Never underestimate the importance of building a relationship as early as possible between house-sitter and homeowner, even before you speak to each other.
One of the things you learn when you are house-sitting or indeed seeking and recruiting house minders to help you care for pets or property is the importance of building trust between each each other. For some people entrusting their home and pets to anyone else is a big decision and not one that is taken lightly.
As owners they often need reassurance and a good level of understanding of the individual they will have living in their home. And how through a virtual network can you go about building that reassurance and knowledge about someone you don’t know..? Here are some top tips for you both as owner and sitter, to enable you to learn about each other and build a relationship on which you can base a house-sitting relationship:
Top Tips – Homeowner
1. Start to communicate regularly through the network – to learn more about the sitter, ask them about their experience, their background and how they earn their living – it is good to run this through a private messaging system so you know the conversation is between you both, and you read what they have to say in their own words.
2. Have a chat – you can learn a lot more about an individual or couple when you speak to them in a live environment. Once you are more confident of them as potential sitters for your assignment, ask for a SKYPE call. Skype is a free method of voice and video calling, with instant messaging. Here is the link to Download SKYPE for Free. This is your opportunity to ask them unscripted questions and to hear their spontaneous answers.
3. Connect on Social Media – It can be a good idea if you are getting to like each other and growing in confidence that this would be a good house-sitting relationship to connect on one of the social media. My personal favourite is Facebook, but there are so many more to choose from for example: Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn. Social media can make most things quite transparent which is useful from a homeowner’s perspective.
4. Ask for current references – I like to ask for one professional and one personal. Ideally I like to speak to someone who knows the sitter as well. Police checks are also useful, a basic disclosure is usually sufficient.
5. Meet before the house-sit if you can, or ask the sitter to come 1-2 days earlier – That way you can spend time with them, show them around your home and take them through the routines – very useful especially when pets are concerned. You may have any number of pets with specific requirements to care for. More information is always better than less.
Top Tips – House-Sitter
1. Building a good profile – make sure you build the best possible profile to help present your experience and passion for what you do. Add photos and a personal video describing yourself and your experience in your own words in order to give a clear representation of yourself, your motivations for house-sitting. Videos can be the most compelling way for homeowners to get a feel for who you are.
2. Reputation Management – Collect references from previous house-sits and spontaneously offer to share them with homeowners. Ask the homeowner writing the reference for you to describe your duties and range of responsibilities. That way a third party description of your skills and experience can help to build a very positive reputation. It is also useful to have a current police check at the ready to share with homeowners. It shows you are organised, and care enough about your own reputation to have prepared all the paperwork they might want to see. Be aware that some people occasionally ask to see passport information also.
3. Be responsive – If you have placed your profile on the network and you are keen to be offered a house-sit assignment, be ready to receive email messages and to respond to them quickly. Securing good house-sitting assignments can be quite competitive as there are always more sitters than house-sits.
4. Be proactive – Don’t hang around or someone else will beat you to it. If you get regular alerts from your house-sitting networks and you see a house-sit that appeals you need to get to it very quickly. Most homeowners will receive many offers of house-sitting for one assignment. They can usually pick and choose between sitters. Best foot forward and present your best case as soon as you are able. Offer to share references and referee contact details as soon as your homeowner shows an interest.
5. Communicate well and often – It is worth investing in making the effort to communicate as frequently as the homeowner would like, and indeed you will need to find out more information about the house-sit so ask questions via email or the network messaging system. They offer to SKYPE together so that you can hear the owners spontaneous answers to your questions as you ask them. This will give you useful information. When you have secured as much information as possible it is worth getting an agreement formalised in writing. That way both parties have clearly articulated and reviewed the details of the assignment, the pet requirements, and determined exact arrival and departure dates. This is critical if you are booking flights or making other travel arrangements.
Above all remember to be open and honest and if a problem transpires the best policy is to explain where you are, and perhaps between you a solution can be found.
By Lamia Walker
Founder – HouseSit Match