Sitter/Owner Ratios - Helping to Redress the Balance

As some of our members are experiencing, there is an uneven pattern of behaviour as international travel rebounds. After almost two years of being confined to home, travel has become the focus for many and as new owners discover TrustedHousesitters, the opportunities for sitters have increased very quickly causing a temporary imbalance.

Please be reassured that we are aware of this situation and our team is being both reactive and proactive in addressing this temporary situation. Maintaining a balanced ratio of sitters to sits is something we work on continuously, however for the moment this balancing act has been made a little more challenging by the global pandemic.

Contributing factors: Sitters who have stayed closer to home for domestic sits are now returning to international travel. For some there is still a level of uncertainty and to avoid last minute changes they are applying closer to start dates. Others are simply choosing to wait, although with all the amazing opportunities coming daily to the site, we’re sure they won’t be waiting too much longer!

We know that securing your pet’s new best friend is the number one priority. Once this is done pet parents can relax and focus on fully preparing for the vacation, trip away or family reunions.

To help with this situation @Angela-HeadOfCommunity has pulled together 10 of her tried and tested tips:

  1. Create a great listing- a picture says a thousand words and everyone today is used to seeing good quality imagery. Is your listing the very best it can be or might sitters pass you by? Here’s some help with how to create the perfect owner listing

  2. Post early - as soon as you know your dates, add them to your listing.

  3. Multiple dates - do you have more than one set of dates? If they are far apart, try posting one set at a time.

  4. Be reactive - answer sitter messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox and reply to all messages you receive. You never know, you may want to go back to a sitter. Download the app so you can view messages and answer on the go.

  5. Be proactive - reach out and invite sitters. Standard and Premium members can view who has previously favourited their listing - this could be a great place to start.

  6. Don’t pass on new sitter members. - when I first started, almost 200 sits ago, my commitment and dedication to pets and homes was the same then as it is now, but we all have to start somewhere. New sitters are likely to be flexible and local, and will have an ID check and (if they are US-registered) a background check.

    Here are some tips on how to choose the right first-time sitter:

    • Read their profile: have they created a well-crafted profile, with good photographs giving you a sense of who they are and why they want to be sitters?
    • Do they have external references?
    • Read their application message: is it personalised, professional and friendly?
    • Are they happy to jump on a call/video chat/meet you in person?
  7. Boost your listing - Standard & Premium members can take advantage of this feature.

  8. If you live where a car is essential and can offer the use of a vehicle to qualified drivers then this is a huge benefit for sitters coming from a distance or without transport. Those without transport stay close to cities or where they won’t need a car… making one available could entice them away from the city. Always check with your own insurance provider regarding adding drivers and what this might involve.

  9. Remember that sitters apply to more than one listing at a time and that they have to plan their travels. You are only managing your vacation, sitters are managing many sits and planning way ahead and so timely response and decision making is essential, especially at the moment and until the situation starts to become balanced again.

  10. Last but not least… Don’t panic! We are here to help. If you find you are struggling, contact our Membership Services team who will be happy to do an audit on your listing and make recommendations, or (if your sit date is starting within the next 7 days), post your listing in our Last Minute Sits category here in the forum.

Are there any tips that we have forgotten to include? Please add in the comments.

Let’s help one another - that’s what community is all about.

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The main point I would like to say is this is so important that it needs going out in an email or special Trusted Times so that ALL members are made aware of the current imbalance and what they can do, especially home owners. It’s great to read this on the forum but it only reaches a minority of THS members compared to the thousands that exist.

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Thanks @temba - Danielle, our Content Manager already has this in hand and is looking at ways to get this information out to the wider community :slight_smile:

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Pleased to know this @Vanessa-ForumCMgr

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Thank you @Vanessa-ForumCMgr these are all very good points. One thing that may be very helpful if new sitters are offered a guarantee. House owners right now enjoy 14 days money back guarantee, while there is no such guarantee for sitters. When we first started in 2018 we applied to about two dozen sits and all we got were rejections. We thought we have made a terrible mistake. Getting that first sit proved to very challenging. Offering the same 14 days money back guarantee for new sitters will be fair and will encourage more sitters to join.

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Hi Vanessa

Another consideration is the number of sitters that are no longer able to apply for sits or that can be contacted by HO because of the new verification rules which came in to force in March.

Just by applying a verification filter on sitters shows how many are now ‘off radar’. Some sitters may be unaware of their status until they come to apply for another sit.

I am not affected because I am fully verified but I do think it has a bearing on the current imbalance.

Hopefully the situation will improve when the communication goes out to all members.

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These are all valid points and hopefully will help. I also think that there now seems to be an explosion of postings with pets where the owners either don’t want pets left alone or are requiring walks every 2-3 hours. In cases like this, owners really need to consider to start working on these issues to get their pets more used to being alone for several hours at a time and/or possibly offer a few days of mid-day dog walkers or pet daycare to the sitters. Most sitters don’t want to be captive in a home while traveling. Another issue is that cost of transportation has recently increased significantly. Many part-time sitters are just staying at their own homes because the cost of gas and airfare is so expensive. THS does not allow sitters to negotiate for travel expenses to be paid or reimbursed or even contributed to. Another factor is that US sitters are forced into giving their social security numbers in order to get their background checks done and many are not comfortable doing this. Not sure how many sitters were lost in this process, but if THS would reconsider offering a safe alternative verification method in addition to Evident, that may help attract more sitters or get back sitters who left. I am fully verified, but really struggled with taking the risk regarding identity theft in order to do so.

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I get it, It’s supposed to be a fair exchange for both parties, but because there’s a significant expense to sitting right now. I’m sitting for the pets, and for a change of scenery (and for the reviews), not because I need a roof over my head, so my priorities are different. the cost-benefit ratio is out of whack, whether you have to drive a long way or fly.

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I agree with MissChef and sit for the same reasons (spending time with animals and a change of scenery). In addition to the increased travel expenses that are often not worth it for me anymore, there is also the risk that entry rules change for my country or the country I’ve agreed to sit in.

For the same reasons, the risk of cancellation from the homeowner is also high.

Increased cost and lingering uncertainty have greatly reduced the number of sits I apply for, and I’m still only sitting in my home country.

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Hi everyone and thank you for your positive feedback and suggestions … they are always valued and appreciated by the wider team.

This is, however, a gentle reminder that this topic has been created to inform and help homeowners with their listing process while this temporary imbalance is redressed. As mentioned, the team are employing the necessary actions to improve the situation as quickly as possible, as they have done consistently and successfully over the past 10 years.

During this period we are looking on this thread specifically for tips to help owners rather than an analysis of the current situation. With more sits available it’s so much more important to have a great listing and it would be really helpful to hear from sitters about improvements owners can make (within the existing platform) to make their listing the best it can be, if it hasn’t already been mentioned in the tips above.

Thanks everyone, as always for your understanding.

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I appreciate the help, which is given to HOs to improve their listing in order to attract potential sitters.

In another post, however, @meow commented, that all of us should be aware that changing pictures from dirty and cluttered interiors to clean and tidy ones, actually don’t show what the sitter is going to find at arrival. It’s not the pictures which have to change but the cleanliness of the HO!
The same applies to sitters, who don’t mention the pets, post only travel pictures and state that they love to travel. Giving the advice (this actually was me) to change this in the application letter, simply might mean that they cloud their real reason for wanting to petsit. I never thought of it this way, but I totally agree!

Again, one has to read between the lines to judge if those, we give well meant advice, intend to do a great job or offer a nice sit or if we help them to act as someone they are not.

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Hi Vanessa, I don’t mean to be rude but it seems odd you are now giving a reminder about what people should and shouldn’t post on this thread after closing the other thread about lack of sitters and directing everyone here.

Does that mean this sitter imbalance shouldn’t be discussed/analysed unless it falls within the guidelines you mention in this, the new thread?

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Hi @SandC and thanks for your feedback. What the team were trying to achieve here is a positive post that helps members proactively find solutions and tips so that more owners get a positive outcome … Something that benefits us all while we get through this temporary blip.

It seemed confusing to have a post where people identify with the situation, but where they might miss the tips here that could help and guide them.

I have reopened the other topic temporarily to see how effectively the 2 topics run side by side. All the best.

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I think it’s great if the site can do something to help more owners get their listing filled. But this thread speaks to something very important that needs to be considered by people. Ultimately, THS is limited in what it can do in assuring sits get filled and sitters get assignments. They are limited in totally preventing many of the problems people talk about here.

I commend the site for trying to step up its game, and make it more than just a middleman that offers listings, and in many ways, it has succeeded in that. But at the end of the day, that is what it essentially will be. And if that is what it essentially is, people need to adjust their expectations.

If there are any big problems with a particular owner or sitter, they can remove them from the site and that’s a good thing. But often these issues aren’t brought to light until after the assignment has taken place. There is risk involved for both parties, like most things in life. People have to take responsibility for their choices.

I think more often than not, it works out fine for both ends, and when it doesn’t, there are definitely lessons to be learned moving forward, if they want to continue to use the site on either end.

They can make suggestions about representing your house truthfully, or cleaning it for sitters, but it’s not like they can send someone in person to verify the photos or what it looks like.

They can’t prevent sitters from misrepresenting their intentions, and making it sound like they are all about the animals when they are primarily interested in travel, short of having them take a lie detector test prior to creating their listing.

And not for nothing, most people are primarily interested in using this service to travel and for those that really like animals, it’s a great way to do that. I know that’s the case for me. I adore animals and love the opportunity to have them in my life, but I’m not housesitting because I’m fulfilling some life long dream to take care of people’s pets for free while they travel for work or pleasure. Remember this is designed as a mutually beneficial exchange.

I’ve been using this site for many years, and it has brought me to some of the most interesting places I’ve ever been and I couldn’t be happier that it, and others like it, exist! Just keep those listings coming and that’s all I expect from them.

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Thanks for this organized and helpful list, @Vanessa-ForumCMgr and @Angela-HeadOfCommunity!

As a sitter I’ve lately been getting daily invites to sits, most of which I can’t do because I’m already booked through October.

I always reply, but I’ve been feeling bad for people who are having a harder time than usual getting sitters!
Being able to share the link to this post will help, I think. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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As a newish sitter (I joined in January and have done five sits, with five more coming up), I’d like to offer my suggestions for owners.

  1. Reply to an application within a day or two. I consider myself to be an excellent sitter (I’m very clean and spend the majority of my time with the pet), but I have withdrawn my application several times when I feel the owner has taken too long to respond or acknowledge it.

  2. Post clear pictures of all living areas, plus the exterior. We want to see the kitchen, our bedroom, bathroom and living area.

  3. We honestly only need 2-3 pics of the pet, and awake is best. I like to see how large a dog is, so standing pics are good.

  4. Be careful with your wording. Recently I have seen “the upstairs is off-limits to sitters” or “duties will include…” Yeah, no thanks. We are equals. Bye.

  5. When I see that a HO has been sitting on 4-7 applicants for several days without making a decision, to me it comes off as greedy and selfish. Probably several sitters have already moved on and are no longer available.

  6. We like to see a clear picture of the owner(s), too.

Having said all of that, I have loved every single one of my sits and am excited about each one that it to come.

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That’s the crux of this, really.

Mutually beneficial! The fee paid for membership doesn’t entitle them to a live-in housekeeper, gardener, chef, chauffeur, majordomo… and oh by the way, petsitter.

And I’ve done ALL of those things on sits …besides chef. :wink:

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If you are advertising a sit for dogs, I would suggest putting something in the title that tells us sitters if it’s two big Alsatians or two small Dachshunds that need looking after. Some people want to walk miles and some don’t, there is such a variety of dogs and needs that an early indication may encourage people to read rather than just scroll past

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One of my tips for improved listings is to avoid subjective statements that can lead to misunderstandings. Here are some examples of ones I often see:

  • one long walk and two short walks - define by distance or time
  • pet doesn’t like to be left alone - be specific with maximum hours
  • walkable distance from … - differs greatly for everyone, especially if you’re carrying groceries too
  • near downtown - when I have no idea what’s downtown - for example, in my city, there’s no grocery store downtown
  • use of acronyms or local terminology - CBD, PNW, ‘the Bay area’ (and there are many more) - a reminder that THS is worldwide :wink:

Another tip is to learn what details are better left for the Welcome Guide. Lengthy descriptions including where the pet food is stored (and there are many like that) are incidental. Keep details in your listing focussed on what a sitter needs to know to assess the suitability of the sit for everyone.

And this one can’t be repeated often enough - appropriate photos are essential - sitters want to love your pets, but also feel comfortable in your home. THS provides guidelines on appropriate photos for this reason, and this helpful blog post:

How to choose the perfect pictures for your owner listing

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I agree that pictures are essential, but please take pictures of the areas the sitters will use, AS THEY WILL LOOK WHEN THEY ARRIVE!

It wouldn’t be fair if people clean up for pictures but don’t before the sit begins!

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