THE BLOG

Housesitting: A How-to Guide

06/10/2014 15:54 BST | Updated 06/12/2014 10:59 GMT

In today's blog I'm going to cover a few points about housesitting. I'll address the questions I'm most commonly asked and provide some basic pointers and additional tips.

So...You're a housesitter. How did that happen? How could I get started as a housesitter?

Before I officially joined up with a housesitting agency I'd informally cared for a few friends' flats whilst they'd been on holiday and they'd done the same for me. Y'know the deal: you're away for a bit and you want to make sure your home and pets (if you have any) are cared for.

It occurred to me I could expand on this. I like animals and I like breaks away. So I decided I'd officially become a part-time housesitter. I read up on housesitting, read articles weighing up the pros and cons of different housesitting websites. The site that seemed to be best rated (user-friendly, high traffic and wide variety of housesits worldwide) was Trustedhousesitters.com

So I paid to join and signed up. (I have no vested interest in recommending the site. It's as simple as I'm familiar with it and positive about it, so comfortable vouching for it).

But...How do you actually get housesits? Strangers just trust you with their homes and pets?

Once I'd signed up for my housesitting website of choice, I built my profile. I provided lots of info about myself, photos (people are going to want a sense of you as a person) and references from friends, including one whom I've housesat for in the past. I also got a reference from someone who knows me in a work capacity.

And then what? People give you housesits?

After that, I applied for housesits! They're listed on the site I use. It is competitive, so patience and tenacity pay off. I think I was quite lucky in that the first housesit I was offered (having applied for it) was caring for three animals in a villa near the sea in the Algarve. However, I wanted to do a dry-run closer to home so I deliberately got in a dogsit in Cornwall prior to that. I'd recommend starting off with a housesit close to home.

Now that I've done several housesits, I request references from people for whom I've housesat. With those on my profile, I get contacted by homeowners all over the world wanting me to housesit for them.

Here's the roof terrace of the place I cared for in the Algarve:

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Part of the view from the roof terrace:

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So what does it pay?

My variant of housesitting doesn't pay. (There are professional housesitters who charge for what they do, but that's not a route I've chosen to go down).

So why are you working for free?!

For me, it's like this: I'm choosing to do this. I like travel and I'm definitely not rich. (Being a freelance writer doesn't tend to make you rich). When I housesit, I consider it a swap: the clients get their homes and animals cared for. I get a base of my choice and don't have to worry about paying for accommodation. So I've cared for properties in London, Portugal, Florence, etc. All of those properties were lovely and my main expenses were travel costs. In fact, one of my clients wanted me for a repeat sit and offered to pay my travel costs.

So...Any tips for Beginners?

• Make your housesitter profile as detailed, informative and appealing as possible. As with anything, you get out what you put in.

• Decide if a housesit is right for you and you're right for it! Speak to the owner at length, answer any questions they have, take notes about the house and animals. It is an area you definitely want to visit? If there aren't photos of the property, request some. Do the pets have any special needs and if so, are you confident you can meet them?

• Once there, get emergency numbers for friends/neighbours from your clients, just in case.

• Never invite strangers into the homeowner's properties without their permission. (If I'm housesitting in an area in which I have friends, I double-check with the property owner if it's cool to have friends over).

• Enjoy! Housesitting can be a great adventure. You see new places, meet interesting people and in foreign climes you can live more like a local than a tourist.