House sitting is quickly becoming the preferred way for many people to travel. House sitting allows you to experience a location like a local, have all the comforts of home (including animals), and even save some money while travelling.
However, when we were starting out (The Travelling House Sitters) it was difficult to land our first sit. There is more and more competition popping up every week, and most often the competition is going to have some previous experience or references.
Think about it like this; It’s kind of like being 15 again and applying for your first job with no references on your CV – no one wants to hire someone without any previous experience or references/reviews from others.
But it’s ok, we have been there ourselves and we know a couple of little tricks to help you land your first sit and get your all-important first reference from a real house sitting assignment.
Where to Find Existing House Sitting References
You need to prove to homeowner that you are trustworthy, responsible and most importantly love animals.
For most of us, this is not too hard, if you have grown up with animals in your family you will have everything you need to show the homeowner you are the right one for the house sit.
You want to break down finding house sitting references into 3 different categories; animals, houses and character.
Finding References About Animals
Most of us have grown up with animals in the family or with close friends. Write down all the animals that you have been close to throughout your life. This could be family pets, neighbours or friends.
Have you ever looked after them? Fed them? Or cared for them while your friend was away?
How about pets of your own? Did you have a family cat, dog, horse or chickens growing up? Perfect!
If you have been involved with any community groups, farms, vets, zoos or other animal-focused non-profits? They are the perfect places to get references from.
When it comes to asking for references regarding the animals that you have cared for the more the better. If you have got anything written down from the ideas above reach out to the person and explain that you are looking to start house sitting and need a reference showcasing your animal experience.
It is also always worth writing a letter to the homeowner showing your experience and genuine love for animals. Even if you don’t have any references from others sometimes a genuine letter expressing your love and dedication will be enough to put the homeowner’s mind at rest.
If you have little or no experience with animals it’s worth heading down to your local vet or zoo and asking about doing some volunteering for them for the experience.
Finding House References
Finding references to prove your experience with houses and home care can also be a lot easier than you think.
Have you looked after a home for your friends or family? Have you had a long term rental? References from friends or family or an estate agent/landlord are perfect for house sitting.
One trick that we used when we first started sitting was using our many references from Airbnb, we had done a fair bit of travelling before we started sitting and used Airbnb for most of our trips – we printed out a selection (or sent our Airbnb profile link) to the homeowner. Although this is not looking after someones home specifically it shows a true review of how you treat someones home while staying there for a short period of time.
Another thing to think about is the skills that you might have that will appeal to a homeowner. In the past Jay has worked as a landscaper and has lots of experience with building – these skills are something else that put the homeowner’s mind at rest. Think about all of your previous work experience and what might be appealing to a homeowner – homeowners like to know there home is in safe hands. The more references you can get explaining your previous experience with home care the better.
If you have never looked after someones home before and don’t have any previous work skills that are home related you can always ask to look after a friend or family members home or head down to your local hardware store and inquire about home handyman courses or see if you can tag along with a local tradesman to pick up some skills and get a reference from.
Character references are not quite as important as the first two categories, but if you are struggling to find references can be a really good back up plan.
The key is to get character references from people who you have known you for a long time and have credibility.
Don’t think about getting a character reference from your new flatmate – you need to think deeper than that.
Do you have any family friends who are in a position of power? Think Drs, Lawyers, Pastors, Police officers etc.
If you have worked for a company for a long time using the head of the company to write you a character reference can work really well.
Something else you can use for a character reference is social proof. Do you own or contribute to any relevant or credible online communities? Showing a homeowner that you are an active member (or owner) of an online forum, Facebook group, community group or non-profit can help build your reference base and show homeowners that you are trustworthy.
Police Record Check
A police record check is an essential tool in any house sitters tool kit. These are really easy to obtain and give the homeowner a lot of peace of mind.
Police record checks are easily obtained and depending on your country are usually free. A quick Google ‘ police record check in XYZ’ will tell you everything you need to get one. In New Zealand, it is a free service and you have your criminal record check sent to you email within 20 days of your application. Simply head over to the Ministry of Justice website and send in the appropriate paperwork.
How To Organise Your References
Once you have all of your references make sure you have a .PDF version on your computer to send to each homeowner with your application.
Ideally, you want to have at least one reference from each category to send along with your police record check.
Remember house sitting is getting competitive so the more information you can send over with your application the better. The homeowners that we have talked to say that the first thing they look for is references when they get application letters so this is very important.
When applying for a house sit make sure you outline in your application that you don’t have any references or reviews on the site because you are new to the website, however, you have attached your police record check, and your other supporting documents. Don’t be afraid to send over links to any of your online profiles or personal websites so the home owner can get a real true feel for how trustworthy and genuine you are.
Wrapping It All Up
Landing your first house sit can be difficult, but if you keep in mind it is all about showing how genuine and trustworthy you are.
Along with building up your reference and skill base to send to the homeowner we recommend;
- When applying for a sit timing is everything – be one of the first to apply!
- When writing your applications make them thoughtful and make it clear that you understand their needs and whats they are looking for in a house sitter. There is nothing worse than wasting the home owners time with a generic copy and pasted application letter.
- Being honest with the homeowner why you want to house sit, how you’re the perfect person for the sit and what your expectations are.
- Getting on a Skype or video call with the homeowner – once you are on a video call with them it is much easier to show that you are.
- Don’t be scred to follow up with the homeowner – in the more popular areas some home get upwards of 40 applications and home owners can get overwhelmed so don’t be afraid to followup with them!
We hope this guide helps you start your house sitting journey and helps you lock in the house sits of your dreams!
The Travelling House Sitter have cared for over 40 pups, 30 cats, 5 chickens and 1 turtles in over 10 countries. If you would like more information on getting started house sitting, head on over to The Travelling House Sitters we would love to help you!