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MindMyHouse News 20 June 2010

by Susan Holtham, 20th June 2010

In this edition 27 of MindMyHouse News: where to find us in the international media; we sort out the problem of many repeat alerts arriving in your inbox; MindMyHouse II, take a sneak peek here of our redesign of the site and tell us what you think; a home owner member in Costa Rica would like to invite you to help her care for her many beloved rescue dogs in her dog sanctuary; a home owner tells it like it is, why you need a cover letter AND your own sitter available listing; and finally, our regular slot featuring the email addresses of those would-be fraudsters who tried to use our service for no good and failed.

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2010

Dear MindMyHousies,
I know, I have been remiss and haven’t written to you, our members, for too long now! Fourteen months seems like a long time to us too…Just yesterday a house sitter member (David from Australia) wrote asking when he could expect to read the next edition of MindMyHouse News. Here it is David! As the site grows busier, our cherished members require more of my time and it takes me longer to perform those routine tasks that keep the database functioning well. If only I could clone myself!

We are ecstatic to report that we are now a global family of close to 5000 people with a whole one and a half home owners registered with us for every house sitter member. We think this has to be a good thing! We also turned five this March just gone; a respectable age for a worldwide matching service such as ours. Happy belated fifth birthday to us!

I am always secretly pleased when home owners post sitter wanted listings for their homes in unusual destinations. Just from memory I can think of assignments over the last year from places as far-flung as Iceland, Gozo (a little island next to Malta in the Mediterranean) Israel and the Falklands; then there was the whaling ship docked at a golf resort in Malaysia; a cave house in the Canary Islands; a four-storey house above the arctic circle in Norway; somewhere a short trek from the Camino de Santiago in Galicia, Spain; 2000m high up in sunny Cyprus; an art centre in a gaelic-language area of Ireland; a canal-side house in Panama; a home in the rainforest in Maui, Hawaii; an apartment in a new lakeside eco-village outside of Stockholm, Sweden; a B&B in a lakeside resort in Austria; and one of those open-walled houses in Fiji (among many others!). And just yesterday I approved a listing for a month in a Boho loft in the Bronx, New York that has my imagination fizzing still!

We love it when we make connections with our members beyond the usual emailed requests for support. Last October (2009) a lovely family of three arrived here at our place in the Hutt valley in their giant RV. Freya, her son and daughter had come all the way from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, England on a really exhaustive tour of DownUnder before deciding exactly where to settle. They ended up picking Tasmania as the next stop on their world tour, but not before thoroughly charming us with their zest for life Yorkshire-style.

In this edition 27 of MindMyHouse News: where to find us in the international media; we sort out the problem of many repeat alerts arriving in your inbox; MindMyHouse II, take a sneak peek here of our redesign of the site and tell us what you think; a home owner member in Costa Rica would like to invite you to help her care for her many beloved rescue dogs in her dog sanctuary; a home owner tells it like it is, why you need a cover letter AND your own sitter available listing; and finally, our regular slot featuring the email addresses of those would-be fraudsters who tried to use our service for no good and failed.

Where to find MindMyHouse in the international media

We were amused to see MindMyHouse included in a TimesOnline article at the end of 2008 called ‘The 50 little luxuries of travel’. While we were stoked to be number two on this list, we don’t consider a house sitter to be a luxury at all but a necessity (but you knew we were going to say that)! Some of the ‘must haves’ on this list were so extravagant that we were blushing to be included with them at all. I mean, UK 1500 pounds for a helicopter ride to your hotel from the airport in Dubai or Hong Kong? Erm… shoe bags, personal sat nav systems and yet another fancy digital doo-dah anyone? Somehow we don’t think that our resourceful and thrifty house sitter membership would even want to carry any of this stuff around with them on their many adventures through life, but we are always grateful for the exposure!

We also made it into an article in the New York Times in May of 2009 which had us most excited! The article by US journalist, Finn Olaf-Jones, was titled ‘Have Mop, Will Travel: A New Wave of Caretakers’ and featured in the Great Homes and Destinations section of the paper. While the theme of the article was familiar – find the change of scene you are seeking with caretaking – we had a lovely response from home owners worldwide who joined our service in droves after its publication. It’s amazing what a phone interview with a strange journalist in another country can achieve.

Less repeat alerts in your inbox – and please don’t reply to this email!

We had a little glitch in our email alerts system that was annoying the heck out of a few of our members – who even took the time to write to us to tell us so. As a security measure, every time a home owner edits their sitter wanted listing, it is hidden in our database until it is re-approved by the editor (that’s me). Unfortunately for you, our members, every time this happened in the past an entirely new alert for that particular listing was triggered. The end result of this was repeat email alerts in your inboxes for the same assignment. Eeeeeeep! Anyhoo, that’s all fixed now, so don’t hesitate to set up your very own ‘all countries’ email alert if you fancy waking up to the possibility of a new adventure most mornings (once you have checked your email that is…)

A few of our members are bouncing our system-generated mail (such as email alerts and messages from other members made via our contact form system) back to us here at customer support with similar very perplexed questions: Why can’t I reply to this email? What is wrong with this home owner/house sitter/listing? The answer is: nothing is wrong with any of these things, but if you hit the ‘reply’ button in your email browser your message will only come to us here at customer support. As they indeed do… frequently. What we need to do is to fine tune our ‘please don’t reply to this email’ message to something that directs our good members to the reply links further down their system generated mail. Fascinating stuff?

Rolling out MindMyHouse version II: check out our new website design

MindMyHouse version 2. Even a great website such as mindmyhouse2.localhost:8888 needs a little sprucing up after five years of steady activity. Before we roll out MindMyHouse version II we thought we would show you some of our design mockups for your delectation. The web designer’s brief was (as you would expect) ‘make it fun and imminantly usable!’ Be assured that your membership will continue uninterrupted on our new, improved website.

View the latest designs

www.MeetYourDog.com – Helen Wirt’s dog sanctuary in San Ramon, Costa Rica

Helen WirtHelen Wirt is an Austrian ex-pat living in Costa Rica with her dear old mum. She is a home owner who has been using our service since May 2009 to find volunteers both to help her with the daily work involved in looking after 125 (!) rescued dogs at her sanctuary and to keep her mum company too. Helen offers free accommodation in a self-contained apartment to the right volunteers. Dog lovers are encouraged to get in touch with Helen at the following email address: admin@meetyourdog.com or pacifico@racsa.co.cr.

Since 1997, I have dedicated my time, energy and love to provide homes to abandoned and poorly treated dogs. I supply these dogs with medical care, spaying and neutering services, safe shelter; as well as, the love and affection they need. They are now healthy and beautiful dogs! Please take a look at OUR DOGS. If you love and respect your dog, you will receive their affection unconditionally. Most of our dogs are mixed breeds, which makes them more interesting because of their uniqueness, and they are more resistant to diseases and illnesses. A healthy dog can offer you a lot of joy and help you live a better and happier life. This is the great benefit a dog can give you. Whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day, a dog will always welcome you joyfully. A dog does not care what you look like or discriminate in any way, it will love you how you are. He makes you happy and promotes your health. There is nothing better than having a true friend always by your side. I would love to help you to find such a good friend. You cannot buy a friend!

We were so impressed by Helen’s devotion to dog-kind in her adopted country that we decided to sponsor one of her long-time stayers for US$240 per year. Perhaps you would like to get involved in this labour of love in some way too. More information can be found on the website www.meetyourdog.com.

See? You need a profile AND a well-written letter of application. This home owner from the UK says it all so well.

After my long and persuasive article in the last edition of MindMyHouse News about why you MUST create your own sitter available listing to benefit from your house sitter membership, a home owner from the UK wrote with some great feedback about her experience of finding house sitters through our service that we think says it all really.

“Happy as always with your site and our next sitters but thought you may find the following feedback useful… Did a recent ad for our house in July – usual number of replies. Sadly, many applicants only gave us their profile details and failed to correspond directly via an individually typed letter, with reference to the detailed requirements in our Ad. Being given a ‘blanket’ CV without a covering letter was no more use than a letter without the profile. For us, it is the presence of BOTH which is important. In a letter, you really get a feel for the individual, while the profile provides reassurance backup.
We have a lovely couple in place – their application letter was measured, well thought out, chatty, informative etc. They told us why our place was where they wanted to be. We knew immediately that they would be happy here – they hadn’t just stumbled upon the sit and jumped in with both feet, blindly. The profile served to give extra backup.”

The great news is that the proportion of our members with their own listings has increased in the past year from 55% to an improving 63%. Yay!

Losers of the year

Here they are again. Oh dear. You may have noticed that this list is longer than in previous spots in our e-newsletter. This is because we haven’t exposed our list of would-be fraudsters since we last published our little community e-newsletter a whole fourteen months ago. Please note that these email addresses were used by would-be fraudsters in Africa trying to pass themselves off as home owners in the West. As stated in our Privacy Policy, we guarantee the privacy of all of our genuine members’ information!

Unfortunately, one of these geniuses managed to sneak in under our surveillance line briefly and bother a few of our members with his ludicrous attempts at online fraud. Ha to you ‘James Backlord’! Check out the following picture of his thoroughly implausible ‘London home’ complete with palm trees. Classic!

To good to be true?

charlesquartz@yahoo.com
jackdennisorji2@yahoo.com
normangents@live.com
jbacklord@gmail.com
alicebamba020@yahoo.com
david.block02@yahoo.com
paulallen5454@yahoo.com
captraysmith@yahoo.com
fredcomputers@yahoo.com
kempgillispie@gmail.com
kempgillispie@yahoo.com
ricsoicyspoli@freesoftss.info
soyroibbrierm@freesoftss.info
michelroy100@yahoo.com
andrewklarky@mymail-in.net
bettybellows71@gmail.com
gennick7378378@cureingsciatica.com
bookmarks@bfkrnln.org
edanhuntingtonoakton@gmail.com

Happy house sitting. Or best of luck with your sitters!

Susan Holtham

aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!