Housesitting is the perfect travel adventure …
In the 13 months from June 2016 to the end of July 2017 we have had or will have had housesitting assignments booked in France, UK, Spain and Germany. During the 12 house sits we will have spent 250 nights house sitting, and looked after dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits and a tortoise.
House sitting is a service matching people who are leaving their own homes for a period of time with people who will 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, when they are away; while the house sitter gets free accommodation and the opportunity to stay in a different location.
We first heard about house sitting when we saw an article on a TV show. A couple had been house sitting for two years, and had managed to save $40k due to no rent payments. They lived in a big city so were able to do their house sitting in and around that city while retaining their jobs.
We thought it was a good idea and started looking into it when we decided on heading to Europe after our 4-month Asian Adventure.
We researched a few house sitting websites and we registered as members on a couple and started applying for house sits, but with no luck initially.
It seemed that by the time we applied the house sits had been filled. We did some work on our profile, giving a bit more personal detail about ourselves, added some photos, and 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 which we added 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, just so 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 looking 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 secured 9 more house sits of varying lengths – between 1 and 6 weeks. One of the big benefits of house sitting is that we have stayed in some wonderful places that we may never have visited in the normal course of events. Some of these are detailed below (content to be added)
Of course, there are responsibilities that come with house sitting. There are commitments to the pets and that can mean you are restricted to day trips for seeing sights (maybe only a few hours), unless there is a friendly neighbour who may sub in for a day or two – 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 as you would your own home – or more to the point – as they would like their home treated.
Remember you are staying in the community of the home owner – their 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), and will also stay an extra day after they get back to feedback on how things went.
We think what has worked for us is a well written profile that is genuine; references from previous house sits; the fact we were flexible with; and being quick to respond as there are a lot of people looking to house sit.
Housesitting websites reviews
There are quite a few housesitting websites out therew, we have used the following for most of our research. Fees to join range from US$20-120 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
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.
Housecarers.com — Plenty of good house-sits with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, and North America.
Kiwihousesitters.co.nz – Focussed on New Zealand house sits, and they had a good amount when we looked at the site.
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.
Not all housesits are wonderful!
Before we left New Zealand we looked for housesitting opportunities in Wellington to gain more references, but due to our house sale and finding an apartment that is too perfect to leave, we didn’t pursue this too much.
We did get two housesitting offers, one fell through as it clashed with our home move, the other, well that was an experience we won’t forget!
We responded to an ad for a housesit in Brooklyn (Wellington not New York) and were invited to do the sit. As we lived in Wellington, we arranged to visit the house and meet the owner and her pets (2 dogs and a cat).
As soon as the door opened we were overcome with the strong animal smell that wafted out the door. The smell got worse as we went into the kitchen to chat to the owner, worse was to follow!
The lady showed us through her home she admitted to us that she let the animals “do their business” on the hallway carpet! The place just reeked of dog and cat excrement!
We looked at each other and made our excuses and left in a hurry to get fresh air into our lungs, we cancelled that house sit immediately.
So not all housesitting assignments are perfect, we just hope none are as bad as that place!
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 Marian & 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 that 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 Marian & Monk were due to depart on their holiday. This gave time for us to be shown where the dogs get walked, meet the neighbours and been shown 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, have bread, cheese & wine for picnic lunches and driving to the nearby towns to see beautiful buildings and 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
work in progress ……. more to come soon ……