Nomador blog

Dienstag, 5. Juli 2022 - House-sitters

House-sitters tips: how to select the right house-sit

House-sitting is rapidly becoming more and more popular, which also means more and more competition among house-sitters. And because demand is (unfortunately) higher than availability, house-sitters have to use every trick in the book to stand out from the crowd in their search for a new destination. But does this mean forgetting to be selective? It shouldn’t!

The international community of house-sitting travellers is getting so huge that there are as many different needs and motivations as there are different homes and ways of living in the world. Which is a good thing! But we have learnt through experience that the “perfect house” for one sitter may not be so perfect for another; or that what you’ll appreciate at a given time of your life may not be ideal a few years later. For instance, a flat in the suburbs of Paris in August will not interest the French, while it could be a dream stay for American or Canadian travellers. Alternatively, sweeping the snow around a house in Nova Scotia will be a magical experience for some people who’ve never had a white Christmas, while Canadians may dream about escaping to warmer climates.

And although sleeping on a couch in an ad-libbed guest room may not be a major problem for younger travellers, it may spoil the experience for older people. So yes, house-sitting successfully does require some adaptability. But above all it means knowing not only your dream location(s) and accommodation, but defining your own needs and limits and selecting the house-sits that are the right ones for YOU!

So how can you select the right house-sit?

At Nomador, we often use the motto, “People, Places and Pets - Be inspired”. Three words that go together in a house-sitting experience, right? That’s why we propose you use them as guidelines. The right house-sit will be the one where YOU feel:

  • Happy with your relationship with the home-owners,
  • Comfortable, safe and secure, and able to manage all responsibilities for the home,
  • Confident and happy to care for the pets and animals, if any.

1: Define WHY you want to house-sit

Please don’t jump at a listing just because you’re interested in the destination! This can seem basic, but we’ve seen too many people fall into the trap. Try to define the main reason why you want to house-sit; you may have several motivations, but what is most important to you?

  • Saving on accommodation costs in order to travel longer and further (or at all)? If this is the case, you may be less selective about extra comforts and luxuries.
  • Discovering new cultures and ways of living by staying in local homes? If this is the case, you won’t mind if the house you care for isn’t close to major tourist points of interest.
  • Taking care of pets because you miss them so much at home? In this case, you may choose a house-sit based on the new friends who’ll be in your care.
  • Exploring a region or country? You’ll need to find assignments with few pet-related obligations.
  • Meeting locals and travelling more meaningfully? If this is your goal, finding opportunities that are in-between house-sitting and volunteering may be for you.
  • Gaining references because you’re new to house-sitting? If this is the case you may need to start by accepting house-sits that may not be the most attractive..

Many people tend to answer the “How” before answering the “Why”. And knowing the Why is the key for making the right choices, like in many life circumstances.

2 : Identify your basic requirements

Of course you’re not looking for 4 star hotel-like comforts, but you certainly have one or two basic requirements that you would NOT negotiate. Those are your absolute musts, points that are vital to your personal daily comfort. They can be:

  • fast internet with a large download because you need to work online,
  • easy access to basic commodities because you won’t be renting a car,
  • a good quality bed because of back pain,
  • no remote locations because you house-sit solo and feel safer with neighbours close by,
  • and so on…

You’re the only one who’ll be able to define these. Be clear about your basic requirements, and don’t let your interest in the destination disrupt your decision making; chances are that you will eventually end up having a horrible holiday experience.

3: Take the time to examine each listing in depth

You’ve just spotted the type of listing that makes your heart jump? Don’t be too hasty. Of course you need to be reactive and send an application but make sure to go in depth as your communication progresses. Preparing in advance will help you identify potential “red flags” and not get carried away at first contact.

An easy way to do this is create your own house-sitting decision making sheet.

You will need to create a table with four columns; the headings will be 1) Points to check, 2) Yes, 3) No, and 4) Notes. Start by listing your basic requirements. You will then write down all the points that need to be checked step by step – these will be answered either from the listing, little by little in your chat space, or when you talk directly by phone or Skype. It’s as easy as that! This is a very easy-to-use decision-making sheet.

Then all you have to do is tick off the items in the appropriate column, and believe us, this process will allow you eliminate most of the major risks of disappointment. More importantly, you can see at first glance that the result is in accordance with your motivations to sit (the ‘Why’ as discussed above), and that all your basic requirements are filled.

4: Ask the right questions the kind way and at the most appropriate time

Your decision making sheet will certainly help you to not forget any important points. The thing now is to use it wisely. Most owners won’t appreciate being subjected to something similar to a police interrogation, as I’m sure you wouldn’t! So remember that you need to build trust and confidence first. By asking too much at once, you can risk discouraging them from talking further with you.

Take your time

Encourage a dialogue by explaining why you think you would be the best house-sitter for them, and why you would be happy to sit. End by asking one or two questions - why not ask about your basic requirements so you don’t end up wasting your time and theirs?

This also shows your interest in their home without overwhelming them. You’ll be able to check the rest step by step as your dialogue continues. The owners will also have their own questions, of course!

Ask questions the kind way

Lending your home, pets and personal belongings to someone is no easy matter. Never forget that, and try to put yourself in the home-owner’s shoes. You must reassure and help create confidence, the friendly way. Some questions are very easy to ask. “What’s the price of a bus ticket?” is an easy question, and it’s just as easy to give an answer.

However, “is your home clean?” – that’s a more delicate question! And just as difficult and embarrassing to answer! Particularly since cleanliness is so hard to measure, and different concepts of cleanliness is the reason for most disappointments (on both sides). This applies in house-sitting just like any accommodation-related market (home-swapping, Airbnb, even the rental market). So how can you find a kind way to ask questions without breaking the spontaneity of the relationship that you’re starting to build? We’ve written out some examples below, but encourage you to make the wording your own. You want it to sound like you!

  • One way to introduce your questions into the conversation is: “Nomador recommends we check different points before validating, and I have used a list they provide on their site. Do you mind if we have a look at them one by one? So we can make sure we don’t forget anything important?”.

  • A diplomatic way to ask something when it’s tricky - regarding cleanliness for instance: “Of course we want to do our best and it’s very important for us that you are happy with how we care for your home. So if you were to describe your dream house-sitter, what would you say? Are you very house-proud – do you have a place for everything and everything in its place? Or would you describe yourself as “non fussy” and would feel happier if we weren’t either? What’s your lifestyle?”. We have noticed that in most cases the answers to these questions come spontaneously and straightforward: “Oh I’m obsessive about cleanliness, I vacuum every day”, or, “Well, our home is very lively as you can imagine with the dogs, plus I work a lot and to be honest household chores aren’t my priority in life.” Both answers clearly give you an idea of what the house will be like and your cleaning responsibilities while living in the home.

  • For your caring and open-minded questions - when it comes to dog education for instance: “What education methods do you use with your dog(s)? Do you apply any rules, like feeding them after you eat or not allowing them on the couch, or do you just take things as they come? How would you like us to behave with them, so that we understand? We wouldn’t want to create a disruption in habits!”

By encouraging a good and positive dialogue, you will learn a lot. You will help in eliminating any grey areas which can be a cause for many misunderstandings.

Owners will be grateful for your efforts - even if you eventually say “No thank you” because of a few points that are red flags for you or things don’t meet your requirements as house-sitters.

On the other hand when you say, “Yes, we’ll be happy to come!” you’ll have prepared yourself for a successful house-sit and can just look forward to the experience in your new home!

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Nomador is an international home-sitting platform. The nomador community puts people in touch with home-sitters and home-owners they can trust. It is dedicated to people who need to find a solution to leave with peace of mind by entrusting their house (for family holidays, trips abroad or business travels), and people who travel through the world in exchange for lodging (watching over a home).

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