Not everyone has a friend or family member with a house to look after. Luckily, there are tons of complete strangers looking for an honest person to take care of their home and/or pets. But first, you'll have to do some preparation. If you've never done this before, you should start AT LEAST a month before your expected goal housesit start date, but three months is suggested. And be ready to BE A GOOD HOUSESITTER!
STEP 1: Create Your Profile
Pick a Website
Your major resource for finding a housesit is using the internet. We prefer www.HouseCarers.com (and have an affiliate link), but www.TrustedHousesitters.com is good, too. Each costs to be a member, but HouseCarers is only $50, and Trusted Housesitters is $125 (as of this writing... let us know if that changes!) But you can get a free browse-only account on Trusted Housesitters, and they'll send you discounts of about 20-30% off. I still prefer House Carers, though (before I found out about their affiliate program).
Create Your Profile
Housesitting matching is a lot like online dating. You need to create a profile that helps you find matches. You need to be honest in your profile. Don't say you're comfortable giving medication to animals, if you're not. Trust me, you'll be very UNCOMFORTABLE if doing it without good instruction. So be honest about your wants and abilities. You'll also need to get some references. If you've done housesitting before, ask them to write something brief about how they found their home when they returned. You can also get personal references from friends and family. They should mention that you're responsible and tidy, etc. You can also get a police clearance to show you don't have any arrests. Some homeowners require this, but it does cost in many places (around $25 - contact your local police office for more information).
Create a Message Template
This is part of creating your profile and preparing to contact home owners. Create a quick template to help you send a message to a prospective housesit. They often go pretty quickly, so you need to be ready to pounce when the right one comes up. This template should start with your typical introduction, then have a section for your second paragraph that just says, "HOW CAN I HELP THEM?" and just replace that later with a personalized section about their needs (I'll discuss this later). Finally, end with an invitation to communicate via video or voice chat. So your first and last paragraphs can be all ready to go!
Step 2: Picking a Housesit
Finding the Perfect Housesit
The websites do a pretty good job of letting you filter housesit posts, but it's important to understand that the owner will be getting several GREAT applicants. Chances are they will accept the first one that 'feels right' to them. So you MUST send in your application early! There are many new housesits every day, but finding the right fit can be tough, so increase your chances of getting the housesit by refreshing the site a few times a day. It doesn't take long to check out the five or ten new listings since last time you looked, so just have it ready on your phone or computer and just hit refresh.
Postings will be for as much as a year in advance, but most are about 6 weeks before the time they need you. There are some really short notice ones, though, too, so don't despair if you need to fill a week or two and you're three weeks out. Most housesits are for a week or longer, but you can find some for a few days. Some really long term ones do pop up as well for a six months, a year or more! Just read through the listings and decide what's right for you.
Step 3: Getting the Housesit
Applying for Consideration
Get that template out and start editing it! This message is their first introduction to you (and then they'll check out your profile), so edit your template to add personal touches specific to their housesit. In your second paragraph, explain that you want to help them with their housesit. Talk about their profile and what interested you about them. Next, ask a question about the housesit. Do the pets need medication? Do they have plants to water? This should be about helping them, though, not about helping YOU. Don't ask about the beaches in the area, for instance. Finally, tell them that you're available for video or voice chat if they'd like.
Give them a range of times, if your schedule is limited. They will likely have several applicants, so be open with their preferred communication app. Suggest the ones that you already use, but there are a TON of them, so be ready to create a new account. Communication is pretty fluid after this. Just BE RESPONSIVE. Again, the first ones they like they'll probably accept, so schedule a chat as early as you can.
Some home owners get overwhelmed with all of the responses, so be patient when waiting for a reply. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow up, though. Give it a day or two and then politely follow up with a suggesting that you chat using email, Skype, etc. Make it clear that your goal is to make it as easy for them as possible.
Don't Give Up
It can be discouraging to not get picked for a housesit. Remember, they might have dozens of applicants, so you might need to apply to several before you get picked for one. Just be patient and keep applying. If you're on the short list for a housesit, you still shouldn't pass up other opportunities. When talking with someone just let them know that before you can commit, you have to check on something and that you'll get back to them. Communication is key!