I wanted to go into more detail on the process of applying for House Sitting positions, for those of you who might be interested and want to know more about the reality of our personal experience, and what to expect once you decide to get started.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, we belong to a few websites, but, as it turns out there were only 2 that are worth joining (Trusted House Sitters and HouseCarers). Since we didn’t care where we started our year abroad, we applied to house sits all over the world, which would enhance our chances of being accepted (somewhere). We applied for house sits in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, United States, Costa Rica, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Malaysia, Switzerland, Italy, UAE and France.
Our plan was to fly to whichever country accepted us first. That didn’t exactly happen, because the first home owner that accepted us was in New Zealand (and if you are following our blog you know we are in Australia). The house sit in New Zealand was not starting until March, and we wanted to get our journey started in January (to escape the Canadian winter), so we decided that we would try our best to narrow our search to more properties in NZ and Australia to try to get started sooner. In the end, we ended up starting our journey on Dec 23rd in Australia (much earlier than anticipated, but I will get into that later).
Before you start applying, you want to make sure that your profile is as good as it can be. You want to include some photos, and lots of details about your experience. Even if you have never house sat before, you can talk about being a home owner, or maybe a landlord (like us), or talk about your employment skills, and how responsible you are. Something that was recommended to us from the articles we read, was to ask your friends, neighbours, and co-workers (or employer) for references. By doing this, we were able to add 5 references to our profile so that it wouldn’t be empty when we started applying. Another suggestion (which we didn’t have time for due to our short decision to do this) was to volunteer to house sit for friends, or even strangers (by placing an ad online), in order to get some real house sitting (and pet sitting) references.
When you are ready to apply, the first important thing to know about this industry (and yes, it is a BIG industry), is that it is HIGHLY competitive. The first thing to do when you sign up with your membership, is to subscribe to daily email alerts for your chosen countries. Because there are lots of house sits being posted daily, it can be daunting to login daily to check each one individually, so this way, you will be notified when there is a new house sit posted for your preferred country, and you can hop on the internet right away to apply! Because we didn’t have a preference, this process consumed my daily life for 2 months. Unfortunately, we were at a disadvantage due to the time change (these websites are based in Australia), so by the time we saw the “daily” house sits appear, they were usually already spoken for by the time we had a chance to email the home owners. Yes, it happens this fast. I began staying up late (past midnight), just to be able to check the websites in “their” morning, in hopes of having more success. Between these 2 sites, over the course of 2.5 months, I applied to almost 200 advertisements in order for us to be accepted to 6.
How did we get that first house sit? I am actually surprised we got a response because (looking back), we didn’t include much in our first message, which I would NOT recommend to others wanting to get accepted, but just for fun you can read what we wrote:
Good Day! We are very interested in your home for March. We have both always dreamed of visiting NZ and we are hoping you could offer us our first house sit as we begin our marriage with this adventure! Thank you!
As you can see it was a very SHORT message, but we were new at this and didn’t understand how competitive the search would become later on, so our letters became longer and more detailed in order to be accepted. What I would recommend if you are starting out is to create a professional application, which reads like a resume of your personality and skills, because home owners can get up to 100 replies, and they will simply pass you by if your application doesn’t draw them in. I regret not doing this for to 100+ messages I sent in the first month. These home owners were new to the process, which I believe helped us in the end.
After the initial messages is sent, the home owner will get back to you in 2 ways. The first, is by a mass email to all of their applicants. This email will tell you “thank you for applying, but the position has been filled”. The majority of our emails came back to us with this message. It became quite discouraging, but we just kept at it, and had faith that someone would take a chance on us. Obviously, the other email you will receive will be one saying that the home owner is interested in talking to you further. This is great! Once this happens, you will setup a face to face (via Skype for us), where you will have a mini interview. For us, these meetings never felt like interviews, and were quite easy! The home owners were all great to talk to, and by the end of each call we were offered the position.
The chances of getting accepted also depend on how experienced the home owner is with using the house sitting services. You may have a better chance at getting accepted with a new home owner who hasn’t had any previous sitters. We found that the majority of the home owners didn’t choose us because we weren’t experienced enough, or they had very high expectations due to having previous house sitters. In the end, most of our home owners are either brand new to this service, or have only had 1 or 2 sitters in the past.
After being accepted to the first house sit, we could now add that information to our profile, and to our future emails to home owners. I recommend doing this because it will show that you have been through the process, and that another home owner has accepted you, which shows a level of trust in your abilities.
Our emails after being accepted to our first house sit read like this:
Look no further you have found your couple!!! My husband and I would be thrilled to care for your home while you are away. We are newly married and have just sold our house in order to become house sitters for the next year or forever who knows!! Now, you will notice that we are newbies at this however we are have just been accepted on our first sit in NZ in March. We have been home owners for 8 years, as well as landlords and we know the importance that is involved in the upkeep of a home and are very responsible. We have one reference available, and many others to come soon. My husband has been a handy man for years and he will be able to fix anything that might go wrong in your absence. He is also a gardener if you ever need assistance. We are non smokers, no pets and no children. We would take care of your pets as if they were our own. My husband and I have owned cats and dogs all our lives and are very comfortable. The only thing we personally require is to have internet in the home for our work. Before you say no please meet us on Skype, I promise we will shine. Hope to chat.
Now, as you will see we didn’t follow the advice we are giving you, because we didn’t have all of our references posted ahead of time, so we let them know they were coming. This email above was sent to our next home owner in Tasmania (we had personalized some details, but otherwise it was the same). She got back to us with an offer to Skype, and just like the first home owner, we were accepted during our Skype chat. This house sit was due to start after our New Zealand sit, which meant we had to keep looking for January and February in order to leave home sooner, so I kept searching.
Our next emails read the same as the one above, except we added that we now had 2 house sits. This email was seen and accepted by our 3rd home owner in Australia for a long house sit beginning in early January and lasting until end of February. We finally had our start to our journey! This was exciting! Things did not go according to plan in the end, but I will discuss in another post.
Moving forward, we added in our emails that we now had 3 house sits in 2 different countries, and we felt our emails were being taken more seriously by the home owners. Our 4th accepted house sit was for the summer of 2016 in the UK (two separate house sits over July – September) with the same home owner. We thought this would be possible, and we are hoping it is still is, but we had a bump in the road with this house sit as well, which will also mention in another post.
At this point, I should have stopped looking, but I admit I was a little addicted to the process of checking out the daily house sits and seeing where in the world we could live. Once you open yourself up to this opportunity, it is hard not to imagine yourself in all of these wonderful places! One morning I came across a house sit for Cairns, Australia. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this town, it is the home of the Great Barrier Reef. It has been my (Ashley) dream to snorkel on this reef, and I couldn’t believe there was a chance that it could happen! There was a catch. We would have to leave Canada (and our Family) before Christmas. Usually this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but considering we were leaving for a year, our Families really wanted us home for the holidays, and part of us wanted to be home as well. After much discussion, we decided to go for it, so I applied. I was SHOCKED to receive a reply immediately from the home owners. I thought for SURE this place would be spoken for immediately due to the fact that it is a popular spot, and also that house sits in this town are RARE. The home owners got back to us and said that our timing was perfect because their other house sitter had JUST cancelled (that same day), and they thought it was meant to be that I had applied, and they accepted us on the spot with no Skype meeting at all! I couldn’t believe it! We were both very excited, but also felt a little sad about missing the holidays with our family. But, hey, you only live once, and Christmas comes once a year, so we said let’s go! If you are interested to read how our experience was in Cairns, you can head here.. If you are interested in our experience at the Great Barrier Reef, you can head here.
This was our 5th house sit. I know I said we had 6 (and we do), but the story behind why we added our 6th one is complicated, and I decided to add a separate blog about the bumps in the road of our journey, so that I could keep this blog strictly as an information page on what our process looked like.
At the end of the day, the home owners just want to know that you are going to care for their home and their pets as if they were your own. If you can show that you can through your emails and your Skype meetings, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started.