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On Becoming a Housesitter
How to live a life of luxury without paying a cent

A housesitter - or house sitter, as they say in Britain - is someone who cares for someone else's house (and pets and garden and pool) while they're away.

Finding someone trustworthy to mind your home while you travel is priceless. Remember the movie Home Alone? Many people do and don't want that to happen to their homes while they're away.

So if you're mature (at least in mind if not in age) and want to live like a local for weeks or even months, you may have the makings of a housesitter.

Become a housesitter on the Isle of WightBecoming a housesitter can take you everywhere - from this serene neighborhood in Rotterdam...
Housesitter could live in luxury, with a the very lap of luxury.

What exactly is housesitting?

"House-sitting is essentially a reciprocal exchange of services that is mutually beneficial for homeowner and house-sitter," according to Dalene and Pete Heck, authors of How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World, the bible for potential housesitters everywhere.

According to the Hecks, this is the best way to travel if you're planning on staying in one place any length of time.

You'll live in a well-furnished house or appartment
Tired of cheap hotels and loud hostels? They do have their charm and they may well be your mainstay. But who doesn't dream of a powerful hot shower, a well-stocked kitchen and plumbing that works? If you've been traveling for any length of time, you'll appreciate the possibilities.

The roof over your head is free
That's right. As a housesitter you don't pay rent - although, and it's only fair, you do pay for your expenses - your your phone calls for example, and depending on the housesitting agreement and the length of your stay, you may have to pay for some utilities as well. It'll still cost far less than a nightly room, and you can't begin to compare the surroundings.

You'll be living in a real home
There's a lot to be said for living in an actual home. If you're traveling solo you'll know it can get lonely at times, especially if you're traveling long term. Caring for someone's pets and garden for a while can help shed that feeling of displacement and make you feel warm and fuzzy for a bit. 

You can enjoy the unaffordable
Some housesitting assignments will take you straight into the lap of luxury - think penthouse over Central Park or reconverted millhouse in France. Sauna. Swimming pool. Indoor gym. You might be able to afford all this for a few nights on your own but - weeks or months? Probably not unless you're minding the shop.

And visit unaffordable destinations
Fancy a month in Norway or Japan? Have you even looked at the price of the cheapest possible accommodations in both of these?

Housesits are flexible
If you only have a few weeks, you'll still be able to find housesitting opportunities that are relatively short-term. But if you need a place for several months, you'll have your pick of the lot if you go about it right.

They give your travels some structure
You may want to break up a long trip into chunks. Much as you may like open-ended travel, it could be reassuring to have a few firm housesitting assignments along the way, something to aim for while you're on the road.

And there are more benefits
You can road-test becoming an expat... save on the cost of food... travel the world more slowly... enjoy a staycation... experience a change of scenery

How exactly do you become a housesitter?

This is where Dalene and Pete's book comes in. They take a lot of the mystery out of housesitting by providing you with clear instructions on what to do, when and how. Here are some of the issues they tackle:

  • a comparison of the most popular housesitting services
  • step-by-step instructions of how to get 'the good one'
  • how to set up the perfect profile
  • references and why you need them
  • how to mine the word-of-mouth network
  • coping with interviews
  • the importance of having a contract
  • other fun paperwork and what to do about it
  • and much more.

Not everyone is cut out to be a housesitter, and homeowners can be quite particular about who they choose so make sure you start your search well in advance. You'll get a better pick of houses and dates because housesitting opportunities are often assigned on a first-come first-served basis.

Clarify your expectations and that of the homeowner ahead of time. Some have specific requirements that you may not find suitable, like the amount of time you are expected to spend at the house.

How to Become a House-Sit´╗┐ter and See the World also contains extensive information on what homeowners look for in a housesitter, as well as checklists to get you started on your housesitting job - just to make sure you start off on the right foot.

There's no such thing as a (totally) free ride, right?

Sounds good so far? It should but, like anything that seems too good to be true, you DO have some responsibilities when you move into someone else's house.

  • You might have to do some petsitting (and pets come in all shapes and sizes). This should be sorted right up front because your cat allergy will take a beating when you show up and find half a dozen felines roaming around the living room.
  • You'll be expected to water the plants. After all, that's one of the reasons people want someone in their house (in addition to keeping the house 'lived in', which is the main reason).
  • You might be asked to do a bit of gardening or weeding - again, in the spirit of keeping things from spiralling out of control. Like everything else, you need to negotiate these duties before you accept the assignment.
  • You'll actually be expected to be at home. There may be a requirement to spend every night in the house or not be away more than a specified number of hours at a time (each agency has its own rules). After all, that's the whole point: to show the house is lived in. If you're not home, what's the point of a housesitter? 
  • If it's a long-term housesit, you might be asked to check the mail for invoices and other important papers (make sure those bills get paid if you don't want the wifi cut off!)

Of course, most of all you're expected to keep the house safe. That can mean anything from closing the shutters and locking the gates when you leave to setting the alarm.

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