We have been sharing our upcoming travel plans with friends and family recently, and the same question has been coming up over and over again: "You will be housesitting? What is that and how does it work?" Well, let us share a little about it. We believe it's a wonderful way to travel around the long, stretch your dollars, and experience another country's culture first-hand.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about housesitting, and our answers to them:
1. What is housesitting?
It's actually pretty simple, really... Someone gives us the keys to their house while they're away, and we take care of it. We also take care of pets and plants, and anything else that needs looking after. Often times, owners even leave a vehicle that housesitters can use while there.
2. How does it work?
It can be stressful for homeowners to leave for a while (sometimes, months at a time) and know that their home is empty. Empty homes attract the attention of thieves. Instead, they find someone (like us) willing to come in, live in the home, and take care of it. Insurance rates go down for the homeowner, world travellers have a place to stay, and animals can live in their own environment while their masters are away. A win-win-win!
3. Does it cost money?
Sometimes, a little, yes, to cover utilities or Internet connection, etc. But most of the time, it doesn't. Homeowners cover their regular expenses, and housesitters pay for their travel expenses to get there. Homeowners gain from having someone there to care for the house and pets, and housesitters gain from having a place to stay for days, weeks, maybe months at a time.
4. How do you find housesits?
We are registered with a few different platforms where homeowners and housesitters can connect. The biggest, and most active (for us), is trustedhousesitterscom, but we are also on mindmyhouse.com. There are, however, several more platforms that cater to more specific areas of the world (e.g. housesittersamerica.com or housesittersuk.co.uk). A quick Google search will list them all.
5. Aren't people scared to leave their house with strangers?
Obviously not, or housesitting wouldn't be a thing! It is important to understand, however, that, although you rarely meet in person prior to the sit, you have talked at length with the housesitter you have chosen to care for your property. You will usually chat on Skype a few times, email back and forth and get a general feel for the people housesitting for you. After all, homeowners get dozens, maybe even hundreds, of applications. They get to pick the people they feel most comfortable with, and whose personalities and interests best match their needs.
6. So it's like a house exchange, right?
Pretty much, except that it is a one-way "exchange". Housesitters don't always have a home of their own - many travel full-time - so there is not necessarily a "return" trip.
7. What's in it for the homeowners?
Peace of mind, mostly. They can leave knowing their house is inhabited, their pets well-loved, and plants watered. Most people ask a friend or family member to cover for them when away, but what if you don't live near family or are leaving for several months? Friends might pick up your mail for a week or two, walk your dog for a few days, but chances are they will not be willing to do it for 2-3 months. A housesitter can do that. A housesitter will also notice a water leak, frozen pipes (it happens in Canada!), or any other potential issue with your home.
8. Don't you feel weird living in someone else's stuff for a while?
Not really... Most people put their personal things away before leaving their house for a while. It's usually clean and comfortable. Plus, chances are that people who go travelling for awhile value experiences more than things, and don't tend to hoard possessions. Of course, we put the owners' personal things aside when we get there and put them back as best as we can before leaving. Think of it as more of a long-term hotel stay than a few nights as a stranger's place. There is one major difference with hotels, however: no housekeeping service! So you have to clean up after yourself...
9. Can you travel around while you're housesitting?
It really depends on the sit. Usually, no more than a few days at a time. Especially when you have to care for animals. But it's not really an issue for us since we want to experience a new culture slowly. We want to live like locals, cook at home, go for walks, chat with the neighbours. We want to learn a few words in the local language, do little day trips, and soak in the vibe of the place.
10. What is the best part of housesitting?
Our budget goes further and longer, for one. We all know that travel can cost a lot of money. Housesitting lets us travel slowly, staying in one place for a while. It also allows us to experience the area where we are a little more deeply. And for Annik, who works remotely, it provides her with reliable Internet access so she can work and answer emails. :)