How house sitting keeps us sane and on the road
We love Tigger, we love camping and living the outdoor life, but every now and then we hanker for the comforts of the real world, wifi, washing machines, showers, an oven and space!
Long-term travel means being very careful with the pennies, so unless we are in countries where our pound goes an awfully long way, which isn't very many these days (Thanks, Brexit) staying in hotels is a rare treat, so what is the alternative for a bit of downtime from Tigger? Well, we could try couch-surfing or stay with friends but sometimes all we really want is our own space to bake lots cakes and binge watch box sets on TV, house-sitting just about ticks all the boxes!
Why House Sit?
• Gives us access to Wifi, which we need for research purposes for our travels, visas etc blog writing time, skyping friends and family and nearly always researching spare parts for Tigger
• It gives us an address to have things sent to - usually spare parts for Tigger!
• Gives us the opportunity to work on Tigger, without the hassle of having to put him back together every night so we can go to bed
• Laundry facilities
• Often use of a vehicle, so we can still go out even if Tigger is being repaired
• It's a great way to visit Cities, Overlanding in a City environment is not always easy, and hotels are usually too expensive
• Use of a kitchen, we love to cook and we don't have an oven in the van, the opportunity to bake is always welcome and to cook those oh so missed dishes from home
• Introduction to local neighbourhood attractions; the homeowners often leave a list of good places "not to miss" and on occasions, we have been given parking permits, and guest passes for places of nearby interest
John is always happy when we housesit - it usually means cake!
• The primary responsibility is to look after pets, we have looked after cats, dogs, chickens and tortoises, and once all of those at the same time! I don't suppose you have to be an animal lover but it helps - fortunately, we do like animals, and especially love having a dog to walk, gets you out exploring the local area
• General house stuff, watering of plants, collecting mail and keeping the house safe and tidy. Summer, you are more likely to have things to do in the garden, and we would usually mow the lawn before the homeowners get home. John especially keen to do if there is a ride on lawn mower to be had!
Fabulous Sit in Bath UK, views from the bedroom window don't get much better and fresh eggs every day
How to get a house sit
There are plenty of websites out there, by far the biggest and most popular being Trusted Housesitters, which is the one we use, It is a worldwide site and we have house sat in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and the USA, the cost to join is £89 per year but if you use this link you can get a 20% discount and we get a free couple of months. It has served us pretty well as we are now on our 14th house through this site.
Other sites include
MindMyHouse $20 annual joining fee, International site
Nomador $89 annual joining fee, International but specialises in European house sits
House Sit Match £35/£75 Standard or Premium memberships, International but with a focus on UK and Europe
This is far from an exclusive list but gives you an idea of what is out there
Top Tips for bagging the house-sit you want
• Get the daily email alerts and act on them asap! You would be amazed how many people are out there looking for house-sits, if you are looking for a popular destination like New York, for instance, you are going to have to be very quick - these guys get lots of applications and are snapped up quickly. What Is particularly annoying is when you don't get an answer back from your email even to say the position has been filled, in our experience, this tends to occur when the house owner has been overwhelmed with applications, and you never get an answer, if we don't hear back within a 48hours then we presume the position has been filled and move on.
• You need to make a good profile about yourselves, which will be seen by all house owners and then you need a cover letter for each application- we have a template, but we always personalise for each sit, making sure we mention the pets by name and talk about what experience we have had with that particular type of animal, If you haven't looked after Chickens/ Iguana /snakes before then fess up but let them know how keen you are to learn about poultry /reptile husbandry!!
It's worth spending some time on this, as it's your CV for house sitting, most websites give you an idea of what to write, talk a little about yourself, why you want to house sit, what experience you have had. An advantage as Overlanders is that our prime objective is to be in the house not out sightseeing, although we do do that as well, but probably not as much as someone who is using it as a holiday opportunity! Homeowners seem to like the fact we will be around for their pets rather than out holidaying
• Always offer to Skype/Facetime, so you can have a face to face chat, there is only so much you can put over in your application, whereas with a real chat we find people warm to you much more. If possible (and we have done this a few times) go and visit the guys and meet them and the pets, this has worked really well for us and won us a couple of cracking sits. It's remarkable how many people leave advertising their sit until the last minute so you might easily find a sit in the city where you are heading in the next few days
• Be flexible with your dates - often people like you to arrive the day before they leave and be able to run through the day to day stuff, others are happy for you to turn up and leave without ever meeting them.
We genuinely fell in love with Bertie, and could easily have dognapped him!
Before the house sit starts
• Make sure you know what the rules are before you take the sit, for instance, if you think you will have guests, visitors, check this is ok with the homeowner - mostly guys are more than happy for you to entertain, but occasionally they would rather no one else is in the house, if this is going to be a problem then you need to know beforehand. When we were in the UK we always asked if our children could visit or stay over usually it was never a problem
• It's interesting we have had sits where we have never met the homeowners and keys have just been left in a designated place or with a neighbour and others where we have had to give copies of our passport or sign long agreements that state we won't have wild parties -really! So expect one extreme to the other, in our experience, no two sits are quite the same
• Remember this is a two-way agreement, yes you are getting free accommodation, but you are also offering an amazing service. No doubt it would cost the homeowners quite a bit to have their fur babies looked after in kennels and catteries, plus the trauma to the animal. There have been a couple of sits we decided not to take further due to the commitments required, make sure you are happy with what is expected of you.
• Get everything you can think of sorted out BEFORE the sit starts, we had a sit where John's prescription glasses were chewed by the dog, they were on a high table, not a coffee table but he was a bit of a naughty puppy, gorgeous but naughty - The owners never warned us he was a chewer, but it taught us the lesson to check who will pay for these sort of accidents should they occur - and yes they did pay up for his specs in the end. We did contact Trusted House Sitters, but they were not interested in helping with the issue, stating we should have our own insurance in place and agreements should be made beforehand - your £89 per year doesn't extend to helping you if there is a problem it would seem!
Oops, there go the prescription specs!
Once you are there
• We always offer to take and pick up from airport/railway station if needed, saves a taxi fare at the very least for the homeowner and they are always very grateful
• Keep in touch via, email, WhatsApp or facebook - send lots of pictures of the lovely fur babies having fun, we message on average a couple of times a week
• Most people will want you to finish off any food that is about to go off in the fridge, however if you use anything else and finish it then replace it - I usually agree with the guys that we can use spices, oils, dishwasher stuff but it's very much on a house to house basis and how long you are there -
• We now take photos of where we find things and of the oven - sounds ridiculous but we always forget where things go in a big kitchen and the oven, can get dirtier than you think - oven cleaner is a good house sit staple!
• Always, always, always leave the property as clean if not cleaner than you found it. I always try and wash the bed linen and remake the bed as well
• If staying longer than a weekend we leave a meal in the fridge for their return. If they have been on a big international flight and will have jet lag, we will usually leave a supper in the fridge, if it's just been a week somewhere not too far then especially if for a family I'll bake a cake or some buns. This isn't necessary at all, but feel it is a nice touch which always goes down well.
• Leave yourself time to handover before you leave or if that's not possible leave a note on how everything has been. Ask if they can give you a reference on the house-sitting website as this is important in securing further house sits. Follow up with an email outlining the fun you had at their house, everyone we have sat for has wanted us to have a good time. Once you have a couple of good references behind you, you are off!
We are now on our 22nd house sit in Los Angeles, California for Christmas 2017, looking after two adorable Pit balls, who would have thought I would ever say adorable and Pitbull in the same sentence, but Charlie Brown and Daisy really are, see what surprises await you with house sitting!. This won't be our last housesit by far, it works well for us as a respite from Overlanding, and we are already thinking about Mexico in Feb or March it really is a win-win situation - happy house sitting!
Ernie and John, Steed and his tongue and Malu the puppy