Free travel? Pet Cuddles?
Alright – if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is, we have all learned from that mistake I get it, but hear me out.
It may be bending the truth a little, I admit, about the free travel part, maybe it should really read “free accommodation”, but that isn’t quite as enticing as “free travel” let’s face it!
You’ve all probably heard of this housesitting idea, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense, you might have so many questions about how it all works and what’s it all about, and if it’s as good as it sounds, just like I was doing this time last year!
But I took the plunge and gave it a go – the verdict: It IS as good as it sounds, even better.
My first introduction to it came more by necessity than choice.
I was looking to find a solution to fund my way, while in England temporarily, without eating into retirement savings. I needed to be in a specific location (close to my elderly mother who needs visiting daily) and it wasn’t an option to live with relatives.
So up goes my profile on a housesitting site and out goes around $90 for the membership. Worst case scenario, that’s all I will lose, the best case is someone offers me a nice place to stay and perhaps a pet to take care of, so, here goes.
I didn’t have to wait long; numerous possibilities were listed in the location I wanted.
One house shouted at me immediately – from the images, it looked like everything I hoped for – perfect location, gorgeous house, cute dog, the right dates and length of sit for me. I took great care with my wording when applying for this sit, knowing how important the first impression could be, similar to applying for a job that you know you desperately want, which is exactly what we’re doing when applying for a house sit!
I was slightly nervous but excited too as I waited, the more I thought about it, the more I doubted that they would choose me, there must be hundreds of people wanting this gorgeous house, I surely don’t stand a chance and I have no references yet.
Less than 24 hours later the owner messaged me through the house sitting site asking if I would like to drop by to meet her. I did. There was an immediate rapport between both her and her dog. We sat over a cuppa and got to know each other.
This, it turns out, is one of the fundamental crucial steps of house sitting – taking time for both parties to feel comfortable that this is the right fit. They are entrusting their most valuable possessions (usually), being the home and the pet, to you.
I was offered the house sit and subsequently was asked back another 7 times by the same owner and we have even stayed good friends. It was a perfect match and I have made many happy memories there.
The house itself was an 1830s farmhouse with 10 acres of land in a rural setting. Idyllic country views, with its own fenced pond, large garden and paddock. It was luxuriously and tastefully furnished with 5 bedrooms I could choose from, an open fireplace and an Aga stove for cooking.
The sit came with its own beautiful affectionate dog (English Springer Spaniel mix Afghan ) who just loved company. It also came with a few spoiled chickens all with cute names who laid eggs for breakfast.
All I had to do was live in this splendour, take the dog for a walk each day and feed the chooks. That’s it. I could tend to the garden if I wanted, but a gardener came in once a week to do it. I had my Mum come for dinner and my daughter stayed for a few days to experience it, all encouraged by the owner to do so.
Let’s just stop here a moment – I can hear all the voices “Why would anyone want a complete stranger living in their beautiful home?”
So that leads me to ask you this – Why would anyone WANT to stay in someone else’s house?
There are many reasons people will want to do this, and some of them go like this:
Now, I realise my situation was quite unique and that most people would not want to stay 7 or 8 times in the same area or house (you would if you saw this house though!)
There are definite advantages to finding one home sit that you love and returning again- for you, it feels like going back to a favourite holiday destination, each time finding out more about the area, and for them, it eliminates the need to advertise and find another house sitter they’re comfortable with.
I realise the benchmark had been set high with my first experience, but, since then, there have been so many other exciting and interesting sits completed.
Not to mention the ones I have completed in Australia recently.
You get the idea.
It’s a reasonably new concept, and there is an element of the unknown, trust and commitment involved. Perhaps that’s the reason people have asked me so many questions. I can only give you some answers from my experience.
Do your own research and see which resonates with you – For me, I used Trusted Housesitters because it’s international, but also local ones like UK House Sitters or Aussie House Sitters. Different rules and prices.
Anything from $80 – $250
Not usually, it’s a verbal agreement
Check your membership, each company is different. I have never experienced an insurance issue.
How do they choose you? – by reading your profile and references and the feeling they get when speaking to you by phone, video call or in real life. Each site will give you tips on writing your profile.
Do they ask for references? When you first start you can use personal references. But as you go along, the owners leave you references on the site, and you leave feedback on them.
Are there any house sits with no animals? – Yes, but not as common as with pets.
They give you all the instructions you need and usually a folder about the neighbourhood and important numbers.
Remember you are not a trained animal professional – they will always leave their vet’s number for you, and keep them informed at all times.
Usually, but sometimes just a part of the house.
Once you have committed, stick to your word. It’s very hard to find a replacement last minute. So don’t say yes unless you really mean it! It may also lead to a bad review.
All things considered, I understand why this type of travel may not suit everyone, but if your interest has been sparked a tiny bit after reading this, I recommend you hop on a site now and investigate. You might just see that perfect house jumping out at you, and who knows what that might lead to.
What have you got to lose?