House-sitting. It’s the ultimate free-accommodation hack for travellers.
It can also be incredibly disillusioning trying to score a house-sit, when you never get a reply from all those applications.
I belong to Trusted Housesitters, the website that mixes-and-matches those looking for free accommodation with those looking for free pet-minding. The company now boasts some 30 staff, and has listings in over 140 countries.
House-sitting in New Orleans. Who’s taking who for a walk?
It costs money to keep this beast running – which comes in the form of memberships. The more members; the more they can grow. But … with no cap on the number of applicants per house-sit, it can be hard to get noticed.
This is the third time I’ve been a member – the first two times (both a few years ago) I never received a single reply to my applications. So, I learned the tricks to getting noticed, which I share below.
But first – be aware that no matter how good your application is, it still may not be read. Here’s a break-down of the house-sits I applied for over the course of one month.
As you can see, you won’t get every house-sit you apply for.
- Some home owners don’t read your application.
- Some home owners read your application, but don’t reply to you.
- Some home owners say they want you, so you turn down other offers, and then they say they’ve found someone else.
- Some home owners string you along for days – or weeks – after they’ve found someone else, but don’t want you to accept another sit in case their first choice drops out. One bloke emailed me 15 times over three weeks, not wanting to let me accept another sit, but clearly with another sitter in mind. Mean bugger.
I’ve found it to be a bit of a numbers game – apply for enough house-sits, and you’ll eventually get one … if you word your application correctly, that is!
Daily walks on the beach with Rags and Hugger in San Francisco were a real treat.
Tops tips for scoring house-sits
Get in early for popular cities
There can be 50-70+ applicants for every house-sit in places like Los Angeles and New York. Get in early if you want one! If there are already 50-70+ applicants, they’re not likely to read your application if it’s #71. You’re at an advantage if you’re online a lot. Trusted House-sitters send out new listings several times a day – jump on the ones you want.
I pounced on a San Francisco sit as soon as one newsletter came out. Received a phone call within five minutes, and the sit was confirmed while I was on the phone. Boom!
Tell them what you can offer, not what you want
Think of applying for a house-sit like applying for a job. Let’s say a bar has advertised for a bartender, and receives two applications.
Applicant 1: Hey man, woooo hoooo, I TOTALLY LOVE YOUR BAR!!! Me and me mates are there every weekend getting on the piss … it would be beyond epic to get paid to work there LOL. I’m your boy – hook me up and let’s par-taaaay!
Applicant 2: I am a dedicated hospitality professional, with a General Manager’s Certificate, several years’ experience, and able to work nights, weekends, and public holidays. With no personal ties, I’m also available at short notice to help out during busy times.
Who you gonna call?
So, you think yous is gonna write a blog post, does yous? Good luck with than, hooman!
With job-hunting, you need to tell a potential employer what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. House-sitting is the same.
Let’s say someone has advertised for a house-sitter in Las Vegas.
Applicant 1: Vegas baby! Yeah. What a dream location – this would be awesome. Two weeks? I’ve looked up the entertainment guide – wicked as, there’s something I can go to every night. This will be brilliant. I’m your girl! Call me!!!
Applicant 2: I would love to come and adore Pookie for you while you are away on business. It will be such a delight to spend time with Pookie, and take him for walks every day. I’m not into late-nights or partying, and the key reason I’m coming to Vegas is to visit Hoover Dam and the cactus gardens, so I’ll be home at nights for couch cuddles.
Who you gonna call?
As with job hunting, you need to tailor your application to every house-sit. Here’s what I do.
- Copy and paste-the house-sit advertisement to Word, and highlight the key things they’re looking for.
- Make sure you cover them off in your application.
- Also point out any qualities you have that make you more appealing as someone to look after their pets and home. For me, these include:
- age (if you’re older, society considers you more responsible – I’m 50)
- in bed early
- four years as a volunteer at a wildlife park
- pet owner since childhood
- and – probably key to my success – I work from my laptop, which means their pets have company most of the time they’re away, and their home is secure.
Trusted Housesitters have some more tips here – but don’t take them too literally. For example, they say:
“talk about your hobbies and interests, list your skills and qualifications, and communicate your passions in life”.
If your hobbies are porn, and you’re passionate about getting pissed and partying hard – don’t mention that. And if those are your driving passions, house-sitting is probably not for you.
Also, don’t get caught up listing the dozen or so hospitality qualifications you have, or your qualifications as a nuclear physicist and cold-fusion expert. Only list the skills and qualifications that will help you get the house-sit.
House-sitting sure beats a teeny tiny hotel room!
Here’s a break down one of my recent successful applications. (Names changed.)
Hmmmm, re-reading this now, I’d qualify that “Netflix on my laptop” with “I have my own unlimited data”.
This back yard was next-level awesome!
So, get on over to Trusted Housesitters, and start planning your next trip. When you don’t have to pay for accommodation, travel is far more affordable!