How to write a successful housesit application
This blog post was originally published on the 13th August 2019.
After housesitting full time for 18 months and having written dozens of housesit application letters, we thought it could be useful to share our application writing tips! Whether you’re already housesitting or thinking about trying it out, we hope you’ll find our notes useful. Feel free to comment below with anything we might’ve missed too – by no means are we the last word on perfect application writing, however our confirmation rate for the amount of applications we send is high, and we’d love to help those who are unsure of what to include when it comes to applying for a housesit.
Before we get into things – when you’re considering applying for a housesit, the first thing you should always do is go through all the listing information thoroughly! Make sure you’re able to commit to the dates specified and make sure you can actually get to the place if it’s not easily accessible via public transport or you don’t have your own transport. Take note if the homeowner specifically states they will only consider applicants who have experience with large dogs, or if you need to have experience administering medication to cats. Be sure you’re 100% comfortable with all the responsibilities before applying to save from wasting time on both sides. It’s also just good sense to make sure nothing about the listing gives you a bad feeling or weird vibe – we’ll write a post in the future about how to spot red flags in listings – but for now just be aware of little things. Check the feedback posted by previous sitters if there is any – if it’s consistently negative or the homeowner has been publicly arguing in response to bad feedback, it’s better to be safe than sorry and steer clear! We’ve become adept at taking into account when things feel off and though it’s not always possible to avoid more stressful housesits, we’re sure that thoroughly reading things through before excitedly jumping in with both feet has saved us a lot of stress in the long run.
As an additional aside, we’ve been using Trusted Housesitters for our housesitting travels, so if we mention anything to do with a website throughout this post we’ll be using TH listings as a template. Trusted Housesitters is for home and pet sitting, so we’ll be making lots of references to animal care too. If you’d like to give it a go for yourself, use our link (or our code – RAF89928) to receive 25% off your year’s membership!
So let’s get started. You’ve found a housesit that you’re available for and you feel comfortable with all the information, and want to apply for the sit – great! Below are the main points from a typical application letter that Chris and I have written – we’ll go through these before looking at general points to consider at the end of this post, to help your application stand out.
Our typical housesitting application letter breaks down like this:
- Addressing the homeowner and referring to the dates of the sit
- A short introduction about us
- Our experience, being specific and referring to the information given on the housesit listing
- Practical information
- Ways to continue the conversation
1- Addressing the homeowner
We always begin our housesitting applications with:
‘Dear (name/s), we would love to come and housesit for you in (month)’
If they’ve introduced themselves as a couple in the listing, use both of their names to let them know that you’re a) including their partner and b) you’ve actually read the listing through! It’s just showing that little bit more effort as opposed to only using the name on the profile. We make sure to reference the date or month of the sit too, in case there are multiple dates listed for the sit or simply to reconfirm the dates. It gives you a reminder to check that you are definitely free at that time, and gives the homeowner an opportunity to check they’ve listed the dates correctly and clarify which sit dates you’re applying for.
2- A short introduction about us
In our opening paragraph, we like to give a brief background about who we are, what we do and why we housesit. Generally something along the lines of:
‘We are a couple in our late twenties and have been together for eight years. Chris works as a freelance web developer and Suze makes handsewn home decor items. As we both work from home we’ve had lots of time to look after pets for friends and family which we really enjoy, and this started us on our housesitting journey! At the end of 2017 we gave up our flat to housesit our way around the U.K. and do what we love most – play with animals and spend our time together! We travel from housesit to housesit and we’re really enjoying our nomadic way of life!’
We feel this helps to set up for the next paragraph – detailing our experience – as it gives the homeowner a bit of information about who we are. It also helps if you mention any hobbies that are relevant to the sit you’re applying for, such as being a keen walker when you’re applying to look after an active dog.
3- Our experience
Obviously the length of this paragraph will depend on your experience. As we’ve now completed so many different kinds of housesits, 95% of the time we can give details of our time at a sit that is similar to the one we’re applying for. If it’s a for a breed of dog that we’ve looked after before, or similar, we make a point of mentioning that. If the housesit is looking after a snake, for example, we could say:
‘While we haven’t looked after a snake before, we have completed housesits looking after geckos and bearded dragons in similar environments, and are keen to learn more about caring for snakes.’
Of course, only apply to look after pets that you feel comfortable with! But if you’re genuinely interested in expanding your pet care experience, it doesn’t hurt to tell the homeowner if you’ve looked after similar animals. Or even if you haven’t – be honest and they may be willing to help you learn! In more extreme cases, such as being required to administer medication on a sit, it’s best to be open and let the owner know if you haven’t had to do that before. If you have, definitely mention it so they know you’ll be comfortable doing so with their pets. Always just be honest about your skills and you’ll save stress on both sides further down the road. The more specific, the better – we write in all our applications that we’re very used to settling into new routines as we’ve now completed over forty housesits. This helps put the homeowners at ease that we can easily adjust our days on the sit to their pets’ needs.
We recommend changing up your experience paragraph each time you apply for a housesit so that you can tailor it to the homeowner’s requirements – there’s not much point telling the homeowner about your extensive cat care skills if you’re applying to look after a flock of sheep! You could list a few of the animals you’ve cared for so they know that you have general pet care experience, but try to make it relevant to the responsibilities they’ve laid out in the listing.
4- Practical information
After going through who you are and your housesitting experience, it’s good to close with some practical information. We always mention that we are non-smokers, and that we have our own car, so transport isn’t an issue as long as there’s a space for us to park. If the housesit is in a place we’ve visited before, we mention that too – as we’ve covered, it’s better to be specific! We might finish off the practical information paragraph for a London housesit by saying:
‘We previously lived in London for several years so we’re confident with getting around the city too.’
Again, it’s another way to put the homeowner’s mind at ease that you will be comfortable with your responsibilities on the sit.
5- Ways to continue the conversation
Before you sign off an application, give the homeowner a couple of ways to carry on the conversation. Instead of giving out a personal email address where we might miss the message, we suggest scheduling a video call or phone call so we can talk through the details more easily. We find that video/phone calls are an easy way to speak to people without having to travel to meet them in person, which can be costly and difficult to arrange around both parties’ schedules. We always let the homeowner know they can ask us any questions in the mean time too. The easier it is to get in touch with you, the higher up the list of applicants you’ll be, especially if it’s a last minute sit. In these situations we’d recommend regularly checking the messages or downloading the housesitting company’s app, if there is one, so you can reply to messages promptly and keep the conversation flowing.
After we’ve signed off the letter we add a P.S. with a link to our Instagram. This isn’t essential, but it’s an opportunity for homeowners to see more casual photos of us having fun with pets at housesits, and see that we genuinely enjoy taking care of animals!
General points to consider when applying & tips for keeping on top of applications:
- Make sure your profile on the housesitting website you’re using is up to date and clearly shows your skills – upload lots of varied photos, use up all the boxes to write about yourself, and keep your availability calendar up to date! This all helps to answer any additional questions the homeowner might have that weren’t covered in the application, and they get to see everything you refer to in your letter.
- Write relevant information to tell the homeowner why they should choose you – we’ve seen countless house/petsitting profiles where the sitters only talk about why housesitting is beneficial for them, without mentioning anything about liking animals or if they have any experience! The same goes for your application letter – it’s good to let the owners get to know you, but remember, you’re effectively applying for a job and you want them to pick you based on how well you can do that job. You’re not likely to secure a housesit by rambling about how much you looooove the beach and can’t wait to do a housesit that’s close to the sea, without mentioning being able to actually take care of a home and pets.
- It’s important to express why you’re well equipped for the sit, but try not to sound as if you’ve already been booked in! We are careful with the language we use so we don’t come off as presumptuous – the last sentence in our letter goes something like ‘If this all sounds good to you, we can arrange a phone call…’
- Arrange to speak to the owners before confirming a sit, even it’s only for ten minutes over the phone. It’ll help you get more of a feel for whether the sit is right for you, and let you know what the homeowners will expect of you too. It helps to be accommodating where you can – neither of us work 9-5 so we can be flexible when scheduling a chat around a time that best suits the homeowner. Though being flexible doesn’t mean you have to drive from London to Edinburgh to meet the pets for five minutes just because the homeowner asks you to! In most cases a video call or phone call is adequate enough for homeowners to get a good idea of how you’ll manage on the sit. The two times we’ve met homeowners before being booked in were both for more unusual animals (the first being alpacas, the second being a horse and donkeys) and in both cases it was a mutually beneficial meeting to make sure we’d all comfortable. In the end, it’s a judgement call on your part and you should decide what’s best for yourself and the owner.
- Always be polite in your communication, even if you get a response where your application is declined. Be friendly and thank them for getting back to you anyway – it may be that they were already halfway through booking another sitter and you just missed out. You want to leave the conversation on good terms so that, should they have dates in the future, you could apply again.
- We recommend only applying for one housesit for a certain set of dates at a time. We wouldn’t feel right applying for multiple sits over one set of dates, only to have to tell a homeowner that we can no longer commit to their sit. Mostly we don’t enjoy the feeling of letting people down, but it also helps us keep on top of our plans and avoid date clashes – we use a shared spreadsheet to mark out which dates we’re available for, on top of updating our availability on our housesitting profile.