How did you find out about housesitting? Do you remember when and where you first heard about it?
Nicole’s mother is a full time house sitter and has been for many years. It was at her suggestion that we started house sitting in 2000 when we were building our home, to save on rent whilst also paying a mortgage.
Why do you housesit? What is the main motivation?
Twelve months ago we sold our possessions and left our ‘conventional’ life in Australia to live a life of travel. In order to afford this lifestyle we need to save money where we can, which is why we housesit. We have saved over $20,000.00. That’s a lot of money for someone living a nomadic lifestyle.
But that’s not the only reason. We love immersing ourselves into the community and culture when we visit different countries. Housesitting allows us to do just that. And I won’t deny that having space is also a major factor. When you are with your partner 24 hours a day 7 days a week for, well for years, you really need a little space where you can have some ‘alone time’. There is no space in a hotel room!
How many housesits have you had and where?
We have had over 20 house sits in various locations throughout Australia, UK, Europe and North America.
Was it hard for you to secure your first housesitting gig? How many applications did you have to send before you got accept for your first assignment?
We were very lucky because our first few sits (the ones in 2000) were from word of mouth through Nicole’s mother. However, the first sit we did as nomads (2012) was the very first one we applied for. We were so lucky!
What was your favorite housesitting experience to date and why?
One of our favorite sits has been a house in Vero Beach Florida. We first sat for them in October 2012 and they asked us to come back to sit again in January 2013, which we happily accepted. The house is absolutely beautiful (full of mod-cons and luxuries) and is located on a little island just off the main land. But more than that, we grew very attached to the 2 Bichon Frise dogs they have. When we returned in January the dogs remembered us and were so excited to see us. I guess it was a mutual attachment!
Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?
No nothing yet. We are always up for a challenge! So far we have looked after cats, dogs, birds, fish, turtles, chickens and a goat. We would be open to something a little unusual though!
Have you had any funny housesitting experiences?
There’s been nothing too outrageous so far. However, we did look after a dog that was attracted to Nicole’s leg a little more than what she was comfortable with! The thing was he was a very large dog so every time he decided to, lets say ‘show some affection’, he almost knocked her over!
What was your worst housesitting experience? Has something ever gone wrong?
Well, that large dog comes to mind! But we’ve been very fortunate that all of our housesits have been a positive experience. The worst thing to happen to us was actually before we started a sit. We were contacted by a home owner offering us a sit in Maui. Of course we jumped at it, I mean it’s Maui! We were so excited. The house was an architects dream, right on the ocean, great pets – It had everything going for it. We made the plans and arrangements and then they cancelled their trip! We were so disappointed. Not to mention that we had turned down other sits because we thought we were booked for those dates. Luckily we ended up finding a replacement sit in Costa Rica, so I guess all’s well that ends well.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in beginning with housesitting? What would your advice be for people to get accepted for a housesit / be successful housesitters?
Be yourself. Be honest about what you are capable of. Be genuine – For example; if you do not like dogs, don’t accept a sit with dogs. It’s dishonest and no good for yourself or the dogs.
When you send an application to a homeowner, it shouldn’t just be about you. It should be about how you can help THEM. You should personalize it and mention their pets by name if they have in their ad. If they have mentioned how much they love their garden, you should make reference to that. You can talk about yourself and your strengths of course, but the focus should be the homeowner. Always personalize each application letter – Never just cut and paste the exact same text!
References are a big help. Even if you haven’t housesat before, you can still obtain references from people like your landlord, someone in the community, friends, your vet (to show you take care of your own pets) and anyone that can testify that you are a good person. A police check is a great idea too. It shows you are willing to take a few extra steps to show the homeowners you are trustworthy.
Once you start sitting always ask for a reference from the homeowners you sit for. If you do a good job (which you should every time!) then they will be more than happy to recommend you to others. Also, if the homeowners are happy with your service they will ask you back again. We’ve been asked back on many occasions, which is the best compliment we can get!
I think it all comes down to pride; if you take pride in what you do, it will show.
Are you signed up to any housesitting websites? If so, which ones, and which ones have you had the most success with?
When we first started full-time housesitting a year ago we signed up to 6 websites. However, when it was time renew recently we only renewed 4 of them; trustedhousesitters.com, housecarers.com, mindmyhouse.com and luxuryhousesitting.com. We get most of our assignments from Trusted House Sitters, then House Carers and only a few from Mind My House.
About Nicole and Michael:
Nicole and Michael are an Australian couple who gave up their careers, sold their possessions and left their ‘conventional’ life behind for a life of travel and housesitting. They have been living a nomadic life for 12 months and see no end in sight.
They recently launched Suitcase Stories, a website where they share their stories, travel tips and destination guides. Their main goal for this website is to inspire others to travel and to show people how long term travel is not only possible but affordable.