But the short answer to the question above is 'PROBABLY'!
It’s an ethos that’s worked well for a long time for a lot of people, but, here at housem8.com, we, the website’s proprietors, have been professional paid sitters for the last 8 years or so. We manage to command a fee of something in the region of GBP £300 per week, but it is only due to our considerable reputation and references, which we’ve built up over the years.
Whether or not you can command a fee, and whether or not you’ll find someone to pay it, is all down to the unique nature of the house sitting market demand / supply continuum, in terms of the perception of one’s clients. I know, it sounds like I swallowed a thesaurus, so, to explain what I mean, here’s an excerpt from the introduction of my top-selling e-book, which is currently being re-written and available for sale again soon:
There are house sitters who offer their services free of charge, and those who charge a surprisingly high fee.
There are home owners who expect to pay nothing, and those who expect to reward their house sitters handsomely. In fact, there are those home owners who expect to receive money from the sitters for utilities such as gas and electricity. The house sitting market is very unusual, because it is unlike any conventional demand / supply economic model.
In any conventional service industry, say for example plumbing, the plumber provides a service to the home owner and receives money in exchange. The house owner doesn’t usually look at a perfectly fitted bathroom sink and say:
“Well, you did a great job there, thanks. Now, seeing as you were here for only six hours I’ll just charge you for the two cups of tea, the electricity for the kettle and for the bathroom lighting…”
It’s all an issue of perception. If a home owner is usually in the business of letting out part of their property as a holiday apartment in a grand country house, or if they are in the holiday cottage business, they might well think that they are doing the house sitter a favour by charging them only for electricity and gas! This is usually because, during the summer, the home owner would be charging clients £500 per week to stay in the property!
However, the truth of the matter is that if the home owner wants to go away for, say, three months at a time, leaving a house sitter in charge, it is not as if the sitter is receiving an entirely free holiday.
For a start, paying guests don’t usually have to feed, fuss and walk dogs in all weathers, then clean up the consequent faeces. Holidaymakers don’t have to cut the grass, dead-head the rose bushes, rake up autumn leaves most days, or keep the borders clear of weeds.
Paying guests can leave their accommodation unattended at night, and they can go off sight-seeing for hours at a time. Holidaymakers don’t have to answer the house phone (and sometimes be tactful in their responses), fix minor leaks, forward the mail, set the burglar alarm, and ansaphone every time they leave the house, be responsible for the property, clean every occupied room to a spotless condition, or perform any other agreed obligation.
Paying guests can go out together as a couple, whereas professional house sitters often have to leave one person in attendance, so sight-seeing sometimes has to be done in shifts.
Exactly where you would like your house and pet sitting services to sit upon this economic continuum is of course up to you, but it is important to consider that a conscientious house sitter often carries a great deal of responsibility, and there need to be compensations for this. I take the view that any service provided for nothing is generally worth nothing. Anything free of charge usually has no value. So think carefully before proposing your services.
Professional house sitters, and particularly PET sitters, provide a valuable service and charge accordingly. It’s important to put yourself clear of the ‘freebie’ sitters by offering so much more than them, for example, but not limited to:
• Public liability insurance
• Impeccable references
• A legal agreement, not least guaranteeing a contractual obligation to turn up (so many of our clients have called on us because casual sitters have let people down with hardly any notice.)
• Proven competence, checkable reliability and total peace of mind for the client.
• If you really want to put the icing on the cake, offer your clients a lift to the airport and back as part of the deal. It saves a lot on parking and it’s an extremely useful service. It may be important not to use your own vehicle for this, for insurance / legal reasons.
We used to charge up to GBP £1000 per week (yep, a cool grand) for one wealthy client, but Boy did we earn it! The house was huge, immaculate, and the client was a celebrity in the entertainment industry. He had just the one dog, but if so much as a speck of dust were to be found in the lounge, or a splash of grease in the kitchen, or the dog to be hurt or even upset whilst he was in our care, the client would fire us and have us run out of town. And probably put his heavyweight lawyers on us and sue our asses for something!
The point was that we couldn’t ever really enjoy living in the property, simply because the responsibility of spilling a glass of wine on the silk carpet would cost a years insurance premium. We couldn’t leave the house unattended at ANYTIME of day or night. But the view out of our bedroom was nice, and the Labrador was a friendly creature!
But, yes, it is possible to free yourself from the rat-race and become a paid professional house sitter, but it won’t be a normal life. You’ll have to give up a lot of things normal folk take for granted, and your services will have to be absolutely tip-top to earn money off your own bat, rather than through joining an agency.
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