Tip 1: Make It Personal
Although the temptation may be to fire off the same email to every person, making it personal makes a huge difference. You may have a paragraph about yourself that you’ll send to every homeowner (and copying and pasting will save you a lot of time here) but at the very least your opening paragraph should be unique to the house sit that you’re applying for.
Tip 2: Address The Homeowner’s Needs In Your Message
Homeowners may get many responses to their advert and if so, may end up skimming your message to see whether or not to put you on the shortlist.
The easiest way to make sure you make the shortlist: show that you’ve read their advert and can offer them what they need.
If they’re looking for someone with pool cleaning experience and you have it, make sure you mention that in the first few lines. If they have a dog that needs looking after and you have experience looking after dogs, make sure you mention that. If they’re in Canada and you already have the legal/visa requirements to stay in Canada for the duration of the stay, make sure you mention that.
Take the following house sitting assignment, what needs could you address in your email?
- Mention that you’ll definitely be in the house at the intervals needed to feed the cat.
- Mention that you’re clean and tidy and will sweep the floors each day etc.
- Mention that you own a car, if you do (it’s likely that this house sit will go to someone who has a car).
- Mention that you’re fit and healthy should shovelling be needed (assuming you are)
- Mention that you’re able to live in New England for the duration of the house sit (assuming you’re either a US citizen, or have a visa). If you don’t have this confirm that you will arrange it and would only accept the house sit once you can present visa confirmation.
Tip: Even though it’s tempting to want to be able to offer the homeowner everything they need, don’t offer to take on anything you’re not qualified to do (cleaning pools or DIY work for example).
Tip 3: Keep it Short and Sweet
It’s a challenge to get all of the information you want into an email whilst keeping the whole email to a few paragraphs but you’ll get good at it.
Tip 4: Apply Straight Away
Some homeowners have a good idea of who they’re going to pick for the house sit (or at least a shortlist of possibles) within 24 hours of a house sit going live. Often the biggest challenge a homeowner will have will be picking a sitter from so many suitable candidates.
One of the simplest ways they can make that decision easier is to limit the number of people they’ll consider, so some homeowners will get twenty applications and then decide they’ll pick someone from that batch (even if the house sit is still listed as live and accepting applications). To get around this make sure you get your application in early.
Tip 5: Reply to All Communication Punctually
Most people are usually so excited when applying for a house sit that this doesn’t apply but for those that don’t check their emails regularly, make a special effort to do so when you’re applying for a house sit. Applying quickly shows that you’re eager and professional.
Tip 6: Offer to meet the homeowner face-to-face (if you can)
Although house sits are arranged over the internet, it’s an agreement that’s all about trust, and at the end of the day, homeowners find it easier to trust someone they’ve met in person.
If you’re applying for a house sit that’s local to you, you should definitely offer to meet them beforehand (and make sure you offer in the first email that you send). This will almost certainly guarantee that you will get offered that house sit.
Overseas house sits are a different story. Obviously if a house sit is the other side of the world it would be impractical for you to meet the homeowner first, but if you do see a dream house sit that’s within a short travel time, it’s worth seeing if you can find a cheap flight as making the effort to meet with the homeowner beforehand would make you stand out from all of the other house sitters who are applying.
Things to Consider
So you’ve been offered the house sit (or it looks like you might get it), now what? Well there’s a couple of things you should consider.
Draw Up A House Sitting Agreement
Agreements and contracts may sound like dirty words but they ensure both homeowners and house sitters think about everything and get it down on paper.
Some things that could be included in the agreement…
How many hours a day are you supposed to be in the house? How many days before should you arrive for a handover?
In case of Plan B
Not everything in life goes according to plan. Suppose you’re house sitting and suddenly find out you have to return home for an emergency (for example a death in the family), what then? Although these things are unlikely to happen, it’s good to talk about this beforehand just in case.
Are you allowed visitors during the house sit? For most short term house sit you probably wouldn’t even consider having visitors, but if you’re house sitting long term, especially over Christmas, this may be something that you’re thinking about. Most homeowners are happy to oblige to any reasonable requests so don’t be afraid to ask.
Emergency Floats & Reimbusement
What happens if you need to take a pet to the vet? It’s a good idea to agree on an emergency float for such situations and to have a point in the agreement that the sitter will be reimbursed for any house sitting related costs they occur (assuming those costs have been agreed with the homeowner).
Local Point Of Contact
It can be useful to have a local point of contact for emergencies, particularly if you’re house sitting in a country that speaks another language (and you don’t). Usually this will be the homeowner’s friend or neighbour.
Links to sample house sitting agreements can be found here.