Missing the comforts of home when on holiday? House sitting may be the answer to enjoy domesticity, whilst living a life a little more daring! From a villa in Tuscany to a beach house in Goa - it's an opportunity to explore the globe on a budget.
Gone are the days when house sitting referred to your dodgy university mate crashing on the couch and occasionally remembering to feed the cat.
Today, house sitting – the arrangement for someone to live in your home while you are away in exchange for free accommodation - is a gigantic global business with several online agencies offering a potential fit between responsible travelers and a place to hang their passport.
Sound easy? Not so. House sitting is as big a responsibility as it is a business, but if you can step up to the challenge – and adventure – you could find yourself residing in Spain, France, Italy or even Panama - to name a few destinations – in no time.
The exciting aspect of house sitting is not just the location, but the actual home options, notes Ian White, founder of Housecarers.com. “House sitters can mind all sorts of homes from apartments and small farms to mansions - and we have even have boat sitting in Greece.”
Does house sitting speak to your adventurous-spirit-meets-homebody instincts? Here are 10 facts to know before you pack:
1. House sitting means free rent, not freeloading. There is massive responsibility involved with caring for someone else’s digs (not to mention possibly dogs etc.)
2. Some house sitters charge for their services, especially if there are a lot of extra duties, says Ian. “This is negotiated between the sitter and homeowner."
3. You’re only as good as your last gig. Reputation is everything, so if you did a good job caring for your last cottage or cabin, no doubt you will have another exotic place to hang your hat in no time.
4. House sitting offers serious fun, but not much long-term stability. “There will always be gaps in between if you can't line them up,” Ian says of back-to-back bookings for your time. “You will need an alternative fallback.”
5. There are no strangers when it comes to house sitting. The selection process is extremely thorough, with police clearance and extensive references all a part of building a profile for potential homeowners. “It is much like applying for a job,” explains Ian.
6. If the location is remote, house sitters have to be realistic about whether they could live off the well-worn track. But regardless of the locale house sitting opens up wonderful experiences to enter into the local community of different cultures so house sitters should have a sense of adventure and wonder, says Ian.
7. There is no free ride. It is important to identify with the needs of the homeowner and show them how to help. “Initially don't talk too much about your own requirements and overload them with questions - that can come later,” advises Ian.
8. Only go with an agency that provides a standard house sitting agreement that is similar to a rental agreement. Ian recommends both sides sign this agreement and any additional requirements can be added to suit the circumstances. “Homeowners can also ask for a refundable security deposit and forms are provided for this too.” The homeowners insurance should also be current and they should check with their insurance company about having a house sitter stay as a guest. In truth, many insurance policies are void if the home is vacant for a long period of time so an occupied home is a safer proposition.
9. It’s a myth that young single travelers make the best house sitters. “This is the least successful group,” says Ian. "Homeowners are looking for responsible people who won't throw a party!” He goes on to explain that traveling and looking after houses is the perfect fit - and a growing trend -among retirees or middle-aged couples taking a break from their careers. “They are a more trusted group.”
10. If you want to look after a house badly enough, you’ve got to pay to get there. The house sitter covers all travel costs, as it’s always an option for the homeowner to choose a local candidate instead. So budget for this before you get any big ideas!
For more information, go to www.housecarers.com