From July to October 2017 I experienced a series of soul stirring events that became the catalyst for a big transition in our lives. I’ll tell that full story another day, but for now just know that come November one of the decisions we had made was to become house sitters.
In previous years we had discussed and considered house sitting so we had some familiarity with what it’s all about. It took just a bit more research for us to settle on joining the most well-known and trusted housesitting site, aptly named TrustedHousesitters.com.
Something to note is that while most house sitters these days do so as a means to travel the world in a unique and inexpensive way, we are only doing sits locally where we live in Austin, TX. We would love to house sit as a means of traveling to new and interesting places, but we’re not there yet.
In this two-part post I break down what the process and timeline was for us joining the site and booking our very first sit. We are on the site as sitters (as opposed to homeowners) so that is the perspective this is written from, though homeowners should also find a lot of valuable information here as well.
Part I: About the TrustedHousesitters site (you are here)
Part II: Joining Process and Timeline to 1st Booking
TrustedHousesitters.com is an online marketplace and hub of connection between people who are looking for house and/or pet sitters, and those who want to house and/or pet sit. Their tag lines are “Helping pet lovers travel” and “House sitting made easy”.
The site is also a generous resource of information for homeowners and sitters to help them get started, know what to expect, be successful, and share their experiences. There’s a ton to dig into — including but not limited to — the blog, Help Center, Code of Conduct, Member Guidelines and Agreements, and Welcome Guide (completed by homeowners for their sitters). They are also available for support by phone, email, and online chat, plus there’s a Facebook group community. We haven’t had cause to seek support just yet but it’s great to see all the available options.
- If you browse the site as an unregistered visitor: You can see the thumbnail summary version of current house and pet sits, and view the available pool of registered house and pet sitters.
- If you sign up for a free (trial) account: You gain access to the details of the people and sits, though this will expire after some time (not exactly sure how long, maybe 15–30 days). Then you’ll have to become a paying member to retain access to such details.
- If you join as a paying member: You can apply to sits and place an ad for a sit (either or both depending on your membership). As a sitter you’ll also see the newest sits a full 24 hours before anyone else. They also send out a daily email summarizing these opportunities.
Not all house sitting sites have a fee, but it understandably gets you access to more reliable and higher quality opportunities. Trustedhousesitters is the most expensive of the paid sites with its $119/year fee whether you’re joining as a sitter or an owner, and an extra $29/year if you’re joining as both. It is easy to obtain a 20–25% off discount though — like signing up through our referral link!
From what we’ve seen so far, that cost is well worth it for the bigger pool of opportunities, the support staff they have, and all the thought that has gone into the site and service itself.
Member Dashboards, Profiles, and Ads
As a sitter you have a profile page which allows you to share all the relevant details that will be important to home and pet owners. There are also three verification levels you can attain which adds additional legitimacy to your profile. This helps owners feel more safe and secure because you’re going the extra mile to prove who you are, and that you can be trusted.
- Basic is for confirming your phone and email address.
- Standard is the identity and document check.
- Enhanced is a criminal background check that costs $20 (they only do one person if you’re a couple).
Here’s what you can add to your profile:
- A friendly and welcoming descriptive tagline.
- Up to 13 photos, and one video, plus set a feature image.
- Your basic details: name/s, age/s, occupation/s, location, indicate if you’re traveling solo or as a couple, whether you have previous house sitting experience, the month you joined as a member, and if you have connected to their 24/7 Vet Advice Line.
- A bio that’s divided into three sections: about, why you want to house sit, and your experience.
- Indicate the different types of animals you have experience with.
- Set your availability which will display on a calendar.
- A list of your preferred countries.
- A list of any external references you received. There are three types: house/pet sitting, character, and landlord. (Once you’ve received feedback from a sit you completed it will display above your references as an actual referral.)
- Your verification status — Basic, Standard, or Enhanced.
- Your house and pet sitting timeline and map, which will showcase snapshots of when/where you sat, who you sat for, and your feedback/rating.
Your dashboard on the site includes a nice welcome and getting started video when you first join, quick links to your inbox and verifications, a collection of your guidelines and forms, info on your upcoming sits (with a countdown, tips, and Welcome Guide request), list of your previous sits, thumbnail of your profile (with edit link and completion progress bar), your offer to Refer-a-Friend and earn free months, link to the 24/hr Vet Advice Line, and offers to pet care and travel services.
In your menu bar links you also have access to a page of Recommended Sits the site thinks you may be interested in, and a shareable Travel Timeline page which highlights the when and where of your sit history on a map (that shows the city locations and general dates).
As a homeowner you have a page to advertise your sit that is very similar to sitter profile pages. On these pages you’ll find:
- name and location of homeowner
- up to 14 photos of the home, homeowners, and their pets
- dates of available sit/s (with number of applicants for each set of dates)
- about you section (divided into: introduction, our home and location, responsibilities and pets)
- tags such as: highspeed wifi, city, house, etc.
- highlight of animal names, breed, and age
- timeline of previous and upcoming sitters with rating and reviews (where applicable)
- explorable map with their city marked
- button for sitters to apply and/or save to favorites
- button to for sitters to compare flights to the location of the sit
Finding a Sitter or Booking a Sit
Homeowners can browse sitters and reach out if they have an opportunity they would like to extend to a specific person or persons. If a homeowner chooses to accept applications and find they have received enough for the moment there is an option to pause the ability for new applications to come in while existing ones are being reviewed.
Sitters can apply to sits they want with one click that will send their profile to the homeowner along with a personal message. You can also see approximately how many people have already applied to a given sit (0–3, 4–7, etc.) right there on the page below the apply button.
The site facilitates connecting sits to sitters through an internal messaging system (it’s been mostly good but could use a little work). New messages trigger an email notification (though not always in our experience) and you can see when the other person has read your message.
A few messages back and forth and/or a phone or Skype conversation will help determine if there is a mutual fit. If you’re selected the homeowner will confirm on their end and it will show up in your dashboard and message history (saying the homeowner is no longer looking for a sitter — because they chose you in this case.)
In order to gain access to the homeowners Welcome Guide you must click the button in your dashboard that sends them a request for it. (I’m not sure why this isn’t automatically provided.) In it the homeowner can provide additional important and interesting information, like the number and location of their veterinarian, specifics related to the care of their home or pets, local hot spots and places to eat, and emergency contact info. It’s laid out nicely and can be a tremendous resource if thoughtfully completed.
We really appreciate how well-designed and helpful the TrustedHousesitters site is. It does take some time to learn your way around and take advantage of all the information provided, which we’re still doing. For this reason I’m glad we didn’t start on multiple sites as it could easily get overwhelming and set you up to make careless mistakes.