5 House Sitting Tips from Our Time in Australia, Ecuador, France and Mexico
Have you considered house sitting? We have been house sitting since 2014 and have had 34 assignments in Australia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and France. Coming up next is Barbados for three months.
Why do we house-sit? We house-sit because we enjoy slow travelling and living like a local. We are on the road continually travelling and creating content for our Baby Boomer travel blog.
We wish to inspire fellow Baby Boomers to get out there and travel and house sitting is a cost effective way for us to continue doing what we love. We have learnt some lessons along the way so we thought we would share them with you.
Know What You Have Signed Up For
When you are applying for the house sitting assignment, read the homeowners’ requirements carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:
Is it cost effective for you to travel to the destination? There’s no point in spending thousands of dollars travelling for a one week house-sit unless that is really what you want to do.
What facilities are around you? Google the location and check the weather at the time of the sit. You could be sitting during the hurricane season or snow season!
Can you speak the language? If it is an out of the way assignment and no car has been provided, what are the public transport options?
If there are pets, have you cared for the type the homeowner has listed? And don’t say you have if you haven’t; it won’t help you if something goes wrong.
If swimming pool maintenance is required, do you have the experience to do it? The last thing a homeowner wants is to come back to a green swimming pool!
The 3 Keys to House Sitting Success? Communicate, Communicate and Communicate
Communication is vital. During the initial process, emails will be your first port of communication. If the homeowner is interested, organise a Skype call if you are out of the area. If you are in the area, you can do a home visit or even meet up at a local coffee shop first so that you are comfortable with one another before you commit.
If you are communicating via a Skype call, ask the homeowner to show you around the house: kitchen, lounge room, where you are to sleep, outside areas and of course the pets. This will give you a feel for the home that you are caring for. If it is cluttered, too dark, too large or even too small and you are uncomfortable living in this type of environment, this is the time for you to reconsider this assignment.
If you are meeting the homeowner at their home, look carefully at the state of the home, the size of the home and the garden and tasks that you will be required to undertake.
If you have both confirmed that you are interested, keep in contact with each other on a regular basis until the commencement of the sit. You should check carefully with the homeowner what day and time they would like you to arrive and depart and advise them of your arrival details – plane, train, bus or private car.
Our experience states that it is important to arrive the day before they leave. A run through of your responsibilities, appliances, utilities, walking paths for dogs, etc. is vital for a successful outcome for both parties. Arriving a day earlier helps you also bond with their pets so it is not such a shock for them.
During the house-sit regular emails are a must. We send a daily email update if we are caring for pets and an email every other day if we have not pets to care for.
Get Specific Details in the House Sitting Agreement
We believe this to be a very important part of house sitting. It outlines who is to pay for what (e.g., utilities, Wi-Fi, etc.) depending on the length of the sit, and what happens if there is a major appliance failure, storm or flood damage.
We request their travel itinerary and also ask for next of kin details for both parties, who to contact in the case of a major catastrophe for both parties, and what to take from the home in case of fire, flood or storm.
For pets, we ask for feeding times and meal requirements, exercise regimen, name and contact details for their animal’s vet and any medical requirements as well as future flea and tick medication dates.
With regard to the house we ask for name, contact and account details for all utilities, location of gas, water and electrical meters within the home, security cameras and their locations, and details of their Wi-Fi package. If there is a swimming pool, we inquire about maintenance requirements and contact numbers for pool maintenance company.
Finally, we ask for gardening requirements, any staff details and payments, car insurance details, what to do with their mail, who has a spare set of keys and if any family members will be visiting.
Take Proactive Steps to Stay Healthy
This may be obvious, but it is important to stay healthy while you are travelling and housesitting. Exercise daily and eat well. Always ask whether you can drink the local water.
Try out the local green markets for local produce.
At times the homeowners have gardens of fruit trees and a vegetable patch from which they offer you to help yourself. In Nicaragua we had fresh coconuts, avocados, beans and tomatoes on a daily basis. In France we had fresh eggs daily.
Ask the homeowner for the name of their local doctor and where the local hospital is; you just never know when you may need it. Also, if you are in a country outside your home ensure you know the emergency number.
Be Prepared to Say Farewell to Your New Four-legged Friends
This is a tough one. You become quickly attached to the dogs, cats, etc. that you are caring for. You give them lots of love and you enjoy taking them out for their walks or just cuddling up in front of the fire. Saying goodbye to your new four-legged friends is hard. We always say to ourselves we don’t have favourites but deep down we know we have a few.
For further information check out our website and our Housesitting Tips and Tricks.
Have you ever tried house sitting? What house-stays have you most enjoyed? What suggestions would you add? Please join the conversation and share your experiences.
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith are nomadic semi-retirees, baby boomers, travellers, House Sitters and co-founders of To Travel Too. Their motto is “Age is no barrier when it comes to travel.” Although not yet pensioners, their goal is to travel the world on what is currently the Australian Age Pension of approx. AUD 33,716 (USD 25,110) per year, or AUD 92 (USD 69) per day for two people.