Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

House Sitting Behind the Scenes – The Selection Process

House and pet sitting as a lifestyle might sound like a relatively new concept to you and me, but, within these circles, everyone is on the look-out for an appealing sit, and some people have been doing it for over a decade. Since we started this lifestyle two years ago, the demand for house sits (or the supply of house sitters) has grown substantially. Competition is fierce, and securing an attractive sit is not an easy feat. There are days that dealing with potential house sits is my main activity; another reason why we prefer long-term commitments. Not only does that fit our work schedules better, provide immersion into a specific area and give us a welcome respite from being on the road, it also offers me a little break from digging through listings and submitting application letters.

In February, I wrote a post about how we end up with certain sits. I figured it was time for another example of how our future takes shape “behind the scenes”. The basics are always the same. Mark and I are members of a few house sitting sites, where our profile is available. We explain who we are, what we prioritize, our experiences and our strengths. There are a few personal photos attached as well. Home owners sometimes find a perfect match in us by reading this profile, and send us an email to inquire about our availability and thoughts. More often, however, I click on the most promising house sit listings that arrive in my inbox, read the descriptions, check out the photos, and, when they fit our preferences (location, type of animals, duration, timing), I create a personal letter and hit the send button. If the interest is mutual, we communicate over email and set up a time for a Skype interview, ideally with video. When all that goes well, and the home owner chooses us – usually after talking to a few candidates – we confirm the sit, and have a plan. It is not uncommon that home owners, especially in desirable locations, receive between 40-100 applications. Yeah…

Hanging out in the yard with “our” current Italian Greyhounds Frida and Elvis

When Mark and I were house sitting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the end of the summer, we only had one more sit secured, immediately after that one, in Colorado. Both sits were for one month. From mid-October on, we would be homeless, or camper-bound. With less than two months to that date, we became a tiny bit antsy, and were on the look-out for new sits. I scrutinized the listings that arrived and hoped for a long-term sit, preferably somewhere warm, for the winter. After coming up empty-handed for a couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed by three possibilities!

The first one, which I read on a Saturday morning, consisted of four months in a beautiful, historic home in Oriental, North Carolina. There were two big Labradors to take care of, and we knew this to be a cute, walkable town from a stopover on our sailboat Irie years ago. We’d be back on the East Coast, so Mark’s family might be able to come for a visit, maybe over the holidays? Perfect, except for the climate. Yes, it would be better than New England, but the goal this year was to be somewhere warmer than Northern California, where we were still a tad chilly this past winter. Mark and I went away for the weekend, thought it over, and by Sunday evening, I was ready for a winter in Oriental! I went through my application steps, patiently waited for 24 hours, became worried after 48, and… received a rejection email the following day. They had picked someone else and disliked our small camper van being parked in their neighborhood.

Around the same period, I received a personal invitation from a home owner: whether Mark and I would be interested in a two-month sit in an attractive house, along the water, in the Sacramento river delta area, Northern California. It sounded enticing. When I showed positive curiosity in a return email the following day, the home owner had already assigned the sit to someone else.

We only had one option left towards the end of our Santa Fe house sit: four-and-a-half months in Kerrville, Texas. See the listing here. I hesitantly praised our qualities, and the home owner was convinced we were the right couple for her and her pet. She wanted us immediately, but a few things were still up in the air, due to approaching hurricane Irma and how her sailboat in Florida would fare (she would spend the winter on it). Texas is not our first choice when it comes to house sitting long-term, but, the climate is pleasant, the duration was perfect (we could focus on our business and my writing without too many distractions), and the dog was cute. We communicated back and forth, without committing, but believing our winter location was sealed.

That’s when I discovered a three-month house sit, from November through January, in San Diego, Southern California. See the listing here. Now, I don’t know about you, but, on the brief visits Mark and I made to this city, we loved it. And, the year-round climate is said to be among the best in the US. It had amazing possibilities and potential. This sit would disappear quickly. I promptly sent the owner an email to be on her radar, and worked my magic in an official application within half an hour of the posting. 12 hours later, the owner was not contactable anymore; she stopped accepting applications after reaching ten applicants. She selected a few candidates, us included, to have a Skype conversation. A few days later, we received the exciting news that she picked yours truly. We accepted, and politely declined the sit in Texas, which had been reduced to a mere two months by then. So, three months in San Diego it is!

San Diego skyline

I hope  my American friends and readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

43 Comments

  1. Well this is very relatable and one I have thought of writing for awhile. You got in first and wrote it well! 😀

  2. I’m glad you have explained the process a bit more. Even those of us who have never – or may never – house and pet sit, find the information intriguing. I would think your blog is also a good “selling” point for you. The homeowner can read about you and Mark and feel like they “know” you. It wouldn’t be easy to invite strangers into one’s home for an extended period, but with your blog and good reviews of past sits, they would be more comfortable that you will do a good job.

    I’m glad that the San Diego homeowner chose you!

    • We are as well, Janis. And, you are right, because of our open communications and transparent blog, we feel like people can get to know us better. I always give new home owners the link to our blog and encourage them to check it out, and learn even more about us, and our past experiences, if they so choose us. So, I guess, indirectly, these posts might be a selling point. 🙂 The reviews are certainly key.

  3. We are heading to New Zealand for two weeks in January. i was thinking about signing up to one of these websites to see if we can find a house sitter. Do you think it is worth it? I’m not sure if anyone will want to stay if it is only for two weeks!? It sounds like most of your stays are far longer!!

    • Hi Josy! I totally think it would be worth it to look for house sitters while you are away, especially if you have pets or would like someone to occupy your house during your absence. I recommend you use Mind My House, House Sitters America (I assume you are located in the US), or House Carers to post your listing. These sites are free for home owners to post an ad. Trusted House Sitters charges a chunk of money for the same service. Here is some info about those sites: http://www.roamingabout.com/how-to-find-the-right-house-sit/

      The other thing you could do (in addition to posting on one of these sites), is put a message about where you are located and what you are looking for in a sitter, plus how long you are gone on the Facebook page “House Sitting World”. Becoming a “member” there is free. Many house sitters and home owners read the daily postings.

      My suggestion is to definitely try it. What do you have to loose? Also, we are not the average house sitters. Most sitters actually pick sits that are shorter than what we prefer. I have seen many house sit listings come up for one week, or two weeks, or even a long weekend, and all of them disappear! Not sure where you are located, but if you are worried at all about finding sitters, it helps to mention a few of the attractions of your area in your listing. Hope this helps.

      • We’re in Vancouver (sorry! I should have written that!) It’s an expensive city so it could be good if there is someone that needs a place to stay for a couple of weeks. We have an easy-going cat to look after too. Last time I just paid for a cat sitter, but he’d probably prefer to have someone in the flat to pay him some attention.

        • Josy, as Liesbet has already stated a 2 week housesit is very much worth it. Try TrustedHousesitters.com it is the one we are with and many Canadian ones are available on it. There are not many long term housesits in Europe. In Spain for the next 3 months most of ours are very short term. The longest being 2.5 weeks. Let us know how you get on.

          • Oooh thanks Suzanne!
            I’ll make sure I use the right link. 🙂

          • Thanks for chiming in, Suz. Trusted House Sitters does have the biggest availability of sits and sitters. Just not my favorite site at the moment. Personal preferences, right? 🙂

          • I gave chiming in was a positive thing for you 🙂 Why isn’t trustedhousesitters your favourite anymore? It is the easiest to use more than others I have looked at.

            • Change the word gave to hope, would the heck 🙂

            • I don’t like the way they have set up the email notifications, not offering usable filters and personalized notifications to receive in your inbox. I have sent them multiple emails over the years with incredible suggestions to improve their life and the life of house sitters and home owners, and they have ignored all of it. In my opinion, they are making the site less user-friendly instead of more. For example, home owners without pets have to leave a review of “pet care” for their house sitters. I’m sick of dealing with all that, and don’t have the time to search for sits or refresh pages all day long. Anyway, that’s just a part of it and I have better experiences with the other sites…

        • Wow, Josy. Vancouver is a prime location for house sitters. You will definitely have your pick of applicants!! Which is the best way of doing this process. I agree, your cat would prefer someone around for most of the day. And, you won’t have to pay any money as well. It is such a good exchange in my opinion. Good luck finding the right people for your home and cat; I”m sure you will find someone suitable and fairly quickly as well. 🙂

  4. Hi, Liesbet – I agree with Janis. This is very interesting information and your blog is an excellent selling point for you. If you ever want to house-sit on Vancouver Island, let us know.

    • I will definitely let you know, Donna. But… it usually works the other way around. Home owners let us know when they would like a house sitter. 🙂

  5. Wow! You and Mark have hit the jackpot, Liesbet! Three months in San Diego…during the winter months sounds like wonderful!

    • It is pretty wonderful, Jill, apart from one “inconvenience”. But, that will be for a future post. So far, the weather has been lovely! We are extremely happy to be here and to have hit that jackpot. 🙂

  6. The whole process is quite intense…with interviews and everything. Well I guess it is like finding a job for few months at a time? Very interesting read…I had no idea. Sounds like you got the perfect gig in the end, well done😄

    • Thanks, Gilda. Yes, you can kind of compare it to finding a job (and some people do charge for their house sitting services), every couple of months or so. But, the interviews are always relaxed, spontaneous and enjoyable. It is a good way to get to know each other a bit ahead of time and we think it is very important for both parties to handle it this way. After all, we are staying in the home of “strangers” and they will trust their house and beloved pets to a couple they don’t know personally. It all makes sense. 🙂

  7. Oh my gosh, Liesbet, I had no idea that house/pet sitting was such an involved and stressful process. I should have assumed it – of course it’s critical to find the right fit for a multi-month house sit. But wow, the number of applicants and the uncertainty until the last minute. I’m so glad it worked out for a long term sit in San Diego. What a great city!

    • It is a great city. We hope to jump on the bikes in a few minutes and go check another part of it out! The house sitting life becomes most stressful when we have “nothing” lined up and that date of “nothing” comes closer and closer. Hence, having a camper takes some of that pressure off now. 🙂

  8. Glad that the homeowner in San Diego chose you, Liesbet. It’s a nice city and the weather is perfect. I have “house/pet sitting” on my “to explore” list. I’d like to try short-term sits when I plan my solo travel. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks, Natalie. We were and are pretty psyched to be here. I totally think you should explore house sitting! There are so many advantages to staying in a private home once in a while during (exhausting) travels.

  9. You certainly have to work to get the placements, Liesbet, so I’m glad you’ve hit the jackpot with this one. 🙂 🙂

  10. The process you describe sounds a little complicated and perhaps a hair stressful! So glad you got the SD house sit, so we hope to visit you while we are there.

  11. It’s really interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes. I didn’t realize how competitive house/pet sitting was.

  12. Thanks, Liesbet! I’ve wondered how it all works, and have been curious about the possibilities of having someone stay at our house when we wander. Thanks for sharing! ~ Lynn

  13. What a beautiful post. Some lovely pics

  14. Yay for three months in San Diego! The competitive nature of house must grow a bit frustrating at times. Still it sounds like you have so much experience and knowledge. Having met you I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t want you to house sit!

    • Ooow, Sue, what a nice thing to say. Of course, we are the best’. 🙂 But, different people prefer different qualities. And, when you think about it, if things don’t work out smoothly from the start, it is probably for the best and not meant to be. In the beginning, we took “rejection letters” personally, especially when it was in a desirable location, but now, we go with the flow, thinking it will work out somehow. Looking back, everything has worked out just splendidly. And, having that flexibility makes an uncertain future easier.

  15. Wow – I figured it was competitive but never thought about how a looming date with no sits lined up could be extremely stressful. Although I can be a peripatetic type, I wonder how I’d fare changing houses every few months? Just when you figure out where everything is inside the house and in the community, it’s time to move again!

    • That’s right, Lexie, so every move is a new adventure, whether it is taking up residence, walking the neighborhood or going grocery shopping! As if you go on a vacation every time, but without the vacation time. 🙂 Pretty exciting, isn’t it? I had to look up “peripatetic”. Very fitting for my personality – I should have learned that word earlier. Thanks!

  16. I never stopped to consider how much marketing would be involved in securing a steady stream of house/pet sitting jobs. However, now that you describe it, i can see why the supply of house sitters has increased so much.

    • We have never been good salespeople, Gabe, whether it revolves around our business, my writing or ourselves. We just hope the right dose of responsibility, determination, care and genuineness gets us (and our work) to the right people. 🙂 It is a very attractive lifestyle, so more and more people sign up for it. Just like starting sailing and RVing adventures, based on all the blogs and vlogs out there. Makes sense, I guess.

  17. Wow, what an interesting rundown on all that’s invovled in booking your house sits Liesbet. You guys are professional all the way. And nice score on the San Diego sit. 🙂

  18. You live a fascinating life that is obviously not risk-free, but worth the ‘hold-your-breath-do-we-have-a-place-next’ moments. I LOVE San Diego. ‘ve talked about living there (when we left the bay area) but friends who went to college there, or who live there, go on and on about how bad the traffic is. I look forward to hearing about your experiences when you arrive there!

    • Thanks, Pam. We do love our lifestyle. 🙂

      If I were to settle somewhere, San Diego would be on the top of the list. Traffic is actually not that bad, especially compared to the Bay Area. We house sat in Sonoma County for a few months and found it terribly exhausting and frustrating every time we made our way to or through San Francisco and the Bay Area. I’m sure it has gotten worse here as well, but we have yet to curse. 🙂 Of course, it helps that we try to walk and bike everywhere. One month into our three-month “residence” already. 🙁

  19. Liesbet, so interesting to hear about how the process works. We currently have an adult son living with us, so we have a built-in house and pet sitter. Also he provides awesome tech support. When he was not with us, the way I generally found a house sitter was by asking my colleagues/friends for a recommendation.

    Re: San Diego. I agree that it is a great place to be. I spent three weeks camping there with my kids when they were young and we loved it.

    Jude

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