It has been six years since Conrad and I joyfully applied for our first house sitting assignment online. Back then in 2009, housecarers.com was the oldest and largest platform for matching up house sitters to homeowners.
Ian White of housecarers.com launched his innovative site in October 2000 and is still going strong. The format Ian came up with – homeowners post for free, house sitters pay an annual fee – is one many sites copied.
And I have to admit I’m comfortable with that traditional format. After all, we cut our teeth on it while our dreams became reality of living in other peoples’ homes around this great big world. Conrad and I have been successful, too, partly because we sussed-out early on how to operate within house sitting protocols – create a great profile, be one of the first ones to respond to a house sitting assignment, and make connections with the homeowner by mentioning personal details about their pets and home.
Housecarers.com continues to be a leader in house sitting match-up sites. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Well, not exactly. Perhaps house sitting platforms can take some cues from the online world of everything-everywhere-anytime universe of stuff where savvy young entrepreneurs create a completely fresh way of doing things. Take Airbnb for instance. Airbnb’s reviewing system is a perfect self-policing method to discourage bad guys.
In my opinion, reviews are sorely needed on house sitting sites, too. Since house sitting is anti-bureaucratic and unregulated, reviews are the only power we have to keep an eye out for the occasional careless person – or worse. The numbers of new house sitters and homeowners is growing exponentially, and you know when that happens things tend to get messy. We need to take control of the mess by providing reviews.
In addition to house sitting platforms needing reviews, I have never understood the logic of having only house sitters pay a member fee on the match-up sites. With the even exchange created by house sitting – house sitters receive free lodging and homeowners gain peace of mind knowing their home and pets are looked after – why charge differently for house sitters vs. homeowners? It never made sense to me. Only Trustedhousesitters.com, which came along in 2010, charges a membership fee equal on both sides of the fence – homeowners and house sitters pay the same. So baby steps are happening in the right direction.
Now there is Nomador.com, which takes a leap into new times and in many directions. Launched in February 2014, this house sitting platform pushes at the status quo boundaries. All members – homeowners and house sitters alike – have equality in pricing, profiling, identity checks, and reviewing.
Yes, Nomador provides reviews. It’s a clever 2-step system with an effective badge rating process, plus the ability to leave a written recommendation. Everything about the site, and the clear-eyed philosophy behind it, feel timely and long overdue.
Here is the breakdown of Nomador’s traits:
“When you register as a homeowner or house sitter, all are equal, all have the same rights,” says founder Mariannig Ferrari. As a matter of fact, when the site first went live in 2014, there was no distinction between the two. Nowhere did it say, “Find a house sitter,” or “Find a house sit.” The home page of Nomador simply said, “Join the community.” At the time Ferrari’s vision saw the two factions – homeowners and house sitters – as one, but she admits the public “may not have been ready for that.” The community philosophy is a strong one for Ferrari and so even when she changed the home page to help visitors click on either, “Find house sitters,” or “Become a house sitter,” the experience is practically identical for both. The membership price is the same. And by the way, everyone gets a free “discovery option” which gives open access to almost everything on the site, including three opportunities to apply to house sits at no cost. (There are exceptions to the free discovery option – expanded profile and search capabilities – but they do not inhibit anyone from going about the business of finding a house sitter or a house sitting assignment. More on Ferrari’s philosophy on that below.)
After registering on Nomador, both homeowners and sitters have their identity checked. This step is a good one, a necessary one, despite the fact that Ferrari says gathering the information from new members is a full-time job. A member’s trust index on their profile displays a number between 0 and 8, indicating how many checks have been made, such as driver’s license, home address and bank records. Even with the free “discovery option,” a house sitting member must have at least one identity check before opening up communication to a homeowner. (The homeowner does not need to have any identity check to respond.) It behooves all to have a high number for their trust index.
Ferrari said at first she received a bit of push-back from homeowners about having their identities checked in any part of the process. Homeowners felt that house sitters must be the ones deemed trustworthy. But as many house sitters know, trust must go both ways. So Ferrari’s membership equality is best in the long run, and the trust index number shows on all profiles – homeowners and house sitters.
While talking with Ferrari, I was taken aback by her strong business approach to Nomador. She takes every aspect very seriously and it’s obvious to anyone who listens to her that every detail is well thought out. It’s refreshing, and reminds me of my earlier days of running a manufacturing company. I dealt with some pretty tough cookies – people who constantly made me evaluate my own processes and keep to a very high standard. Ferrari took 10 minutes to lay down all the details of Nomador’s review process.
“Because of my recruiting experience,” says Ferrari, “I knew that applicants can all start to look the same. They have been trained about how to write a perfect letter of introduction.”
Yes, it’s true. Letters of recommendation in any industry can start to look alike. We all choose people with whom we have faith will say laudatory things about us.
So Nomador uses a badge system. There are 22 possible badges to choose from when evaluating someone, (either a homeowner or house sitter.) Badges might indicate a homeowner is “House Proud,” or that a house sitter is “Careful and Tidy.”
For example, after and assignment is done, house sitters choose 3 badges to indicate good traits about a homeowner. The 3 badges that get chosen over and over again, indicating a homeowner’s best traits, are displayed on the homeowner’s profile. Say the homeowner’s top 3 badges are “Interested in Culture and Tourism in the Area,” “Friendly and Committed to Community Life,” and “Animal Lover.” If there are no badges for “House Proud,” or “Careful and Tidy,” then you may question how clean their house is.
A true picture emerges of who the homeowners are even though the badge evaluations are all positive. By omission, others can read between the lines. In this example, it’s possible the homeowner is not a clean person, because there are no displayed badges for that.
Badge reviews are displayed on all profiles, and the more times a person is evaluated, the clearer the picture of their top traits – and by omission, their not-so-great traits.
In addition to badge reviews, written recommendations may also be composed, further rounding-out a vision of the member.
A progress bar on house sit posts indicates the homeowner’s response rate. And when a recipient has read an email, a note displays, “Message Opened.”
I couldn’t end this review of Nomador without a few words on Ferrari’s sensible philosophy on member freedoms, insurance companies, and her world hope for house sitting.
In terms of member freedom, Ferrari holds a logical approach that bucks the “you-must-pay-to-play” mindset.
“I think that this is a scandal!” she says, referring to how a member no longer has access to their accounts, messaging, etc. when subscription is over. “If you have listed your home two years ago, and you want to access your account, you should be able to. You should be able to contact people to send them a new message to say, ‘We had a nice contact two years ago and my house is now available.’ On Nomador you can do that, of course. You are the owner of your own information.”
She then blew my socks off with a story she told of a conversation she had with her homeowner insurance agent. House sitters were due to arrive at her home and she wanted the agent to write an addendum to her policy stating the company would cover damages occurring while the house sitters were present. “Otherwise I’ll go find another insurance company,” she told the agent.
“We have to move the insurance companies,” Ferrari said matter-of-factly. I couldn’t agree more. House sitting isn’t going away and the insurance companies need to adjust. And let’s face it, having house sitters in your home while you’re away is a good thing for your insurance company, so the movement should not be difficult. Any issues, such as broken pipes for instance, are addressed immediately by house sitters, not three weeks later when you arrive to an empty home and the water damage is infinitely worse.
And finally, Mariannig Ferrari made her closing statement.
“We will do everything we can to make this community live. We hope to attract the people who recognize themselves in our spirit. My dream on a long-term basis is to help families, once they’ve met through house sitting, to create useful links for their youngsters. Creating international links through house sitting is one of the things that contributes to giving more chances to young people who need to find internships abroad, for instance. You’re more likely to send your child out into the world if you have links to someone in Australia or England. You see them with different eyes. It’s part of my passion in launching this community.”
I will continue to use several house sitting platforms, partly because house sits available on Nomador are still in the relatively low numbers, and partly because Conrad and I are comfortable and successful with the old format of say, HouseCarers and TrustedHouseSitters. But I do recognize myself in Nomador’s spirit – big time! The broad range of capabilities and logic of the site parallels my needs and wants very well.
When you click the “Register Now” banner, I earn a commission when you register as a member and participate in Nomador’s community.