When you live overseas, going away for a while can be more complicated than it would be in your home country.
This is especially true if you have pets.
While it’s become easier to bring your pets with you when you move, it can be very difficult to travel with them once you get there.
In the US it’s pretty easy to find a hotel where your pets are welcome, for example. In Panama I’ve only heard of a handful of pet-friendly hotels, and they’re all in Panama City.
So if you want to take a few days to explore your new country, you may have to make arrangements for your pets. Certainly if you’re planning any major traveling, pet care becomes a necessity.
If you live in an area that doesn’t have boarding kennels (or where they don’t meet your standards and you wouldn’t entrust your precious furry family members to them), what do you do?
We face this challenge as well.
In the spring, we’re heading back to the US to meet up with family and take care of some business.
Last time we left Panama, our lovely friend Marianne came to stay at our house and take care of our dogs. That’s not an option this time. To find a solution, I did what I always do — I went online to research options, and started searching social media channels as well.
My search led me to a website called Trusted Housesitters.
I knew they had lots of people looking for housesitters. Their Twitter stream was filled every day with new listings.
But did they have the sort of qualified, responsible person we wanted to stay in our home and take care of our dogs for several weeks?
I decided to find out.
On the About page of the site I found a link for Press or Bloggers, so I clicked on it and filled out the form. I explained our situation, and that I’d like to use their site to find a housesitter and write about it.
I received a reply from Rachel very quickly, and an offer of a free three-month membership, which I accepted.
Normal rates for homeowners range from $29 for one month to $79 for a year. For housesitters the rates range from $49 for three months to $79 for a year. Or you can get a combined annual membership for $89.
The site is divided into two main sections, one for housesitters looking for gigs, and one for homeowners looking for people to come and care for their homes and pets.
According to the website, a whopping 96% of those who’ve found a housesitter through them would do it again and recommend them to their friends. On the other side, 75% of housesitters who’ve completed a profile find 1-5 housesitting gigs within their first 3-6 months of membership.
These are impressive numbers indeed!
I had a bit of a problem registering, because somehow I missed the spot to put in the code that granted me the three months access free. Rachel helped me through it very promptly. I don’t imagine it’s a problem that comes up very often.
Creating the Profile
I spent about an hour crafting my profile. Prospective housesitters needed to know very clearly where we lived (not near Panama City!), and a little bit about our community as well as specifics about the house and dogs.
I included a picture of my husband and me at the beach, and uploaded everything. I didn’t feel it was quite complete, and I wanted to find some good photos of the dogs to include as well.
A strange thing happened before I could add to the profile, though. (If you’re curious, you can see the profile I created here.)
We Were Deluged with Responses!
My husband was fairly skeptical of the whole thing. “Who’d want to spend their own money to come here to take care of our house and dogs?” was his attitude.
As it turned out, quite a number of people! In the first day we received about 30 applications! On the second day they slowed down, but they were still coming in.
I logged back into the account and clicked the button that changed our status to “housesitter found.”
Sifting through all those applications was a big job!
References and Background Checks
Most of the housesitters who applied were extremely well qualified.
The site allows housesitters to upload character and other types of references. More importantly, a homeowner can create a reference for a housesitter through the site.
Many of the housesitters also have police background checks available as well.
The site gives you many different search options. You can narrow your list by
- availability of police background checks
- availability of references
- housesitting experience
- whether the housesitter charges a fee
- whether the housesitter travels with children
- the types of animals the housesitter has experience with
Stay tuned! In the next installment I’ll explain how we narrowed down the list to four super well qualified candidates.
Have you used a housesitter in the past, or do you take on housesitting assignments? I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments below.