. Read on to find out everything you need to know before confirming your next housesit!
A handy checklist before you confirm a new sit
- Where is it based? How will you get there, how will you get around, where is the nearest supermarket and local shops? Can you get there by foot or will you need a car? Some sits specify you need a car.
- Will you be able to work remotely while you are there? Are you working while you are there? What will impact be on your work and impact on looking after the pets? Depending on what they require. They’ll usually let you if their pet is pretty relaxed or super energetic – the first time we housesat for two incredibly energetic black labs, we planned ahead to make sure we woke up early enough to take them for a long walk around the fields before we opened our laptops. Some dogs have set schedules that you’ll need to work around, others are more flexible. If you know routines ahead of arrival, you’ll be able to plan your work and housesit responsibilities around each other.
It’s always a good idea to schedule conference calls after the dogs have been taken out for a run around. Either way, I’ve been lucky to have understanding clients and remote colleagues who laugh whenever I’ve needed to pause our call while exclaiming “No!” and stopping the dog who is in our charge away from chewing up our hosts’ cookbooks.
- Appointments. Do they have any vet appointments or other timed appointments they will need you to take their pets to? We’ve taken pets to the vet a few times for routine check-ups, we’ve even had the pleasure to six-month old Labrador to puppy training school one evening which we only found out about nearer the time. It wasn’t a problem for us at the time, but it’s better to ask ahead so you don’t have any surprises on arrival. I’ve heard of horror stories from other sitters of being assigned a wave of additional responsibilities that were not included in the listing or discussed before they arrived!
- How long can the pets be left alone? In case you want to explore the area on some days without the pets, find out if their pet(s) can be left alone and if so, how long can they be comfortably left alone? Some homeowners have friends and neighbours close by who are happy to look after their pet in your place for one or two days to allow sitters to explore during their stay. Almost all homeowners are avid travellers themselves and are keen for sitters to get to know their hometowns so often they will have arrangements for this already before you arrive. You’ll need to coordinate with the friend or neighbour to make sure they’re free on the day that you’d like them to help.
- Photo updates! Send regular photo updates to the homeowners. Don’t worry about feeling like you’ll be spamming them. They love it! You’ll love it! It brings great joy to both yourselves and the homeowners. It’s the perfect way to keep them updated about their pets and shows them everything is fine. Who doesn’t love receiving pictures of their own pets, or photos of any pets for that matter?
- Insurance. The homeowners usually have their own insurance set up. We prefer going through a housesitting website if we are not housesitting for friends. As part of the subscription service, they provide support and insurance if needed – which we have never needed either of, thankfully!
- Make sure you are comfortable and capable to handle what you’re committing to. It goes without saying that you should think carefully about what you are committing to! If they ask for years of experience handling horses or for someone who has experience looking after up to 5 energetic big dogs for two weeks and you have none then don’t do it. The homeowners will be trusting you completely and their animals will be relying on you for their safety and well-being.
Saying that, don’t feel that you need to skip over these listings. Instead, read them in more detail because some of them are happy for inexperienced sitters to arrive earlier for them to train you up or they have a close relative nearby who can offer you guidance. 😃 Just be honest and upfront in your application and when you’re communicating with the homeowners before you commit.
For myself right at the very start, I was happy to look after cats alone but at the start was happier having Rod around at the start because I never had pets growing up so I’ve been learning all about looking dogs and cats over these last few years. 😊
Other considerations to avoid any last-minute surprises
A welcome pack is usually provided but some homeowners often miss out some useful information that we’ve learnt to ask everyone along the way!
Here are a few extras you should remember to ask homeowners before they leave (or before you arrive) so that you are fully prepared for your next housesit.
- Do they need any plants watered either indoors or in their garden while they are away, are there any areas in their house or garden they need you to maintain for them during your stay?
- What’s the temperament of their pet(s), are there any specific routines or things they’ve trained them in that you should stick to?
- Do they have cleaners or gardeners coming? If so, when? Do you need to be home to let them in? This is that you can plan your time there if you want to explore or need to leave the house for work commitments or to explore the local area.
- What are the key emergency contact details, such as their local vets or friends and family in case you need help in an emergency? Luckily, we’ve never needed to use any emergency details, but you never know what might happen so it’s better to be prepared.
Keen to housesit as much as you can?
Register with a website and tell everyone! We use Trusted Housesitters for almost three years and have had a brilliant time. We only started using the website actively six months after we decided to give it a go because a lot of friends asked us to sit for them once they heard this was something that we wanted to do!
We also got some housesits booked in after meeting Airbnb hosts who we stayed within the past and chatted, got to know them and it turned out they were struggling to find sitters for the dates they had planned for their holidays.
You never know who around you will need a housesitter soon, so talk about it, tell everyone and see where it all takes you.
On that note: now that you’ve read this post, do you by any chance need a couple of very experienced housesitters at some point this year? If so let me know! 😉
(P.S. Links in this blog may be referral/affiliate links. 😊 )