Rebuilding TrustedHousesitters to unlock future success

TrustedHousesitters project

The client

TrustedHousesitters is a successful UK business that founded an online marketplace for house sitting opportunities. Since 2010, TrustedHousesitters has acquired users in 140 countries, helped facilitate over two million nights of pet sitting, and grew its team to 60+ people.







The product

TrustedHousesitters is a fast-growing and award-winning global business that helps owners all over the world find someone to care for their home and pets for free in exchange for a place to stay.







TrustedHousesitters product

The challenge


The Sunscrapers team met Andy, Rachel and their TrustedHousesitters back in the company’s early days. At this time, they had already built a product with 10,000 active users and, encouraged by its initial success, drew up ambitious plans for further growth of the business.

The main challenge they faced was related to technology. The current web application, written in PHP, has reached its capacity and made the product unstable, difficult to maintain, and almost impossible to scale, both in terms of supporting the growing traffic and adding new features.

Andy and Rachel needed a tech partner who could help them bring their product to the next level and ensure that technology would no longer limit TrustedHousesitters’ commercial success. Sunscrapers was up to the challenge.


The legacy PHP application suffered from poor development practices such as unorganised codebase, structural programming and lack of automated testing.

As the user base and traffic grew, the site was becoming less and less reliable, and its maintenance more and more expensive. Furthermore, there was a backlog of features and change requests resulting from the company’s brave expansion strategy, which required a significant technical implementation effort.

The challenge was magnified by the fact that the platform was already used heavily around the clock by users worldwide, and any upgrades needed to be done with minimal disruption to avoid potential revenue loss.


2012 - 2013

TrustedHousesitters challenge

The solution

We started by researching the current codebase, technical challenges, traffic patterns, and the team’s business plans to make an informed decision about what was best for the platform’s future.

Taking all aspects into account, we decided to take a controversial but necessary approach and recommended rewriting the entire application from PHP to Python (Django) for the following reasons:

  • The amount of technical debt was so high that a reconstruction of the site was estimated as more efficient than gradual refactoring.
  • Python’s robustness would make the platform faster and easier to scale - very important factors considering the platform’s consistently growing traffic.
  • The new search engine and SEO strategy required a major overhaul of the existing functionality and database structure.

We developed a brand new Django app hosted on Rackspace and equipped it with significant features and improvements:

  • Localisation mechanism - user location determined the landing page, currency selection, and email autoresponder content.
  • New payment gateway - enabled multiple subscription plans, multi-currency support, promo codes, recurring payments, and advanced subscription and permission management.
  • Third-party integrations - Mailchimp and Mandrill enabled powerful analytics, user segmentation, and advanced personalisation of all transactional and marketing email messages.
  • SEO strategy - working alongside a digital marketing consultancy, we optimised the site structure, introduced an indexable AJAX search mechanism and a set of landing pages.
  • Map search - a bespoke map search engine based on Google Maps API enabled an entirely new user experience that simplified and accelerated the search process.

Despite incorporating many new features, we reduced the codebase by half (from 91k to 42k lines of code) and achieved a test coverage of 80% (400+ automated unit tests) that significantly improved the code’s maintainability and scalability.

Engagement Type

Project-based engagement


Agile project management

Fullstack web development


2x traffic and revenue increase in just over a year

2x decrease in codebase size

users in 140+ countries

2+ million nights booked

secured £77,000 investment from Seedrs (for 5% equity)

Numerous awards and media recognition

Featured in Forbes, The New York Times, ABC, USA Today

TrustedHousesitters in-house team grew over 10x since they started working with us

Andy Peck

Founder & CEO

Sunscrapers are an extremely knowledgeable agency with fantastic developers and strong integrity. They understand and interpret our needs and site well, produce complex work with excellent value for money and have outstanding technical knowledge.

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Selected work

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