Housesitting is the perfect travel adventure …
Hi, we are Terry and Maura of TravelKiwis
In the 19 months from mid-June 2016 to mid-January 2018 we had or have booked 16 housesits. These are in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and UK. During the 16 house sits we will have spent 349 nights house sitting. That’s an average of nearly 22 nights each month. We have looked after dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits and a tortoise.
You can read more about some of the fabulous travel destinations we have visited in between our housesitting assignments here: Travel Destinations
House sitting matches people leaving their homes with sitters who stay in that home while the owners are away. Often, but not always, there are pets to look after. Sometimes there are gardens to be tended, and mostly no money changes hands.
The home owner gets security of their home being lived in, and their pets looked after. The house sitter gets free accommodation and the opportunity to stay in a different location. It is a win/win situation.
We first heard about house sitting when we saw an article on a TV show. A couple had been house sitting for two years. During this time they had saved $40k due to not having rent payments. They lived in a big city so were able to do their house sitting while retaining their jobs.
We thought it was a good idea. After doing research, we thought we would house sit in Europe following our 4-month Asian Adventure.
We registered as members on a few house sitting websites and started applying for house sits. With no luck initially, it seemed that by the time we applied the house sits had been filled. We realised we needed to change our approach.
We did some work on our profile. Giving a bit more personal detail about ourselves, adding some photos, it created a much more personalised and interesting profile.
In 2013-2014 we had looked after a couple of houses with their pets in Sydney. We went back to Tracey and Wendy and asked for references to add to our profile. This helped gain the confidence of the home owners when we applied.
If you are thinking of doing some house sitting it is worth offering to do some house sits for people you know. You can have some references to supply. We also got police background checks (they are clean 😇).
We then worked out you needed to be on the email alert list. As members you receive the list of new house sits 24 hours before they were put on the website. We started to get some positive responses to our applications.
Our first confirmed booking was with Janice and Jeremy in Gloucester, UK. They wanted us to look after their home, two dogs, one cat, a parrot, tropical & pond fish. We were so happy as we were wondering if we were ever going to get a booking.
Since then we have secured 15 more house sits of between 1 and 6 weeks. One of the big benefits of house sitting is that we have stayed in some wonderful places. We may never have visited some of these towns in the normal course of events. Some of these are detailed below.
Of course, there are responsibilities that come with house sitting. There are commitments to the pets, that can mean you are restricted to a few hours for sightseeing. Sometimes there is a friendly neighbour who may sub in – but we always check with the home owner to ensure they are happy.
You are staying in someone else’s home and so the home needs to be treated with respect. The place needs to be cared for as you would your own home – or more to the point- as they would like the home treated.
Remember you are staying in the community of the home owner. Neighbours and friends do watch and report to the home owner of your activities.
We generally arrive a day before owners leave to meet and greet (both owners and pets). Our departure tends to be a day after their return to feedback on how things went, but also in case their return is delayed.
What has worked for us
- a well written profile that is genuine
- references from previous house sits
- the fact we were flexible with dates
- being quick to respond as there are lots of people looking to house sit.
Housesitting websites reviews
There are quite a few housesitting websites out there, we have used the following for most of our research. Fees to join range from USD20-120 per annum for housesitting memberships.
TrustedHousesitters.com — The largest site on the web, and also the fastest growing with the best functionality. It has a lot of UK and European house sits but is also growing in Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Click this link to receive 20% off your membership ➡ Trusted House Sitters
MindMyHouse.com — Has a low fee to join, a good number of house-sits, and a well laid-out website. Sits are primarily in North America and Europe. Link ➡Mind My House
Housecarers.com — Plenty of good house-sits with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Link ➡ House Carers
Kiwihousesitters.co.nz – Focussed on New Zealand house sits, and they had a good amount when we looked at the site. Link ➡ Kiwi House Sitters
Nomador.com – This site has a heavy European bias, but this is changing with more from the Americas. They also offer 3 free contacts and this is driving their growth. Link ➡ Nomador
We hope this has been of help to anyone thinking of house sitting. If you have had some experience housesitting, please share in the comments. You can read about some of our housesitting experiences below.
Our first house sit in Europe was in a lovely little village of around 600 residents. The village was much larger in medieval times, and had a thriving industry that has since passed and led to the decline in population. It has the river Coney running through it and a canal runs alongside the river.
The atmosphere walking around the town’s cobbled streets is a very pleasant experience and we felt very comfortable despite the only stores being a pharmacy, a baker, a general store and a pub.
We contacted the home owners Marion & Roger (known as Monk) in response to their advertisement on www.trustedhousesitters.com, and following a Skype conversation we were confirmed for the 3-week sit.
We had just completed a 4-month travel adventure through Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and United Arab Emirates – so we were looking forward to settling down in one place for a few weeks.
On arrival in Paris we took the TGV to Reims where we spent a couple of days researching Champagne the area is famous for, this included a tour of the Taittinger chalk caves where over 1 million bottles of champagne are stored.
We arrived two days before Marion & Monk were due to depart on their holiday. This gave time for us to be shown where the dogs are walked, meet the neighbours and know the routine for the two dogs Miki (border collie/ English setter cross) and Misty (black cocker spaniel).
The village has several English Dutch ex-pats who congregate at the pub each Friday night, we guessed it belonged to the French locals the other nights. Terry & Monk had a big Friday night out and had to negotiate the cobblestone streets on the way home in the dark as the street lights get turned off at midnight.
The home itself was very comfortable with all the mod-cons despite the house being over 200 years old. Monk & Marion had left us their car to use and also a couple of bicycles to take riding alongside the canal.
We spent the next 3 weeks taking long walks with the dogs through the countryside, cycling to nearby villages, enjoying bread, cheese & wine for picnic lunches and driving to the nearby towns to see beautiful buildings to discover more about the history of the area.
We had made good friends with Andre & Tina (Dutch) as well as Justin & Deb (English) and they were always good to chat to when walking the dogs.
Andre & Tina took us on a day trip to two lovely towns Munster and Colmar. Colmar in particular is a stunning place and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Munster was amazing with a colony of storks that make their huge nests on top of the buildings in the centre of the town.
The two dogs were a pleasure to look after, Miki was very energetic and was a good subject for Terry’s dog whispering skills. Misty is a little older and generally stayed next to us while we walked.
You can read more about our housesit in this beautiful place by clicking on the below links:
This housesit was the first we booked through a website, and so we were excited to finally meet Janice and Jer. We had been corresponding with them for around 6 months since we first chatted as part of the interview process to secure the housesitting assignment.
In between the Fonetoy and Stroud housesits we had 13 nights to spare. We initially headed to Knowle, near Birmingham to stay with our old friend Nigel who we had stayed with when we first went to live in London in 1985!
You can read about the 27 hour journey we had to make to get there in this blog post ➡ France to Knowle we also had a lovely day in ➡ Stratford-upon-Avon
During this time we had a day in London exploring, and at a reunion of the Richmond Cricket Club Terry had played for in 1986 click here for that story ➡ Day in London.
The most exciting trip in this gap was a 3-day visit to Amsterdam to catch up with Terry’s Mum who was joining a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest – how nice it was to spend a couple of days exploring this wonderful city and seeing Mum after 5 months. Click here to read about our cool time ➡Amsterdam to see Mum
When we arrived in Stroud Jer was there to meet us as Janice along with their children Lydia and Harry had already left for their holiday in Florida. Poor Jer had to stay behind an extra couple of days for work. He introduced us to Jack and Murph (Border Collies), Buddy the cat, Alvin the parrot, tropical fish in a tank and pond fish. These would be our pets for the next few weeks. For our blog introduction to the town and nearby Gloucester city, click here ➡ Stroud & Gloucester
Our duties to the pets included taking the dogs for a walk in the morning and in the afternoon, feeding all the pets their different meals, cleaning the bird cage, and of course keeping them happy with lots of care and attention.
We were fortunate that Jer had organised insurance for the use of Lydia’s car while we were there. In fact he had sorted 2 months of insurance so that we could take the car to our next house sit and drop it off to them before or Hawkchurch house sit in September. That is one of the challenges of housesitting if you don’t have a car. We have been fortunate that nearly all our housesits have provided a car. In the UK each driver needs to be insured, while in France only the vehicle needs to be insured – much less hassle.
Having the car meant we could go on day trips to the many lovely towns and villages in the area. The following places were our favourites and you can click on their links to read more about them ➡ Cheltenham, Bath, Cotswolds, Cirencester, Symonds Yat
For the month of September 2016 we found ourselves in the tiny village of Hawkchurch (population 553) looking after four lovely bunnies. Mike & Lesley had headed off to the USA and had invited us to look after their house and pets. When we arrived we were introduced to the bunnies and were in awe of their magnificent bunny mansion – Hugh Hefner would have been proud to have had his Bunnies stay here.
Hawkchurch is on the border of Dorset & Devon, and in a paddock nearby, you can stand in a spot where Somerset also meets the other two counties. The village has a 13th century church, a pub, a school, a village hall and a community run general store, so a very small place indeed.
Hawkchurch is only a short drive to the magnificent south England coast where we spent many a day exploring places like Lyme Regis, Golden Cap, Dartmouth, Torquay, Seaton, Portland, Lulworth Cove and Poole.
The coast area here is called Jurassic Coast due to the abundance of fossils from that period. When we strolled along the beach we saw people in action splitting rocks to find fossils able to be sold or kept.
Around Hawkchurch we enjoyed the daily walks with Spring, our elderly neighbour Rachel’s springer spaniel puppy. We walked the lanes to other hamlets or across the farmland. At times Spring gets a tad dirty so she is quite happy to jump in the local trough with an old active water pump.