Most of you know that Paul and I have been caring for properties and pets across the US for just about three years now. We sold Paul’s house in Colorado, along with most of our belongings in 2009 . Since then, our sits have consisted of a year in Cape Cod, MA, two weeks in Cambridge, MA, six months on Signal Mountain, TN, three weeks in Lake Charles, LA, and three months in Portland, OR. We liked Portland so much that we ended up renting a small house and have done several short-term local sits since then (October marks one year of living here on NE Wygant Street).
As Caretaking Couple, we have had a total of (almost) four months off between/during sits. The majority of that time has been spent on the road (visiting over thirty states), with the exception of one delightful month in an old Victorian just seconds from the Atlantic Ocean in Provincetown, MA. I have posted just about all of our travels in the past three years right here on this blog. You can enter a place in the “Search” box to the right and if we have been there, there will most likely be a blog post about it.
A lot of people ask us where we find these sits and how we end up being chosen for the job. This has been mentioned before here on the blog, but since it is such a popular question I figured I would bring it up again and go into more detail. The following is a list of my top ten suggestions on finding house and/or pet sits:
1. Subscribe to a couple of websites that match people who need help caring for their properties and/or pets with people looking for properties and/or pets to care for. The two sites I chose were Caretaker Gazette and Housecarers. Since then, I have tried different sites, but these are the two that I keep going back to (I do the research and then run the interesting opportunities by Paul).
2. After spending some time perusing opportunities on the sites listed above, come up with an ad (Caretaker Gazette), or profile (Housecarers), of your own. I made sure ours conveyed our personalities and let people know the basics about us and what we have to offer. It doesn’t have to be long ~ a paragraph or two at the most. Be sure to add a picture as well if that is an option.
3. Compile a list of references. You will be asked for one 100% of the time. When we were just starting out, I included sits I had done on my own over the years and personal references that could vouch for our character (friends, business associates, and neighbors). A written reference is great ~ ask for one. We haven’t received written references from everyone we asked, (some people are busy, some aren’t big into writing) but all have given permission to be contacted via phone/e-mail.
4. Go after interesting opportunities instead of waiting for them to find you. Especially in the beginning (like any business, it can take a little while to get established). Let everyone know what you are up to – word of mouth works wonders : ) Try not to take it personally if you aren’t given each and every sit you go after…just keep looking for that perfect (sit) fit. And don’t just take anything that comes along…if you are afraid of Chihuahuas, don’t commit to a sit that includes them just because you have been offered it.
5. Start a blog and post on it on a consistent basis. This is a great way to get a name for yourself in cyberspace. You can get a free account with WordPress. This will make you so much easier to find, connect you with like-minded people all over the world, and establish you as an expert (just be sure to post relevant information).
6. Answer all inquiries, whether interested or not. Sits come and go constantly and matching sits with sitters can be tricky. Communication is key (i.e. nobody likes to be left hanging).
7. Print up some business cards. We are currently using Moo and get compliments on our cards all of the time. Most people are online these days, but cards serve to remind potential clients where to find you.
8. Let everyone know what you are looking for. For example, we are now interested in finding a long-term sit in Northern California, and I am putting out an APB (All Points Bulletin). You never know who might know someone who is looking for someone just like you!
9. Join a professional house and pet sitter organization. We recommend National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Establishing a rapport with other sitters is interesting and fun, and you will learn about your field ten times faster than going it on your own.
10. Get bonded and insured. I suggest you do this through a professional organization like NAPPS. Most homeowners will make sure you are covered in their policy but it is worth the $ to have that extra piece of mind. We have had no problems and you probably won’t either but I have heard a few horror stories and am not willing to risk it.
*Bonus Suggestion* Go old-school and place ads in local papers where you want to live. Disclaimer – we are doing this for the first time. We just placed an ad in the Carmel Pine Cone as we are both hoping to find something in that part of California (the Oregon/California coast is calling to us both).
If you would like me to go into more detail on any of the above suggestions, just leave a comment here on this post. Best of luck in finding your next sit, and be sure to keep us posted on your progress!
Oh! Northern California? Exciting times for you… Can’t wait to hear about which possibilities appear.
This is definitely a helpful list. Ted and I have managed a little bit of house/pet sitting recently (more by happy accident than on purpose) but it really was a fantastic way to settle into a place and experience a comfortable visit. I’ve been toying with the idea of registering for a directory website or two. Thanks for the recommendations on Caretaker Gazette and Housecarers.
Hope you’re well! Hugs from South Africa.
It is always great to hear from you, Bethany! Thank you for the comment and let me know if you do register…it is a bit addicting, seeing what opportunities arise all around the world! We are sticking to the US for now (owing to Paul’s job) but dream of someday taking this lifestyle international : ) I know you can relate to that! XOX to you, wherever you are today…
This may be of interest to your Portland readers who read this far. Blue Turtle Home Sitting Services in Portland, OR matches qualified home sitters to vacant homes all over the region. This is a great service for people in transition who need housing but cannot–or would prefer not to–sign a one or two year lease required by landlords. Here is the website with more information: http://www.blueturtlehomesitting.com
Best of luck in N. Cali!!
Crissy, thank you for sharing this info! I scanned your site and will go back for more deets right now. We have a lot of friends that would love to sit in and around Portland and we would love to be able to refer them to a local site. Great to hear from you and feel free to keep in touch,
Congratulations on your new sitting assignment in Santa Fe. You will love it. I noticed a link to your website from Michelle’s Feed Your Skull website, so I thought I’d stop by and say hello.
Steve and I are currently living with his Mom in Denver. I’ve just launched my personal historian business (see website above) while also looking for work. Steve and I have even talked about engaging in some house sitting opportunities in Denver while he looks for a job post-Master’s Degree, which he attained in June. We enjoyed visiting with you and Paul while we were in Portland a year ago with Jeremy and Michelle. You’ve at least given us pause for thought, since we’d like to remain in Denver and house sitting may be an option.
It is great to hear from you, Diane! BIG congrats to you for launching your new business and to Steve for finishing his Master’s- what a great way to end 2012. I do come across CO sits on a regular basis. There is a relatively new site that I am thinking of subscribing to – http://www.trustedhousesitter.com. I love that you can check out the opportunities without having to commit to the $60 annual subscription fee first, and their site is very fresh and user friendly. I suggest you check it out when you get the chance. Our current sit is a year-long, but I am addicted to the search now – opportunities abound world-wide!
Feel free to message me if you have any specific questions, and I will keep an eye out for Denver sits, as well. We lived in Evergreen, CO for several years and have some dear friends there : )
My wife and I are just starting to research the possibility of housesitting, or working as garetakers internationally. We are both retired in our early 60’s and I am the resident caretaker of a 19 unit apartment complex for seniors on Vancouver Island BC. I work part time maintaining the buildings and doing the groundskeeping on the 2.5 acre property.
I will check out the two sites you recommended as well as the one at trusted housesitter.com. As we have no house of our own one of our concerns is how much lead time on average to you need to find a place. In your experience if you get a sit for 6 months, how soon would you need to start looking for the next place? Thanks in advance for any advice you care to share.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities there are world-wide, especially for people like you that bring extensive maintenance/groundskeeping skills to the table.
As far as housing goes, it is all about timing, which can be a bit challenging. I actually enjoy this process. We are three months in to our year-long sit here in New Mexico, and I am already keeping an eye out for our next sit. It is a bit early yet, but there are people who know they will be away from home well in advance. Typically, I would say there is a good chance you will find something within a few weeks’ time with a nice resume and a few stellar references. The main thing is to keep putting yourself out there…keep the lines of communication open, because you never know exactly what opportunity will present itself and when with this lifestyle.
Sometimes, there will be a gap between long-term sits. In 2010, we spent a month between sits in an adorable apartment in Provincetown, MA (see links above). It cost us $2000, which was financially doable considering we had just finished a year long sit and were about to start a six month one. We could have searched for one or more short-term sits to fill in the gap, but decided that we’d rather take a month off. I found this rental by calling a B&B in the area that we loved and explaining our situation. the owner recomended his friend and neighbor and it worked out perfectly. Other options include camping, couchsurfing, airbnb, etc. etc. Actually, that would be a good blog post, methinks. Thanks for the idea!
Best of luck in your search and please us posted,
I just wanted to say hi! and tell you that I’ve had this page open for over 24 hours. I’ve got the housecarers site up and am stuck on the ‘introduce yourself’ part. I will get that filled in sooner than later. Thanks for this post! 🙂
Let me know when you do, Michelle. I’m thinking something along the lines of, “We are awesome. You should hire us”. : )
I am looking for sitters/aspiring sitters to interview, as well…let me know if that sounds fun to you and maybe we can make a vlog out of it! XO
Hi! Great list, even for those like me who are thinking of listing our home! We have an overseas assignment, but taking our cats isn’t the best option so were thinking of someone coming into our home. My one question is, would people typically be willing to pay rent (aka normally would try to rent place for $3500, but maybe rent to someone for $2000 and for caring for cats) or to furnish the place themself if it’s a 3 year assignment?
Any thoughts are appreciated! (i have visited the above sites, but haven’t subscribed yet).
Thanks in advance for your help and also the above list is very helpful! 🙂
Thank you for the comment, and you are very welcome for the list. Sometimes, homeowners will advertise a sit in which the sitter would be responsible for the utilities, but rarely would rent be involved. Typically, it is an even trade, or a paid position if it is a more time/labor intensive sit. However, a three year assignment isn’t typical, so you may just find someone willing to pay rent and/or bring their own furniture. Some sitters don’t pay to sit, some only sit if they are getting paid, and some (like us) take everything into consideration and go from there. You may just find a cat lover who has been wanting to live in your neck of the woods and would prefer to use their own furniture!
Feel free to share more info/questions here when you decide what you want to do and I will keep an eye and ear out as we have a few good friends that sit. Best of luck and I hope this helps!
I just wanted to touch base and let you know that Marilyn and I had a great housesit in Portland for the month of Feb. The house was beautiful and we were able to take our own car so we had transportation that allowed us to visit the coast on 3 different occasions and to spend lots of time with family that live in the area.
We ended up using a site called Mind my House which costs 20$ for a year. It is a good site but maybe a little small in the number of owner prescribers. However it worker for us and gave us a great first experience. We are still looking to do this full time at some point in time. Thanks for hosting this site as it was very helpful to us by providing lots of tips that helped us get picked by the home owners.
It is great to hear from you! Isn’t Portland fun? It has been a bit of an adjustment for us, going from urban, wet Portland, Oregon to rural, dry Nambe, New Mexico. You are very welcome for the tips and thank you for keeping in touch ~ it feels good knowing that people like you are actually reading my posts and benefiting from them. Thank you for the info on Mind My House, as well. Keep me posted on your progress towards going full-time, please!