FAQs - For House Sitters
If you've got a question, the chances are pretty good that it's been asked before. Have a look through this list of questions to find the answers to the most common questions for House Sitters.
GENERAL HOUSE SITTING
Many different kinds of people sit houses - retired couples, singles, young families, professionals, artists, etc. There is no one stereotypical 'sitter'. Generally, most house sitters are well educated, caring, responsible people with lots of life experience. The reasons why people house sit are as varied as they are numerous. Some house sitters are people who need temporary accommodation while they are moving from one house to another. Many sitters see the benefits of living rent free, while others simply enjoy a change of scenery.
The sitter's responsibility is to live in and care for the house they are minding. This may include house security, house cleaning duties, garden and lawn maintenance, caring for pets, forwarding mail and phone messages, the occasional odd job, and anything else the home owner and the sitter both agree on.
Most sitters are able to secure House Sitting jobs fairly quickly. There are too many variables, however, to guarantee anyone a house sitting job using House Sitters America.
Things such as location choice, location flexibility, date flexibility, duration flexibility and how the house sitter's profile is perceived by the homeowners all play a part. The more flexible you are in your choice of location, the more likely you will gain more jobs.
Having a police clearance and good references can boost your chances - and creating a compelling and attractive profile page will help enormously. Remember each homeowner is unique - so just put your best foot forward.
There MAY be houses in your preferred area - even if there are no House Ads listed for your area.
Many house owners don't place a House Ad - they actually prefer to scroll through the house sitter profiles and contact them directly - so indicate your preferred locations in your profile and you may find a home owner contacting you.
New House Ads come in all the time, so a great strategy is to set up a Search Alert. Tell us what areas you're interested in and we'll notify you of any new house Ads in those areas as soon as they are posted.
Yes, you can. There are many home owners who are happy to have an extra animal in the house as long as their home and pets are cared for.
However if your house sitting party consists of a pet of some kind (a dog in most cases) you need to realize that you do reduce your chances of securing house sitting work. There are many homeowners who do not want a foreign pet around their home for various reasons.
Sure! Some homeowners don't want children in their home for a range of reasons but there are others who love kids in their home especially if they have pets that need some extra loving or if the home owners are a family going on holiday and they might even prefer to have another family come and care for their home.
Yes. The lengths of house sitting positions can be anything from 1 day to over 3 years. The general length of a house sit tends to fall between 1 week and 4 months but it is not uncommon for house sitting positions to be longer e.g. 6 - 12 months.
Word of mouth is by far the best way to keep yourself employed as a house & pet sitter. If you engage in one or two house sitting jobs that are well received by a homeowner you are probably going to get called upon for their next trip away - along with the homeowner's family and friends' away trips! This could potentially extend on to the friend's friends and their friends etc. So if you happen to get one small house sit in Austin, it may well be the start of many years of free accommodation across the South and Southwest.
Every house sitter has to start somewhere. Most homeowners are willing to consider first time house sitters, particularly if the timing is right or even if they just like what you put up on your profile page.
SOME HINTS ON CREATING A GOOD PROFILE PAGE:
Put yourself in the place of the homeowner and imagine the kind of things they are looking for - courtesy, reliability, good with animals etc.
Do whatever you can to make the choice easy. Get some glowing references and referees and have them ready to send as a pdf. Find some lovely photos and think about posting a video of you - and a furry friend if you've got one.
Things like a police check can make a big difference, and getting house/pet sitting insurance is pretty impressive (but it's also a bit more expensive).
And as soon as you've had your first sit - ask the owner for a review so you can post it on your profile page (use "My Reviews" to organize this).
Yes, using an agreement can prevent potential problems and misunderstandings. Both parties can state what is expected and organize the terms of the house sit, and then sign it. House Sitters America offers a house sitting agreement that can be changed to suit your needs.
WHO PAYS WHAT?
The bottom line is it's all negotiable between you and the homeowners. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation.
However there may be times when a homeowner will offer some money for the house sitting job. For example if the house was situated in an undesirable location, and/or the length of the sit was not really desirable (too short), and/or there were lots of pets to care for and jobs to do, then the homeowner may offer to pay the house sitter something or at the very least they might cover the house sitters utility costs (electricity, gas, phone etc).
Of course, there are also many professional house and pet sitters who actually do this for a living, and they will charge a fee for their services.
Remember it's all negotiable between the home owners and the sitter. You should be able to work something out that seems fair to both parties.
This is negotiable between the homeowner and the house sitter. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation. However, there may be times when a homeowner may ask for some weekly money from the house sitter. For example if the house was situated in a desirable location, and/or the length of the sit was long and desirable, and/or there were no pets to care for and very little jobs to do, then the homeowner may ask the house sitter for a contribution each week. Remember it's all negotiable between the home owner and the sitter. You should be able to work something out that seems fair to both parties.
Generally the house sitter pays for what they use. However if the house sitting position is not that desirable the homeowner may entice a house sitter by covering all the costs incurred by the house sitter, except perhaps phone calls.
It costs only $30 per year for house sitters to register with House Sitters America for 12 months. There are NO extra or hidden fees. We display your sitter profile 24/7/365 unless you remove it.
And if you're a homeowner, it's 100% FREE to place an Ad and get full membership privileges.
Yes! We do not charge homeowners anything to place a House Ad or to find a house sitter. They can even place multiple Ads (e.g. for different times), contact as many Sitters as they want - and do this for years - all 100% FREE!
REGISTRATION AS A SITTER
You can pay with your Credit Card or use a Paypal account. Both options use the Paypal payment page - but you don't normally need a Paypal account if you just want to use your Credit Card. Paypal allows both payment options with excellent security and reliability.
In a small number of cases, Paypal may not allow payment without a Paypal account. This is usually when a cardholder has reached a "monthly quota" of card purchases through Paypal without logging in.
You should receive your login details via email within minutes of registering. If you have not received this email within an hour (and you have checked your junk mail folders) please email us and we will re-send you your details.
In many cases, it turns out that a small mistake was made when entering the email address - a letter missing etc.
YOUR CONTACTS LIST:
To ensure that our emails get to your inbox, you should add these two email addresses to your "contacts" list:
Note: Some members with Apple email accounts (e.g. icloud.com) have experienced issues receiving emails, but we have been dealing directly with Apple to sort this out, and that's been fairly successful.
An email account will make this site MUCH easier to use, however, you CAN get away without one (after registration) - just.
You WILL need to have an email account when you first sign up so you can receive your password but once you have registered you have the ability to choose to be contacted by phone if that's preferable.
But having an email account will make your experience much better.
Registering as a house sitter with House Sitters America is easy and fast (usually completed within 5 to 10 minutes). Once you have registered you are able to create a full profile. Once your payment has been recorded, your membership will be fully activated and you will be able to contact House Owners.
Many home owners post House Ads, allowing registered sitters to make contact directly, through our in-house messaging system.
Other homeowners choose not to post an Ad, but rather make contact with Sitters directly, through their profile pages.
First contact for all sitters and owners is through the Messaging System, which is fast, easy and convenient. Many choose to continue the conversation in the Messaging System (it's really good) but you can choose to ring and talk directly, or use email instead.
We do not offer this service. This is mainly due to potential mix ups. Even if we were to contact a homeowner to confirm that their advert was still active, it may still be taken by the time the house sitter registers.
Most House Ads are current. Home owners are constantly encouraged to remove their Ads as soon as a sitter has been secured - and most of them do it promptly.
We don't continue to advertise Houses after a sitter has been found - a strange practice employed by some other sites to artificially boost their house numbers.
Yes we email reminder notices a few weeks before your membership expires.
We do this for security reasons.
Previously, we allowed all members to list their phone number in their profile, if they wanted to. We did this as a service to our members, and it worked beautifully for thousands of successful transactions.
Unfortunately, we experienced a security breach that resulted in a spammer registering as a Home owner (for free) and making contact with a number of House Sitters, using their published phone numbers.
As a result, we have now disabled the ability to list phone numbers for House Sitters, but it is still available for Home Owners.
MAKING CONTACT - OUR MESSAGING SYSTEM
The truth is, there is very little value in being able to list phone numbers anyway - for most people.
Our internal messaging system has proven itself to be safe, robust and really easy to use. We have introduced additional security measures which now make it even more secure as a communication method. It is easily the safest way to contact other members, particularly for the first contact.
WHY DISABLE THE FEATURE FOR HOUSE SITTERS ONLY?
The reasons include:
- Experience: Out of tens of thousands of successful transactions between members, we have had zero security issues involving House Sitters spamming Home owners. We believe that this is mostly because Sitter registrations must be paid for.
- House owners can register for free. This means that, even though we only show phone numbers to logged in members, it is techinically possible for spammers to become members for free and proceed to view phone numbers and make contact.
- Phone numbers are inherently insecure: There is nothing we can do to protect members if they publish their phone number. We only allow it for Home owners as the risk of abuse is FAR less - and it is completely discretionary.
- Internal Messages are safer: With additional security measures, our internal messaging system is a far more secure communication channel.
ABOUT THE SITE
House sitters register to list their profile on the House Sitters America database.
Here they can be seen by US homeowners via the website. These homeowners are able to contact the house sitter directly to discuss potential house sitting.
Registered house sitters are also able to contact any of the homeowners through their adverts.
As far as House Sitters America is aware all the homeowner adverts on our website are active and available.
We don't indulge in the strange practice of listing House Ads that are no longer current; something that many of our competitors do to make their house numbers appear more impressive than they really are.
However, we do rely on the homeowner to remove their own advert once a sitter has been found. We stress to all homeowners that they need to remove their ad as soon as possible to avoid house sitter disappointment.
The house sitter list is ordered by the most recent house sitter to have logged in. You will move your profile to the top of the list every time you log in to your account.
We believe this is fairer than listing alphabetically or any other method. This way active house sitters will float around the top of the list but those who no longer require a house sit or those who are currently on a house sit filter towards the bottom of the list.
If you've sent a message to a House Owner (using the contact button on the house listing) and haven't got a reply, this is usually due to one of two things:
- THE JUNK FOLDER: The email notifying you about the owner's reply may have been sent to the JUNK folder of your email program (these emails come from a different address to the admin address used for your account).
- THE HOUSE OWNER: Most House Owners reply to all inquiries promptly, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes they forget, or are away from their computer for a while.
WHAT TO DO:
- CHECK YOUR MESSAGES: Note that you can always login to your account and check your Messages there - if the Owner did reply it will appear here, regardless of whether or not you received an email notification.
- ADD US TO YOUR CONTACTS LIST: This will ensure that all message notifications get to you. The email address for message notifications is email@example.com
- TRY AGAIN OR MOVE ON: You could try sending another enquiry, or you could just assume the House Owner is not interested, and move on. There are lots of fish in this sea.
Yes. You can send attachments up to a file size of 2Mb.
You can invite any homeowner for whom you have sat, to submit a "Sitter Review" for your profile page. These can help build confidence in other homeowners that view your profile.
Go to "My Reviews" in your account pages (after logging in) and send your invitation from there. You will need to have the homeowner's email address (which you would normally receive during the sit) and the homeowner needs to have a current membership.
Once the homeowner has sent their review, you can elect to publish it to your profile page, or not.
We believe these self-curated reviews are far more helpful than "open" reviews. They give a good indication of the sitter's character and an indication of their experience. We aren't fans of "open" review systems or ratings - we feel they are very difficult to manage and can easily be abused.
As you browse through house or sitter listings, you can collect a set of "Favorites" just by clicking on the star icon in the top right of the listing or profile page.
To view your favorites, click on the star icon just under the main site navigation (top right of the browser window) and you will be taken to a list of the members that you have selected.
To save this list, just login and the list will be transferred to your account pages.
To remove anyone from the list, just click on the star again to inactivate it. That listing won't be there next time you view (or refresh) the page.
Yes. You can set up a search alert very easily straight from the House Search page.
Perform a search, adding filters to target the houses you are interested in. As soon as you add one filter (e.g. a location) you will see a button at the bottom of the search filter panel labeled "Search Alert". If you are logged in, you can click this to save the Alert and set up how you want to receive these alerts (frequency etc). You can even edit the alerts in your account section.
You will then receive email notifications every time a House Ad is posted that fits your criteria.
A REPLY RATING appears on a member's search listing and profile page, as a series of 5 dots. This rates the member's responsiveness to (first contact) messages.
If a member has responded in a timely fashion to every first contact message, their REPLY RATING will remain at a perfect 5 points.
For every (first contact) message that goes un-replied, a point is deducted. To redeem a lost point the member needs to answer promptly to the next two (first contact) messages that come through.
Some things to note:
- First contact messages can't be archived or deleted by the recipient until they have been replied to.
- The Reply Rating only applies to first contacts. Non-replies to existing contacts don't incur any penalties.
- If a House Sitter is having trouble replying promptly, they can choose a "LIMITED CONTACT" status. With this option chosen, their profile is still live, and messages can still be sent to them, but the sender is aware that there may be a delayed response. Late replies from the sitter will not incur any Reply Rating penalties while this option is selected.
- If a House Owner wants to stop receiving first contact messages they can simply de-activate their house Ad.
Of course, if there is any valid reason that a prompt reply was not possible, we are able to restore Reply Ratings manually (at our own discretion).
We've chosen to make the Reply Rating fully "redeemable", rather than allowing a single mistake to permanently scara member's profile. We feel that this is a much fairer and more realistic approach, with the emphasis on encouraging prompt replies, rather than just punishing non-replies.
Find out more: REPLY RATING
A rating system is often suggested as a feature that would help members choose between candidates. Ratings are a feature of many sites, including auction and retail sites, review sites etc.
While ratings CAN be useful in some settings, they can also be very damaging in others.
We have considered introducing a ratings system, but we've decided against it because we feel that it would have an overall negative impact on the site, outweighing any potential benefits.
Some of the reasoning behind this decision:
- Subjectivity: Choosing a House Sitter is an incredibly subjective task, involving a complex mix of characteristics, context and "chemistry". We don't believe that a ratings system adds any real value in terms of choosing between potential candidates. In fact, we feel that it actually creates a powerful barrier to effective decision making in such a sophisticated transaction.
- Sorting tools: Ratings systems are designed to help people choose between options, but we have already provided a very high level of sorting functionality in the site, which allows both house sitters and house owners to filter through potential candidates very quickly and efficiently.
- Love: This site and the community of people that gather around it are characterised by generosity, thoughtfulness and responsibility. We value that and work very hard to affirm and maintain it. We feel that a ratings system has too many negatives, which would undermine the wonderful spirit of the site for no real benefit.
- Unreasonable criticism: It will only take one negative comment to destroy a House sitter’s chances of getting ANY further sits. While this could be considered fair in some cases, there are also many cases where the criticism is unwarranted.
- Quality: It is genuinely hard to find a dud house sitter or house owner. The overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of sits that happen every year are fantastic exchanges that are wonderfully satisfying for all parties. While a ratings system might offer a veneer of "reliability" that could help to allay first-time concerns, we feel that it is actually redundant.
- Confidence: There are many things that help to build confidence in a House Sitter, which we believe are far more credible than a rating. These include references, referees, endorsements and things like number of sits and personal history.
- Incentive: An argument for ratings is that it provides incentive for a House Sitter to perform well. We feel that good performance is already an outstanding feature of the members of this site, and that good character and common courtesy drive our members to "perform" well. Other, more practical incentives to perform well include getting good endorsements, repeat sits, referrals and additional references and referees. There is also the incentive of not being reported to site administration for poor behaviour and potentially losing membership.
- Disputes: Yes, poor ratings, or negative criticism always leads to disputes - and that’s just too much pain for no real benefit.
- Weight: Ratings only start to add value when there are a significant number of ratings for each “item". On a site like this one, it is unlikely that many sitters will receive enough ratings for them to actually have any sort of credible statistical weight.
- Skewing: While ratings may help in choosing a camera, what happens on a site like this is that the sitters with the best rating will get all the attention, creating a very narrow view of what is actually on offer. It also creates a context where those most able to "work the system" do well - regardless of how good they are as a sitter. In addition, it means that house owners can feel, if they have missed out on the top rated sitters, that they then have to “settle” for “second rate” sitters - which is quite simply not true in most cases.
- Redundancy: An ironic failing of many ratings systems happens when MOST people have 4 or 5 stars - which immediately makes this useless as a sorting feature, because everyone is the same.
- Endorsements: To help in the selection process, we have “Endorsements” (or "Reviews"). This is a feature that works very well in many sites, including Linked In™. It means that members can be rewarded with positive recommendations from other members, and it adds an important layer of credibility to a sitter's profile.
- Punishment: For those concerned with punishing bad behaviour (as ratings systems can do) we are always available to hear complaints about members and we do take appropriate action.
So yes, we've considered a ratings system - we are very serious about providing a peerless membership experience and are constantly looking for ways to improve.
And it is for this very reason that we've decided not to include a ratings system; we don't believe it would add value for our members, and that it would probably be very negative for the site.
Yes! We use online advertising to reach homeowners across the USA. We also advertise in other media.
We are known for our prompt and friendly service - we like to reply to all inquiries within 2 to 6 hours. During times of peak activity, however, it can take 12 hours or more but we do everything we can to manage this and keep the response time as short as possible.
We will respond to all genuine inquiries and we go out of our way to support all of our members at every stage of the house sitting process.