One of the Facebook groups I belong to is The Non-Consumer Advocate. It’s a closed group, the description of which reads, We are citizens, not consumers. It’s linked to the blog of the same name, written by Katy Wolk-Stanley (http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/). Ms. Wolk-Stanley says about herself,
I am here to help people learn to live on less, and to do so in a way that lessens their environmental impact. I define myself not by my purchases, but by my goals and actions. I am a library patron, leftovers technician, Goodwill enthusiast, utility bill scholar, labor and delivery nurse, laundry hanger-upper, mother and citizen.
Recently someone in the group asked who was living in unusual housing to save money. I wrote,
I live in my van. I have a sort of circuit of seasonal/temporary jobs. I score student responses to the essay or short answer portions of standardized tests in the spring. In the summer I am [a] camp host in the mountains of California. The goal is to earn enough [money] in the spring and summer to not have to work in the fall/winter. I also house sit in between. House sitting gives me some time out of the van, time to have house comforts with no out-of-pocket expense. Sometimes I house sit for free if the house is in a very desirable location, sometimes I sit for a very small amount, like $10 a day.
Another member of the group asked me how I find houses to sit. After writing a long answer to her question, I thought this topic would make a good blog post. So for anyone wondering how I find my house and pet sitting gigs, I’ll give you the answer.
I’ve found house/pet sitting jobs in a variety of ways.
The most common way I’ve gotten house and pet sitting gigs is through friends. Not only have I house and pet sat for friends, I’ve gotten house/pet sitting gigs from the friends of friends. Of the 18 house/pet sitting jobs I’ve had since 2012, only two were for absolute strangers. (Both of those absolute strangers hired me again to sit their houses and dogs during subsequent absences, but by that time, they were no longer absolute strangers.) The other times, I was either sitting for people I already knew or the friends of people I already knew.
I often scour Craigslist for jobs in whatever town or city I am in, but I’ve only found one house/dog sitting job that way in over three years. I suspect most people want a little more accountability than they think Craigslist provides.
The Craigslist ad for that job was honest to the point of comedy. The woman looking for the house/pet sitter put it right out there that the sitter would be sharing the bed with the dog! (I wonder if anyone but me applied for the job.) What the homeowner didn’t put in the ad was that the dog had a tiny bladder or was a scam artist or both, and I would have to get up several times each night to let the dog out into the backyard. She also didn’t tell me the house was possibly haunted. (Read more about that house and dog sitting experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/01/southern-gothic-declining-gentility-edifice/.)
The second stranger I house and dog sat for, I met at a garage sale.
I was visiting a small town in the Southwest, and I decided to go to a garage sale on a Sunday afternoon. As soon as I arrived, I met the very nice dog who lived at the house. After I hit it off with the dog, the woman holding the sale and I chatted. She too had traveled in a van when she was younger, and she understood me and my life.
A few days later, I was walking just off the town’s main drag when a car passed by. Someone was waving out of the driver’s side window and shouting, I need to talk to you! I couldn’t imagine who it might be, since I didn’t know anyone in the town. After the car was parked, the woman from the garage sale emerged from it. She asked if I wanted to come back to the town in a month and house and dog sit for her while she was visiting family in California. As a matter of fact, I did want to return and stay in her house and hang out with her friendly dog. It turned out the be a wonderful house/pet sitting experience and the start of sweet friendship. Also, the next winter when I was in town, this friend referred me to her friends who were looking for a sitter; I got to spend a very cold week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in a very nice and warm house with Direct TV and WiFi.
Last November, during a bout of what am I going to do with myself NOW? I paid $30 to join House Sitters America (http://www.housesittersamerica.com), which was recommended to me by an acquaintance who has happily used the service for some time. The website’s FAQ (http://www.housesittersamerica.com/sitter-faqs) explains the process this way:
House sitters register to list their profile on the House Sitters America database.
Here they can be seen by US homeowners via the website. These homeowners are able to contact the house sitter directly to discuss potential house sitting.
Registered house sitters are also able to contact any of the homeowners through their adverts.
Once one registers as a house sitter via the House Sitters America website, one can choose the state(s) one is interested in sitting in. When a house sitting position is posted in the state(s) of interest, a potential house sitter gets an email with pertinent information and is able to contact the homeowner.
I have a house sitting gig coming up that I got through House Sitters America. I will post an update on the gig once it is complete, but hopefully it will be a blissfully uneventful two weeks and not an interesting story. If that’s the case, I’ll just post the update in the comments section of this post.
There are other services that connect house sitters and people who need caretakers for their property. One mentioned in the Non-Consumer Advocate group is The Caretaker Gazette. According to the publication’s website (http://www.caretaker.org/),
THE CARETAKER GAZETTE is a unique newsletter containing property caretaking and house sitting jobs, advice, and information for property caretakers, housesitters, and landowners. Published since 1983, it’s the only publication in the world dedicated to the property caretaking field.
I have not used The Caretaker Gazette, so I can’t necessarily recommend it, but I did want to include it as a resource I’ve heard about.
So that’s how I find houses to sit. Any questions? Anyone do things differently? I’d love to answer questions or read about what others do via the comments section.
To read more of my thoughts on house and pet sitting, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/24/more-on-house-and-pet-sitting/.
If I didn’t have a dog, I’d be trying really hard to find some housesitting gigs. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine telling the person whose house I was about to sit, that my dog would be sleeping on their bed. 😀
You are more brave than I am, in your variety of jobs. I still worry about what will happen when I move on from here, and have to find an income somewhere else.
Tammi, apparently people with dogs do house sit.
In the FAQ for sitters, House Sit America says,
Can I house sit with my pet?
Yes, you can. There are many home owners who are happy to have an extra animal in the house as long as their home and pets are cared for.
However if your house sitting party consists of a pet of some kind (a dog in most cases) you need to realize that you do reduce your chances of securing house sitting work. There are many homeowners who do not want a foreign pet around their home for various reasons.”
Maybe your dog could sleep on a sheet on top of the bed? Or maybe just let her sleep in the bed and wash the sheets before you leave if there is a washer and dryer on site.
I think you could get house sitting gigs even with the dog. But I’m not sure if you could make a lot of money house sitting. I guess some people do, but I’m always so happy to have access to a stove, refrigerator, and shower that I don’t ask for a lot of money. Also, there may be more of a demand for house sitters in big cities.
As far as being brave about jobs, well, I just feel like I gotta eat and put gas in the van, so I gotta hustle.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I definitely enjoy hearing from my readers and having a dialogue.
Great article and really useful. Thank you for including links. I’m definitely interested in learning more in hopes of taking a job every now and then. What do you recommend for beginners to build trust as a new House Sitter? How can a new want-to-be House Sitter instill trust in a potential client?
Thanks for the upbeat comment, Sierra Night Tide, and for the great question. I’m glad you found the information and links useful.
Trust between a house sitter and a client is obviously really important. As the woman (a stranger) I’m going to house sit for next month said to me, it’s a leap of faith for her to leave all of her belongings and her beloved pets with a person she just met.
I am sure to tell clients that I don’t drink, don’t smoke anything, don’t do drugs, and don’t party. Even if a client isn’t opposed to some or all of those things in general, I think it helps them to know that since I don’t do those things at all, I won’t be doing them in their house. I stress the fact that I’m currently kind of boring and middle age and safe.
I think offering references is a good plan, even if the potential client doesn’t check them. I don’t typically have a list of references with phone numbers and email addresses ready to hand over, but I would if I were on the top of my game. I think just offering to provide people with references makes me look more responsible, normal, and employable. As I’ll mention in tomorrow’s post, if you don’t yet have house/pet sitting clients to offer as references, use people who know you in another capacity. I think employers, co-workers, and housemates are good bets.
I think a potential client is more apt to trust you if their pets like you. Again, the woman I am going to sit for next month told me that if her dogs hadn’t liked me, I’d have been out of there. If the client sees the potential sitter immediately show interest in the animals, that helps. If the animal doesn’t start growling at you right away, that helps. When I arrive at a potential house sit, usually the dogs are barking and going crazy and I try to let them sniff me and tell them how cute they are. Then once they calm down, I’ll pet them if they are into that. It’s just normal interaction with dogs, but I think the potential client is watching to see how the dogs react, if they seem to like the sitter, if the sitter seems interested in and kind to the animals. I’ve never had a dog not like me or growl at me, but if that happened, I’d have to ask myself if I really wanted to share a house with that critter for a week or two.
I think being signed up with an agency (if you can afford it) like House Sitters America or whichever one is right for you instills confidence in potential clients because it makes you seem a little more stable and respectable.
Certainly, some clients are going to be less laid back then others. Some are going to trust their gut instinct about you, and others will want to check your references. Don’t be offended if you have a client who wants a lot of info. That might just be what s/he needs to feel comfortable with a stranger in the house.
I hope this information answers your question. Feel free to ask more questions or share what you learn in your process of becoming a house and pet sitter. I love dialogue and the sharing of information!
FANTASTIC reply 🙂
Thank you. I’m glad to be of help.
My and my husband’s experience is simular to yours. We are full time nomads, sailing in the winter and spring. During the summer/fall we house sit. Our house sitting is almost exclusively in one small neighborhood in Atlanta called Cabbagetown where we used to live. It is a tight knit little neighborhood and we know lots of people there. Last year we house sat for 5 months moving usually once a week, often times one street or even one house over. We only found our selves homeless maybe 4 weeks out of those 5 months when we stayed with friends or left to visit family. We have been doing this for 4 years now. Some people book a year in advance. A lot of times we show up with no where to go and our calendar just starts filling up – word-of-mouth. Staying in this one neighborhood also allows us to work doing odd jobs (mostly painting for my husband and Web work for me). It is amazing how it works out. We have a Web page on our blog dedicated to house sitting with our calendar.
Next winter we are going to be van dwelling instead of sailing. Would love to here how it works out with House Sitters of American. We might want to try house sitting while we travel.
Thanks for you comment, Duwan, and I’m glad you enjoyed this post.
Sounds like y’all have a good thing going in Cabbagetown. I liked reading about how you and your partner have your house sitting gigs organized.
I’ll probably post again about House Sitters America later this year with it’s time to renew–or not–my membership.
Very glad to read your post on house sitting. I still have my house but am downsizing and want to do the same thing as you. I started at House Sitter website for one year at $50 and found someone local to pet sit for. Then from that one person I started working for her neighbors and friends and have 8 people now. This is great to make some extra money and stay at a home to do laundry and keep warm in cold weather. I’m in Northern Ca in the Bay Area.
Take care, really like your blog 😉
Thanks for reading my blog, Tina. I’m glad you liked this post about house sitting. Thank you for leaving a comment. It helps me to know people are reading what I write and getting something out of my work.
It sounds like you have regular clients and a referral network. Good job!
I’d forgotten about doing laundry during a house sit, but you are right, a washer and dryer on site are big perks.
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UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I’ve had four more house sitting jobs. Three have been for complete strangers and were found through House Sitters America. The fourth job was a call-back from one of the strangers I sat for through House Sitters America. We didn’t go through the website to set up the second job, and she wasn’t totally a stranger at that point. That same women would have hired me a third time, but I was unavailable.
UPDATE: I see that I said I would write more about House Sitters America and the job I got through them, but I never did. I will put the topic on my writing agenda.
A new post about House Sitters America and the jobs I got through the site will be posted on Dec. 14. 2016
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