As the holidays approach and people are scrambling to solidify travel plans to see family, an important priority for many people is finding someone to care for their home or pets while away. Then there are people like Dallas and me, who are always trying to figure out where we’re going to sleep for the next few weeks (or months) and how we’re going to afford it. Websites like trustedhousesitters.com offer a solution for both types of people. Dallas and I joined trustedhousesitters.com on November 1st this year. We have membership privileges for one year before we have to decide whether to renew or let lapse. I have formulated a rough sketch of an opinion so far, from the perspective of a house-sitter who has yet to connect with the right homeowner.
First, you have to pay for a membership in order to contact homeowners, and it’s a bit pricey. This could be why most of the members are older, retired professionals. For homeowners, this filters through all the potential sitters and is MUCH better than posting an ad on craigslist. Homeowners can feel more secure knowing that their sitter will not be partying or doing drugs in their home while they’re away. However, as a younger house-sitter with no steady income or pension, it is a bit of an investment for me. That said, the costs are well worth it if it hooks us up with the right home. In most cases, the membership would pay for itself in just one sit, saving us on the costs of hotels or hostels.
Also, as a younger house sitter amongst a member base of “mature, responsible, house sitters with extensive references and resumes”, I feel at a slight disadvantage when it comes to getting chosen to be the house sitter. We need to use our age to set us apart advantageously. While many of the members advertise that they are fit, I wonder how many of them would run daily with the dogs in urban areas that have leash laws.
Most house-sitters are not expecting to be paid. This is a great benefit for homeowners, for obvious reasons. However, most people who can afford a membership can also afford to pay their sitter a little bit to reward them for doing a good job. If there is no payment at all, there may be less incentive for the house sitter to make extra efforts to keep the house clean or the garden alive. I assume that most of the members on here would go that extra mile just for the positive feedback to use a reference, but it is nice as a house-sitter to receive a little bit of compensation, not only to offset the cost of travel or the time involved in caring for pets, but as a token of appreciation for a job well done. This would still be much cheaper and less hassle than boarding pets at a kennel or hiring someone through a pet-sitting service, and it would provide homeowners some extra peace of mind. I don’t mind not being paid, but when everyone is offering their services for free, it diminishes the perceived value of all sitters.
In search results, your sitter profile is not going to show up if you say that you charge “Sometimes” unless a homeowner indicates “I don’t mind” in the search query, so if you want homeowners to be able to find you, it might be beneficial to indicate that you don’t charge at all. I don’t like this, for the reasons mentioned above. Sometimes a free place to stay is more than enough and I would not feel right charging a homeowner, but when the house-sitting job comes with responsibilities like feeding and exercising animals, keeping house plants and gardens healthy, and helping to run a farm or bed-and-breakfast, I would expect a little bit of compensation.
The reference feature allows house sitters to request references from other members or externally, and references are posted on sitters’ profiles. There’s also a feature to have a police report available, to prove that you have no criminal record. Homeowners can search for sitters based on references and police report availability. The references offer sitters great motivation to do a good job so they can earn more positive references to help them in finding future house-sitting opportunities.
The site is an excellent resource for both homeowners and house sitters. It connects people who would never have found each other and opens people’s minds up to opportunities outside of their immediate vicinity. Members are much more reliable and trustworthy than your average craigslist user, or at least the sketchy people are weeded out from the start. I have already started recommending the website to friends who may be interested in house-sitting as a way to vacation inexpensively.
Recommendations for the site:
Reach out to younger people and try to diversify the membership base. Maybe offer a Groupon or not charge a house-sitter for their membership until they have secured their first house-sitting gig through the website. OR, in addition to the membership option, allow people to join for free and pay per house-sitting gig that they obtain (members would not have to pay this fee). Also, try to attract people from other countries. Right now, the majority of homeowners are in the UK, US, Australia and western Europe. It would be nice to see an even wider range of locations, including South America and Asia.
Improve search result feedback. Allow people to sort search results in order of proximity, or other options. Your profile won’t have any priority if someone in your area searches for a house-sitter. Let the profiles of house sitters who indicate that they charge “sometimes” appear in search results for either paying or non-paying homeowners.
So far, I love the website and am excited for its potential in helping Dallas and me find places to stay while we are traveling. When we do find a house-sitting gig through here (and according to the site, 75% of members with complete profiles do), I will be sure to blog about it!
For those of you who made it through to the end of this lengthy review, Trustedhousesitters is offering a 25% discount on memberships when you enter the discount code, “nomadiccycling”!