Cindy asked me to do a post about how I’ve found my house and pet sitting jobs.
Well, I use two sites.
The first site is Mind My House. This is where I got the sits in Bulgaria and Amsterdam. It has a low annual membership cost of about 25CAD. This site has sits all over and is likely the best one for Europe outside of the UK and the rest of the world.
The second site is Trusted House Sitters. This is where I got my Spain and UK sits. It has a much steeper annual membership cost of 139CAD, but that membership paid for itself with my first sit. This site is likely the best one for the UK.
Now, you know where to get the sits, but how do you actually get the sits?
In my case, I got lucky, plain and simple. I was looking for a long-term gig in a country with low popularity (Bulgaria) and my host got desperate and had me come even though I couldn’t stay as long as he wanted. So that got me my first reference on Mind My House.
I used that reference in addition to outside references from friends whose pets and homes I have minded in the past and a Skype video interview to get my sit in Spain. I also pointed the host to my blog as a way to get to know me, assuring her that I wouldn’t share anything about her if she didn’t want me to.
So with two sits on two different sites behind me, references from before, and the suggestion from my host in Spain that I mention the blog as a way for people to get to know me, I was set. The couple in Amsterdam found that that was more than enough to have me come with little fanfare. The host in Hebden Bridge was a little more fussy, but I ended up getting a glowing recommendation from her as well. The folks in Shrewsbury used my references on both sites and a phone interview to decide to have me come.
Some of the things that hosts look for in a sitter:
-Demonstrable experience with pets, including pictures of you with your charges, and references from both pet owners and people who have known how you are with your own pets;
-Professionalism. This is a job for which the renumeration is free accommodation so take it seriously. For example, once you commit to your dates, don’t cancel. Also, plan to keep your gallivanting to the local area and don’t ask if you can have for the odd overnight away from their home unless the host offers (eg. my excursions in Bulgaria) and do the chores asked of you (within reason and agreed upon before you take the sit);
-Confidence that their privacy will be respected (no snooping!);
-Reviews that say the house was returned at least as clean as it was left and that all instructions were followed;
-Good communication before, through, and after (if applicable) the sit.
Some tips for the sitter:
-Check for host references so that you can vet them as thoroughly as they will vet you;
-Read the listing carefully to gauge compatibility with the hosts (I can always tell if the host is unreasonably fussy) and their demands for chores (eg. watering the garden);
-Is the location accessible if you don’t have a car (ie. can you walk to everything or is there at least public transit?);
-Look at pictures of the home, if provided, to give you an idea of whether it will be reasonably clean;
-Examine pictures of the pets to make sure you know what to expect (I won’t sit for a long-haired dog or cat);
-Is the host as concerned about your needs as theirs? Good hosts will leave you a manual (both sites have a fill in the blank template that ensures everything is covered) and carve out space in their home for you to be comfortable and unpack, especially if you’re there for a long period of time;
-For a North American (especially Canadian) sit, is there Internet access and if so, is it fast and unlimited (a given in Europe)?
Now that I have lots of references on both sites, I am, of course, going to keep my memberships going with them even if I end up not housesitting through those sites again. I will check them periodically when I am in Mexico as housesitting would be a great way to discover that country cheaply.
To sum up, here are things I love about house and pet sitting:
-free accommodation (especially in an expensive location like Amsterdam!) and getting to live in such a variety of homes;
-having pets for a bit without losing the freedom to travel;
-getting to know an area like a local;
-meeting wonderful people.
And here are things I don’t like about house and pet setting:
-not being in my own space, especially my own kitchen (there are no words for how much I miss my kitchen) and the uncertainty of having a decent bed and work station;
-bonding with pets I will never see again and worry that something catastrophic will happen to them under my watch.