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Publié le by NmNomador

How House-sitting is Changing

When I started house-sitting full-time in 2009, I had no idea I was a pioneer in the new “sharing economy.” Couchsurfing had been around for just a few years, AirBnB had launched the previous year, Uber was just a glimmer and Nomador’s forerunner had been matching homeowners and house-sitters for only four years. And the iPhone was only two years old.

Oh, the changes the decade has brought! Here are 7 trends I’ve noticed and my predictions for house-sitting’s future – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The Good

Internet -- With the increased reach and reliability of the internet into Third World countries, house-sitters have followed. I’ve housesat in Senegal, Malawi and Mozambique, three relative internet newcomers, without glitches. Other stalwarts of the sharing economy, such as Uber and AirBnB, have blossomed, as well, providing me a greater infrastructure.

Prediction: As connectivity, electricity and sharing economy companies continue to expand, house-sitters will house-sit in farther-flung places.

Technology – The increasing ubiquity of smartphones makes it easier to find house-sits, work remotely, stay in touch with homeowners, and travel lightly.  (My smartphone replaces my camera, video recorder, tape recorder, calculator, translation dictionary and alarm clock!  And I occasionally make a phone call…). Unlimited texting plans provide a valuable and affordable way to keep in touch.

Prediction: As technology keeps getting smaller and faster, both homeowners and house-sitters will benefit.

The Bad

Relationships -- Technology is always a double-edged sword and the rise of smartphones and house-sitting apps means a decrease in human interaction.  Some platforms have the equivalent of an “instant booking” feature, where sitters are electronically “invited” to a sit and can then “accept” without ever having a conversation.

I won’t accept an offered house-sitting assignment unless I’ve video-chatted with the homeowner and been given a visual tour of the home.  While the homeowner is interviewing me, I am also assessing the assignment, the home, the interaction between the pets and the owner, and my own communication comfort with the homeowner.

Prediction:  Millennials drive the sharing economy.  They travel more than any other generation and demand more “authentic” travel experiences through app-driven programs.  As this push increases, house-sitting will become a tantalizing option for 20- and 30-somethings, especially as they mature.  The challenge will be for house-sitting platforms to insist on a more relationship-building process.

The “Trust Factor” – When I first started house-sitting, everyone – homeowners and house-sitters alike – was gaga.  My homeowners greeted me with welcome gifts, airport pick-ups and city guides.  This year, I had two homeowners cancel at the last minute, stranding me with a non-refundable plane ticket in one case and already in the foreign country in the other case.  Although the homeowners had signed my agreement and we had video-chatted several times, I had no recourse.  And I’ve noticed an increase in homeowners reaching out to me that they’ve been “let down at the last minute” by their house-sitters.

Prediction:  House-sitting is lauded as a “free” way for travelers to see the world, or as a “free” way for homeowners to have their pets cared for.  It’s not “free.”  Both the homeowners and house-sitters make a commitment to each other.  Unless this myth changes, and the platforms find a way to oblige people to honor commitments and to penalize transgressors, the “trust factor” will die and house-sitting will be an increased risk for everyone.

The Ugly

Reviews – Unlike AirBnB or Uber, where there are more rental units or drivers than paying guests or passengers, homeowners far under number house-sitters and enjoy a disproportionate power.

AirBnB’s guests or Uber’s passengers have no disincentive to leave a negative review, if warranted, but house-sitters are reluctant to. The homeowner could retaliate – and one bad review could sink a sitter’s chances of getting future house-sits. At Nomador, house-sitters rate their experiences on such factors as cleanliness, ease of communication, expectations, etc., by using universal icons that convey information without exposing the sitter to a retaliatory review.

Prediction: Smart platforms will realize that reviews must leave room for flexibility, equality, and human respect, and will invent ways to resolve differences that don’t involve public reviews.

The “Appreciation Factor” – The disproportional number of available house-sits to available house-sitters has emboldened some homeowners to demand more of their sitters – to run a business in their absence, for example, or to care for an on-site relative without compensation.

“We see more house-sits that are at the border of ‘volunteering’ or ‘working,’ and we usually do not accept those,” says Mariannig Ferrari, Nomador’s founder.

I’m running into homeowners who say “..but I’m allowing you to live in my home for free.” The last time a homeowner said that to me, her female kitty went into heat and the male kitty kept trying to mount her. She was in such discomfort until I could get them to the vet during a major holiday. Upon arriving home, the grateful homeowner said, “I get it now. If I’d had my housekeeper come by twice a day, I’d be returning to a pregnant cat.”

Prediction: Platforms will start to enforce a “no payment/no work” policy like Nomador’s.

The Neutral

Competition/Buy-Outs – The number of platforms has proliferated during the past decade, reflecting specific country or lifestyle choices (vegetarians, for example). This creates more choices for everyone.

Prediction: We’ll see a period where buy-outs happen, new start-ups challenge, and loyalty to platforms drops. I predict the platforms with the greatest hands-on customer service – like Nomador – will prevail.

Author Bio

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Kelly Hayes-Raitt has been housesitting full-time for nearly a decade. She also engages housesitters for some of the homeowners for whom she regularly sits and estimates she’s screened more than 100 housesitting applications. She’s recently written How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva, available on Amazon or www.HouseSitDiva.com

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