Just as I’ve become a hiker in my sixties so I’ve also become a house sitter – both are things I never saw myself doing when I looked into my future during my earlier years.
In my 20s, 30s and even 40s I’d thought my future was pretty much mapped out – children grow up, leave home, retirement with the husband and some traveling around Australia and the UK in a camper van.
Well, the children did grow up and leave home and so did I (grow and leave home, without the husband) and there’s certainly been travel but not of the kind I’d foreseen.
And then I made a few changes to my lifestyle.
So as I said not only did the hiker in me emerge in recent years but I’ve found a new way of living, by becoming a house sitter.
And I’m certainly not alone in this, there’s a growing trend amongst my generation to house sit our way around the world. Some do it as couples, some as singles, some do it for the flexibility, some for the savings to be made on accommodation and some love the chance to look after other people’s pets when they’re not in a position to have their own.
As I write this I’ve been house sitting for nearly 9 months and the novelty certainly hasn’t worn off, in fact I’ve settled into the lifestyle quite comfortably.
Why take up house sitting?
My main motivator initially was financial. A way of living that took away some of the major costs in my life – mortgage, rates etc., allowed me to save a little for travel and at the same time gave me the freedom to explore different areas of my own city. I needed to stay within a reasonable distance of family while my elderly dad was around.
The cost savings for me are evident, I have no rent or mortgage to pay, no electricity bills etc and generally free wifi (the important one for me). There are still some costs obviously, food, petrol, car registration and maintenance and for me the cost of a small storage unit to store the things that I didn’t want to get rid of when I sold the house.
Most home owners do not ask the sitter to pay any of the costs (there may be some negotiation for a long term sit), it’s a reciprocal agreement where both parties benefit. The home owner doesn’t have the costs associated with putting pets in kennels, the pets are much happier in their own environment and there is the security of someone being in the house while they’re away.
Although the financial benefit was probably the main motivating factor in my initial decision to house sit, it was by no means the only factor.
Flexibility comes in two ways when house sitting.
You gain flexibility, house sitting gives you the opportunity to live in and experience different suburbs, different states and even different countries, the flexibility to wander where you will and if you’re in the position of being able to then this is a definite bonus.
The first thing I do as I’m driving to a new sit in an unfamiliar area is keep my eyes open for the local cafes – coffee and cafes and writing in cafes is my thing and I love finding new and quirky cafes or cafes with a view or a special ambience.
But you also need to be flexible. I’ve had house sitters ask me how I manage to keep fully booked and tell me that they struggle to get house sits, but then they go on to say ‘for the date I want in the area I want.’ Unfortunately that’s never going to work quite as well. So if you’re looking at house sitting as a way of getting cheap accommodation for your annual holiday and you want to go to a particular place then you’ll be lucky if it works out.
Be open to the sits that present themselves.
I’ve looked after two beautiful cats in a lovely modern home with a theatre room to lose myself in, a bath that would fit two of me, a plunge pool and relaxing outdoor area plus a kitchen with a complete array of gadgets. I’ve lived in an open plan hanger type home with a pantry as big as most kitchens, my desk on a mezzanine level, and watched the kangaroos graze only metres from the house in the country only 90 minutes from Perth and I’ve looked after the most beguiling little dog, Tilly, in an exclusive Perth suburb with a café 90 seconds from my front door.
And I’ve been asked back to all of those sits.
But I’ve also done sits in older style homes where I’ve felt really comfortable and very much at home. Houses with outdoor areas with foliage that’s taken many years to get to its present ‘leafy calm oasis’ stage where I’ve been able to sit with my coffee and journal and watch the birds or listen to the trickle of the water in the pond.
A home doesn’t have to be new and shiny to be comfortable and welcoming, so be flexible and prepared to adapt.
You can house sit anywhere in the world and many house sitters do. It’s a perfect way of staying in amazing areas, often away from the normal tourist routes and live in the local community. You can chat to the neighbours, shop in the local supermarkets and even get involved in the neighbourhood activities – dog walking is an ideal way of meeting people.
There are many house sitters who have managed to organise sits around the world and tick off many off their bucket list destinations.
I have plans afoot for next year to house sit in the UK and Europe for a few months and from there, who knows where I’ll get to.
If you work online this could be the perfect lifestyle for you or you could be incorporating house sitting in your retirement plans or maybe you’re saving for a deposit on your own home. There are many and varied reasons for house sitting and a change of lifestyle is often one of the prime motivators.
You can house sit in the country, the city or on the coast, there are home owners in all types of areas looking for someone to take the burden of empty houses and lonely pets from them while they’re away.
- Always try and meet the home owner before you take on a sit, and have a look around the house. Even if you’re trying to book somewhere too far away for a personal meet up, get on Skype and have a chat.
- If something doesn’t feel right or you don’t gel with the owner … and the pet … say no to the sit.
- If you’re considering a sit of more than a few weeks, think it through, it’s a big commitment and if you’re not happy in the house or area a long sit can become a chore.
- Treat the house with the utmost respect and always leave it as you found it, if not better.
- Stick to the pets’ normal routine, don’t expect them to adjust to yours.
So if you’re interested and keen to know more about how it all works there are several websites dedicated to connecting homeowners and their pets with house sitters. I mainly use Aussie House Sitters and Mindahome but there are other reliable sites out there too.
There are also plenty of worldwide house sitting sites so just get on to Google and start planning.
Create the life you want to live, and enjoy it