Thoughts on house sitting

How does housesitting work? What website do we use? We have now done 15 house sits over 9 countries in a 10-month period! We have looked after 26 dogs and 9 cats and now even a gecko 😀

Who do we use to get housesits?

We use Trusted Housesitters or THS.

What animals do we prefer?

Just having one dog is fantastic in terms of exploring, as they are able to travel with us and show us their environment. But one of our favourite sits, in fact a repeat sit, has had three dogs. Having more than one dog also means they keep each other company. Cats are a lot easier than dogs, but the joy of a dog bounding along, and enjoying its walk is beautiful. So it is really just sit dependant. We have had sits with one, two or three dogs and in fact two cats that we just loved 🙂

Having the use of a car gives a sit far more flexibility:

Approximately 10% of sits advertise the use of their car. But we have found that once you start the ‘conversation’ with an owner, making them aware of high rental costs then they are often happy to add you to their insurance. In fact, we have said July August September is too expensive with peak rates for us to hire a car so either it must be a sit for a short time, where shops are in walking distance, or where owners let you use one of their cars. Some owners might be flying overseas so part of the agreement might involve taking them and fetching them from the airport.

THS has numerous sits :

We still find THS to be a great host site with lots of options. But one does have to read the details of the sit very carefully and examine the photos in detail. Some sits we rule out immediately.

It is competitive in applying and you have to be very organised. You need to keep very careful tabs on your dates and allow for travel time between sits. It can be tough as you have to do a lot of research on how to get to your sit, especially in a country you know very little about. Then the sit may be given to someone else and that time is wasted.

We like Rome2Rio to explore transport options between places and even countries.

Who are you competing with?

You can see attached to the housesit listing how many other people have applied for the sit. This is split into 0-3; 4-7; 8-11 applicants etc. I don’t think we have ever applied for a sit with more than 8-11. Once you have just applied, if you relook at this and it moves to the next category then you know you were number 3 or 7 or 11 etc. Often homeowners will shortlist a choice of 3 or 4 candidates they like and then they might offer the sit on the basis of who applied first. So, the sooner you get started the better. We have seen sits with over 81 applicants!

Can you setup alerts?

On THS you can set up 3 daily alerts. This can be by date or country. We normally keep it “anywhere” and then manually filter using the map as they don’t have the sub-search Europe. You can also keep refreshing your search alert during the day.

What information do you get once a sit is agreed on?

Homeowners are asked to fill in an online homeowners manual. This makes everything much easier for house sitters. Emergency contacts and vet information are very important. Different recycling rules, television setups, electronics, ovens, washing machines, and even coffee machines can take time to learn to use.

What happens after you have applied?

Sometimes you never hear back. This can be very frustrating. But at least you can see that a home owner has read your request.

Especially with your first sit or two you should apply for several sits. As I said its a competitive business, especially for the lovely location sits. You have not committed, until you accept the sit. At first we made the mistake of falling in love with two sits, applying and then just waiting. Now I will choose a geographic area and sometimes apply for two sits close by and then the next two and then see what we get responses on.

Homeowners have told us that they like the fact we have a website and a blog. It allows them to get to know us better. Obviously, your track record with 5-star references is very important. We endeavor to keep pets happy and to make sure the house is as the owners left it. Open communication with owners is key!

Whatsapp video calls are often the last step to finalise a housesit. They just add reassurance on both sides. Then the homeowner offers you the sit and then you agree to the sit.

Sit cancellations:

We have had two instances amongst our UK sits where there have been cancellations. One was a 2-day sit and the other a 6-day sit. THS does now offer an extra level of signup where you get sit insurance and as long as you can prove there was a valid cancellation then they pay for your Airbnb accommodation up to a maximum amount. In hindsight I wish we had taken this. Accommodation in the UK at peak is expensive and the extra cost would have been FAR less than the cost of our 8 empty nights.

Getting to the sit:

One needs to be aware that different countries may have transport strikes. We have been caught up in this in France in 2019 and now again in the UK. Then you need to have a backup way of getting to the sit.

We are currently (July 2022) in the UK for 3 months. In the UK unless you have your own car, rail or coach are the main options. We had a great trip from Stansted to Southampton by coach. But transport is expensive. We could have applied for a retired discount card for Adu for the coach but the silliness was it needed to be physically posted to you and this was not possible as it was our first UK trip.

Since then we have used the National Rail successfully with a “Two for one” card which is valid for a year. This electronic card cost 30 pounds and gives us both a 30% discount. We don’t book tickets too far in advance because of the strike issue, unless it’s a very long journey. But we did book our one-way ticket from London to Edinburgh 4 months in advance. We got the wonderful price I think of 53 pounds for the two of us with the Two for one discount card!

Variety of sits available:

Last year I did two posts on this blog showing the variety of countries you can housesit in Europe and then across the UK over the summer.

For our planned 3,5 month period in the UK, we decided to try to stick to the lower half of England for our housesits, apart from our trip to Scotland to see my godparents. We did this as Cornwall (and it was ever so beautiful) was the first sit we agreed to, so it made sense to try and stay South from a travel cost viewpoint. We also purposely came to the UK to escape the extreme heat of Europe in the summer months. We experienced the UK heatwave last week (a peak of 39), but this is still so much better than 45 degrees Celsius heat in Portugal, Spain, or France, and this was an outlier.

I am organised by nature and our longer sits were booked a long time in advance. For interest, I looked yesterday at sits in the UK from 22 July to the end of October. 22 July is the start of the UK school holidays. This time I had a look at sits of over 2 weeks and over 1 month on THS.

I was blown away at how many there were!

 22 July to 21 Oct1 month +2 weeks +
North Ireland05

Now it could be different this year as everyone wants to travel post-pandemic and maybe costs will prevent families traveling next year? But WOW it’s a lot of housesits.

However, if you add the filter that the sit must have a car, then the available numbers drop to roughly 10% of the above numbers. It has made me realise that if you have a car, then world is your oyster, at least across the UK in the summer in terms of the available house sits😀

Final thoughts:

If by chance you decide to signup for THS, either as a house sitter or a house owner please use our code RAF260405. Then we get two extra free house-sitting months.

We have also been contacted for three different sits that we had not applied for. Homeowners have read our profile and liked us.

House sitting definitely allows you to travel and explore with your accommodation cost taken care of. But it is a huge responsibility and this can be tiring. So many things need to be taken care of around a house and different pets may have anxiety issues or they may pull on the lead or may be aggressive. You also cannot leave the pets for an extended amount of time, its just not fair. You have to treat them as you would your own pets and yes you do become attached. We have found it to be an absolute win-win situation, but we still like little breaks between housesits where it is a true holiday with no responsibilities.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on house sitting”

  1. Clare Van der Merwe

    Hi Ash, what a fantastic article, incredibly well thought out, informative and really interesting. Thanks so much for sharing that , good luck with the rest of your travels

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