Are You Ready to Try House Sitting? Here’s How to Find Out
House sitting has been around for years. Maybe you assisted your family and friends by feeding their pets, looking after their homes and collecting their mail whilst they were away.
So why is “house sitting” the new buzz word when we have been doing it for years?
The so-called “shared economy” has created a model that is a “win/win” situation for all. Just like blabla car and couch surfing, house sitting has become a global phenomenon.
The “win/win” situation occurs between the two parties – house sitting should be a mutual experience between the home owner and the souse sitter where free accommodation is offered in exchange for the care and responsibility of property and animals.
The Benefits for Home Owners
For many people, the benefits of house sitting, for the home sitter, are obvious. After all, who wouldn’t want a free place to stay when they travel? In reality, home owners also benefit quite a bit. Benefits for home owners include:
- If there are pets or animals involved, they are cared for in their own environment. This is a major plus as the animals are less likely to be stressed due to the absence of their owners
- There are no expensive boarding kennel fees
- The home is cleaned, gardens maintained, lawns mowed, routine swimming pool maintenance is carried out and any emergency repairs done, mail collected and in some instances utility bills paid
- Insurance companies prefer to have homes occupied rather than left vacant for a period of time
The Benefits for House Sitters
Let’s face it. Women our age love to travel. At the same time, there isn’t always enough money to see all of the amazing places that we are interested in. This is one of the reasons that house sitting is so amazing for house sitters. Benefits for this group include:
- Free accommodation
- Unique travel opportunities
- Living like a local
- Caring for pets
- Great experiences
- New friendships
What Else Do House Sitters Need to Know?
House sitting sounds easy and, for the most part, it is. If you’re responsible and practical, you will have no problem handling 99% of the situations that come up. But, what happens when the unexpected occurs? Here are a few unusual things that I have had to learn.
- Some knowledge of the local language is a must to deal with any situation that arises e.g. bar-b-que fire at the neighbours house in Mexico
- How to handle a medical situation in an area that you don’t know very well for the pets or even us as the house sitters
- An evacuation plan in case of hurricanes, floods, fire or even a volcano eruption
- Being handy at general maintenance – e.g. switching to tank water from town water when the water from the hillside of the local volcano has been contaminated or switched off
- Patience at trying to pay utility bills for the owner in Ecuador (winning after 3 attempts)
- How to handle a situation where the “barrio” you live in runs out of water and the owner is due back within 24 hours and you need to clean the home
- How to cope when the Wi-Fi is down for over a week and you need to be in daily contact with the home owner
- Long power outages
- Security guards firing their guns late at night. The guns were fired as a warning shot to a small disturbance that was happening in town.
Here Are a Few of My Favourite House Sitting Adventures
House sitting in your hometown is quite different to house sitting overseas. We started our house sitting adventures in our own local area in Sydney, Australia. We were familiar with driving on the roads, where to shop, what to do in a medical or veterinarian emergency etc.
When it comes to house sitting internationally it is a different proposition altogether.
We threw ourselves into the deep end! We had some of the most amazing adventures in our travelling life, met some incredible people who have become close friends and cared for a variety of the most loving 4-footed friends we have ever met.
In Quito, Ecuador we immersed ourselves into a week of Spanish lessons so that we could converse with the gardener and the night security guard in our House Sit in Canoa on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador.
In San Miguel de Allende in Mexico we shopped where the local Mexicans shopped for their fruit and vegetables, bringing our daily living costs down to a few dollars.
We extended our stay by three weeks after house sit finished in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We enjoyed the location so much. We stayed in a great hotel on the beach with a spa room, and enjoyed fresh fish cooked locally on the beach at night.
In Tepoztlan, Mexico we lived opposite the local bakery that made the yummiest cakes and incredible tasty local bread. We can still remember the smells that used to waft over to us at 2pm in the afternoon giving our three dogs we were caring for the signal that it was time for their walks. Who could forget the 10-year-old boy who would knock on our door selling 3 avocados for $1 every couple of days!
Puerta Vallarta in Mexico was another great house sit. Our daily walks along the Malecon were followed by a well-deserved cup of coffee at our favourite café. A few days after we left one of the biggest hurricanes ever to hit that part of Mexico was bearing down on the town. Fortunately for our Homeowners it hit further down the coast.
In Nicaragua we had house sitting assignments in the colonial city of Granada, as well as, on the unique Ometepe Island. Both incredible places to live like a local for a few weeks but Ometepe was rather special.
We lived on the lake where pigs, horses, chickens and cattle roamed freely on the beach in front of us and on the one road around the island. We walked across the road to buy our daily fruit and vegetables and the restaurant three doors away would cook the local fish and deliver it to our door. We even had our beer delivered to the door twice a week.
Panama was our next destination. We travelled to Boquete in the mountains and Playa el Rompio on the beach. Both places were totally different, but, we had an amazing time!
Is house sitting for you? Would you consider it as a way to travel the world staying in incredible places and living like a local? Could you stay in someone else’s place and care for their pets?
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.