By Tracey Tullis
You know how it goes with the best-laid plans.
They start out just like you imagined they would and then sometimes slowly veer off course. Or in our case, totally scream off in another direction.
Three months in Colombia, and then to Ecuador was the plan.
Then we got an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Six months house-sitting in Panama!
Panama? We hadn’t planned to visit Panama this soon.
We had no firm alternate plans to go anywhere else, though. We also really needed wanted to get a longer term house sit.
When we applied for the house sit on House Carers we had no expectations of getting the job. We had applied for other house sits and been passed over because they weren’t a good fit for us or we weren’t right for the job. Not all listings are family friendly or suitable for children.
We are members of two house sitting websites which update us on new assignments. One major thing that influences where we apply is how expensive it is to get there. House sitting is a great way to save on accommodation costs but if the cost to get to the assignment blows your budget that point becomes mute.
Our search area increased to Central America because there weren’t many house sitting opportunities in South America. It was easy to find cheap flights from Colombia to Central America as well.
We applied for a house sit in Costa Rica and one in Panama. Expanding our search area on our second application in Central America, we ended up being the right candidate for the job. Our flexibility helped: We were available and willing to travel on short notice and stay for a longer period of time.
Being flexible with destinations and time frames can help you get a house sitting assignment more quickly.
Here is what helped us get hired to house sit:
References that weren’t personal– We offered our references from Airbnb. We had not been house sitters before so we didn’t have references on a house sitting site. This makes some homeowners hesitant. We have been using Airbnb almost exclusively while traveling and had built up great references as guests.
Having the Airbnb references built confidence because the references aren’t personal. The references relate to being respectful guests which are exactly what someone who want to hire a house sitter wants to know:
Can I trust this person to take good care of my home and pets?
Speaking by Skype can put the homeowners mind at ease – Our homeowners had concerns about one of their dogs with kids.
They initially had decided to count us out because of Makai. We requested a Skype call to talk about it. Makai has been around high-strung and fear aggressive dogs growing up. He knows how to act and speak around dogs that show those behaviors. He is five but big for his age, he is almost four feet tall. We told them these points to reassure them that we would be a great fit for the job.
Being honest and making our experience clear via Skype helped the homeowners feel comfortable with choosing us.
A short video of you speaking about why you want to house sit and why you would be a great sitter has a huge impact on getting hired.
It doesn’t have to be cinema quality video. Short and genuine is all you need. A Video and/or a Skype call are the best way for homeowners to get a feel for who you are. They decided right on our call that we were the best ones to look after their home and dogs.
Moving around as much as we have thus far has put a bigger dent in our budget than we had anticipated. This house sitting assignment will be great for getting our budget back on track and still allow us to check out a new country.
The house we are looking after is up high in the mountains just outside Panama City. The property is huge and home to plentiful wildlife. On our first full day in the house, we saw at least four different types of hummingbirds, a toucan, monkeys and a white-nosed coati.
We saw all of these from the terrace of the house! I couldn’t believe it. The dogs we are taking care of are sweet. We have all been really missing our dog so looking after these pups should really help with that.
The place is really outstanding and I am so happy we have the opportunity to take care of it.
Interested in house sitting? Here are some resources to help you get started:
Additionally Jodi and Nat have a website with great tips to help you build a profile and find a house sit: International House Sitting.
Tracey is a writer and co-founder of Expat Experiment
She and her family have been traveling nomadically since April 2014.
This story originally appeared on her website Expat Experiment and has been reprinted here with permission.