Housesitting is the perfect travel adventure …

 

In the 19 months from mid-June 2016 to mid-January 2018 we had or have booked 16 housesits. These are in France, UK, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. 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. 

 

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.

With Gracie in the beautiful Isabella Plantation within Richmond Park.

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 spent Christmas 2016 housesitting in the beautiful village of Callas, France.

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 were able to explore some amazing towns in Andalucía during a 6 week housesit in South West Spain. This is Ronda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 looked after these 4 bunnies near the south coast of England for a month.

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.

While housesitting in Stroud, England, the parents of the homeowners showed us great hospitality.

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.

Between housesits we take the opportunity to travel, in this case we had a week in Ireland.

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.

During 3 weeks in Sussex we spent time exploring the south coast of England

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.
Our first European housesit was in the lovely village of Fontenoy-le-Chateau.

 

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.comThis 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.

 

The Housesits

Fontenoy-le-Château

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.

The canal running through Fontenoy. Our housesit was in one of the homes on the right

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).

Miki & Misty ready for a walk

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.

Cycling by the canal

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 stunning town of Colmar – you must visit this town
Storks nesting on the rooftops of Munster

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:

https://www.travelkiwis.com/france/

https://www.travelkiwis.com/fontenoy-le-chateau-france-june-2016/

https://www.travelkiwis.com/fontenoy-le-chateau-vosges-france/

Stroud, Gloucestershire

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

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With Nige and his family near Knowle
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Outside William Shakespeare’s birthplace

 

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   

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Jack
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Murph
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Buddy
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Gloucester Cathedral

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, CirencesterSymonds Yat

Hawkchurch

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. 

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The bunnies. Mr Pickle, Brie, Bagel and Biscuit.
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The Bunny Mansion

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.

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St John the Baptist a 12th Century church with some of the finest early English sculpture of any church in Devon.
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The WWI memorial in front of one of the thatched cottages in the village

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.

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Lyme Regis
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Golden Cap from the beach at Seatown

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dartmouth is a gorgeous town
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Portland Bill Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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A lady looking for fossils
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The coastline in the region is spectacular

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Spring giving herself a bath
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On our walks we would pick blackberries to bake pies, yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful month in this remote little village, the region is absolutely beautiful and the coastline stunning.  For further reading about our stay just click the below links:

Dorset and Devon

The Jurassic Coast

We now had an 18 day gap before our next house sit in South West Spain. So we went to visit friends in Guernsey, then travelled to St Malo, Mont St Michel, Paris, Porto, Lisbon, Tavira and Seville.  You can read about these wonderful places in our travel blog page by clicking the following links:

Guernsey, St Malo and Mont St Michel, Paris, Porto, Lisbon, Tavira, Seville

 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). This was several weeks before the house sit was due to start.

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!