A Touch of Home Which May Extend Your Next Vacation
|House-sitting jobs abroad.
Travelers are often on the hunt for places off the tourist trails in search of a slice of local life. But “off the beaten path” locations can be tough to find, especially if you stay in hostels or hotels which are designed to be on such paths. If what you want is to live like a local—with the added benefit of staying somewhere for free—then house-sitting could be just what your next vacation calls for.
I stepped off the train in Hampshire, England, to find my house-sitting host waiting for me. She gave me an impromptu tour of the area before taking me back to her home to introduce me to the family—which included the three dogs I’d be caring for while they were away.
After spending a day with the family, learning the ropes and getting acquainted with the pups, my house-sitting hosts left for their two week vacation in Greece. So while they were enjoying the beaches and hotels of Greece, I was enjoying all the comforts of home—their home—in Hampshire.
I had full use of their car (they even added me to their insurance policy), I was encouraged to use anything I wished in the cupboards (with the understanding that I generally replaced what I used), and I was invited to kick my feet up and make myself truly at home in their absence. I took advantage of their wireless internet, eclectic library, huge cable TV, and formidable DVD collection. I went for drives with the dogs, exploring the area and going for hikes. At my hosts’ encouragement I even ventured a little further to discover some of the area’s attractions like Avebury, Winchester, and Southampton.
In exchange for this free accommodation and generosity with their home and vehicle, I was expected to take care of the three dogs, water the plants and gardens, and keep the house from falling into disrepair.
It was a great deal for everybody involved. I was happy to enjoy free accommodations and experience daily life in the English countryside. And my hosts enjoyed their vacation knowing that their pups were comfortable and cared for at home, the gardens were prospering, and they were warding off any security concerns in leaving the house empty for two weeks.
How to Find House-Sitting Jobs
Although an internet search can sometimes reveal local house-sitting forums, there are a few reputable resources for finding (and listing) house-sitting positions. I found mine through House Carers, which is a worldwide service that connects house-sitters with home owners and arguably has the most house-sitting listings of any service.
As a member (annual membership is $50US), I set my preferences to which countries and cities I am available for house-sitting and when. Whenever a listing is created that fits my criteria, I receive a notification by email. If I like the look of the listing, I use the site to securely contact the owners and start a dialogue.
I also have the ability to search House Carers at large for opportunities in locations that take my fancy on a whim. Although I wasn’t looking to create a notification for Ireland, out of curiosity one day while perusing the site I found an intriguing position house-sitting a B&B; an unconventional yet interesting opportunity.
Applying for a House-Sitting Job
There is a certain leap of faith that any homeowner makes in inviting a stranger found via the internet into their home to care for everything that is important to them. Likewise, even the most intrepid of travelers must do their due diligence in ensuring that the house-sitting position is legitimate and safe.
So the correspondence/application process is an important one in establishing compatibilities and peace of mind for both parties. As a house-sitter, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about what is expected of you and, in turn, what you can expect of the home and surrounding area.
Home owners who post listings on House Carers generally get swamped with applications, especially if their home is in a desirable place. So in applying and corresponding with home owners, you can increase your chances of being noticed and accepted if you provide references. These references don’t need to be from previous house-sitting jobs if you don’t yet have that kind of experience under your belt, although it helps to provide a similar sort of reference (such as caretaking, or even house-sitting for a friend in your home town).
Similar to any home-stay experience, it is expected that you keep the home to a similar (or better) standard as the home owners. Replace anything you consume, and be sure to give the place a good cleaning before the owners return.
I also make notes of all the perishable ingredients the home owners leave behind (which I try to consume in their absence rather than let spoil), and I replace those exact supplies in time for their return, as well as to cook a meal for them so they needn’t worry about their first meal. Although it’s unnecessary, it’s a nice touch that helps the home owners feel “at home” right away after their vacation.
The Mutual Value in House-Sitting
There’s obvious value for the house-sitter in receiving free accommodation (and often additional perks that come with staying in a well-appointed home). It’s a chance to live a slice of local life on foreign soil, and often to extend your vacation beyond what would normally be affordable if you were to stay in hotels or hostels.
But don’t forget that the home owner is also receiving great value too. For example, if my Hampshire home owners didn’t have a house-sitter, they would have had to pay to house their three dogs in a kennel for two weeks, which is no small proposition. They would also have had to arrange for somebody to water the garden daily, and they would have been subject to some security concerns in leaving the house empty during their absence.
Beyond the financial outlay and security concerns, there is value for home owners with pets in knowing their critters can remain comfortably at home, rather than cooped up in a kennel. And pets or no pets, returning home from vacation to a clean and lived-in home is vastly preferable to the dusty musty alternative.
Given the potentially tremendous value that you as a house-sitter can provide, it’s all the more important to ensure that you ask lots of questions through the application process. If you are kept busy four hours per day keeping the place up to the home owners’ expectations, it would behoove you to know this in advance and ensure that you’re comfortable with the value you receive in return. House-sitting can be a fabulous way to extend your travel dollars and get off the tourist trail; as long as the arrangements are beneficial for all parties.
For More Info
House Carers is a leading worldwide resource that connects house-sitters with home owners. The annual US$50 membership fee entitles members to communicate securely within the site, and to advertise their listings or availabilities.
Mind My House has a US$20 annual membership which grants house-sitters access to worldwide listings and an easy-to-use platform.
Trusted House Sitters gives you access to listings, a secure communication system, email alerts, and the ability to create references for US$60/year.
HouseSitWorld has been around since 1999 and covers USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. The annual membership fee is approximately US$40.
Nora Dunn is a Professional Hobo and freelance writer, traveling the world one caretaking position at a time. She has lived in ocean-side yurts, camper vans, hostel rooms, and most recently, 5-star accommodations, all in exchange for part-time work. You can learn more about her caretaking adventures at www.theprofessionalhobo.com.