Angela Laws, originally from the UK, has over ten years experience as both a house sitter and a home owner using sitters. She is part of the team at TrustedHousesitters.com and also a regular contributor to Silversurfers, RetireWow, Starts at Sixty, Boomeon and other publications.
1 How did you first learn about house sitting?
10 years ago we were living on Vancouver Island and our elderly, beloved Springer was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Holly had been our constant companion for 14 years while we lived an expat life traveling around the world. My son was visiting from the UK, for what would prove to be Holly's last Christmas and we wanted to take a trip to Seattle. Boarding her was never an option. She needed to be cared for at home. The alternative was no Seattle trip.
That's when I found Laura, a local pet sitter recommended by the doggy day care I used. We had left Holly before but always with our maids or someone she knew, once for 9 months while we were posted to Singapore from Bombay. As always I was more than a little concerned at leaving her. I remember calling home within a few hours of leaving and a comment by Laura, “I think I'm accepted. She's lying next to me with her head on my lap” made everything in my world OK. I would enjoy this trip to Seattle.
Sadly Holly left for the Bridge* soon after and the loss was unbearable.
Then a chance phone call from Laura changed my life. She called one day to inquire after Holly and I couldn't speak. It was then that she made a suggestion that when I was ready I might like to help with her ever growing client list, giving me the opportunity to have pets in my life once more.
My first house and pet sit was literally 10 minutes from my home, a young widow who needed to make a two week business trip to the States and couldn't bear the thought of boarding her gorgeous Cocker Spaniel .... so began this wonderful housesitting journey and the healing of my heart.
2. Why do you house sit?
Why do I house sit? Simply because I can. This altruistic win win concept fulfills a passion for pets, travel and helping people. The lifelong friendships we've made on this journey, both four and two legged, is the icing on an already beautifully, tasteful cake.
For me, pet and house sitting is that lifelong dream of loving something so much you would do it for free. I have pets in my life, I travel far more than I ever thought possible, a blessing for this serial nomad as staying “put” just isn't an option. My life has purpose. I get back far more than I ever give and the sense of personal satisfaction is immeasurable.
House sitting works in it's simplicity and the biggest winners? Precious pets. House sitters at their best, help pet parents close the door with absolute peace of mind.
3. How many house sits have you done? Where?
I've actually lost count over the years but since joining TrustedHousesitters.com in 2010 - 36+ Canada, States, UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, NZ...
10% off all membership plans: Use code 3ONTHEROAD
4. How do you find assignments?
When I first started there were no major house sitting platforms so assignments came from word of mouth and recommendations. Over the years the industry has changed beyond recognition and competition has grown dramatically. However, we still need to spread the word to pet and home owners. In spite of the increase in mainstream advertising, there are still too many who are completely unaware of this pet care option and the travel freedom a house and pet sitter can provide.
Today membership of a house sitting website is a great advantage, in fact I believe a necessity. Whilst there are experienced house sitters who very successfully market themselves via their own sites and Social Media, for the vast majority, especially “newbies,” membership of a platform is the best strategy.
I belong to two Platforms: MindMyHouse.com and TrustedHousesitters.com
For me, TrustedHousesitters.com has proved to be the most successful. They are the world's largest housesitting website with the most listings. In some locations competition is high. Setting up daily email/real time alerts is essential, as is applying as soon as the listing goes live. With a great profile, good references, a professional approach and a positive attitude however, you create your own success.
I developed my own site http://www.housesittingperfected.com/ I have secured assignments and made great contacts but to get the best out of a personal site you need to give it constant attention. I simply don't have the time.
Social Media Pages https://www.facebook.com/trustedhousesitters
Facebook Groups such as Housesitting Cafe are a great source of help and information
Now assignments find me, I turn down far more than I can accommodate.
5. What's been your most interesting experience?
Living like a local for 8 months in Andalusia, Spain which is our longest sit to date. I had visited Spain often as a young adult, after all it was taken over by the Brits in the '70's. My lasting impression was “OK to visit, wouldn't want to live here." House sitting changed that perception totally. I could live there.
I volunteered with a horse rescue centre A.R.C.H. http://horserescuespain.org/ and remain actively involved with the charity. Animal charity/welfare is a passion of mine and work with TrustedHousesitters.com Fundraising Affiliate Programme.
We lost Bruno, the elderly rescued Dobbie, we were caring for. He developed cancer and when he was diagnosed our goal was to keep him well enough until his Mum came home. Sadly it wasn't to be. Taking a beloved pet to be euthanized is devastating even though you know it is the ultimate kindness. When that pet belongs in someone else's heart, the loss is no less.
The one comfort I have is knowing for Bruno and his Mum our presence, together with the love and care we gave him, eased both their pain and any guilt Mum may have felt.
6. Any hidden cons of being a sitter?
Too many opportunities, not enough time.
Sadness at leaving pets we become attached to.
I am always up front with my home owners about my OCD levels regarding order and cleanliness but like critiquing restaurant food, opinions and tastes are subjective. What I consider clean and tidy, others view as “hospitilized sanitation levels or show home condition." On occasions the lack of cleanliness and preparation for our arrival has caused concern but only once have I refused to stay in a home. Often all it takes is a gentle reminder, hints and guidance. I usually say I may arrive with a suitcase but would prefer not to live out of one.
When my sitters arrive they compare my home to a 5* Star hotel. All they need to do is unpack, relax and enjoy ..... oh that we were all the same!
7. What's your top tip for making house sitting a success?
Communication, communication, communication!
Dot the i's and cross the t's BEFORE making a commitment.
Never cancel or let your home owner down unless absolutely necessary. Finding something better is not a reason! Be absolutely certain the assignment is right for you in every aspect and once committed stay committed.
Location, location, location may be the ultimate in real estate purchase but it shouldn't be the main/only factor when applying for an assignment.
Have the right attitude and motivation for becoming a house sitter. House sitting is many wonderful things but a free holiday it's not. It comes with great commitment and responsibility. Be professional, applying for an assignment is like applying for any position of responsibility. Be proactive and a problem solver.
Be flexible, don't expect to “book” a house sit or rely on house sitting for your accommodation needs. You will set yourself up to fail.
You must love animals, not just your own ... there is a big difference.
Create a great informative profile. The home owner needs to get a sense of who you are. They will use this information in their selection process. References are paramount and they must be verifiable. If you are new to house sitting, excellent character references will support your profile. House sitting is an arrangement built on trust, anything you can do to increase the home owner's trust in your ability and to meet or exceed their exceptions is to your advantage...
8. Have / would you use a house sitter yourself?
I have engaged housesitters for ten years. My expectations are very high. I've never been disappointed, although I was once let down at the last minute but managed to salvage the situation. I also had a couple who looked after my home very well but were not the most gracious or generous of human beings, a rarity.
Mostly my experiences have been brilliant and on a positive note the couple of negative experiences demonstrated to me what an impact bad practices by a housesitter can have on someone’s life and plans.
Knowing this concept from both sides gives me a unique perspective. It allows me to bring empathy and knowledge to my role as a member of TrustedHousesitters.com customer support team.
* Rainbow Bridge http://www.petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm