With a number of years of experience under my belt, I've concluded House-sitting is the way to go if you're considering long term travel. Actually, even if you're wanting a family get-away over the Summer it's well worth the investment!
If housesitting is a new concept for you, you'd be surprised to know that it's very popular, yet it amazes me that there are many who don't know much about it.
Everyone loves a holiday and for many it's something to save towards. Different factors play into the length of time you can be gone - from work commitments to "what do we do with our pets?". If you're a home owner wanting to get away for a few days, weeks or months and you're wanting some piece of mind that you're home and pets are well taken care off, then I'd suggest securing the services of a housesitter. With the price of kennels and catteries costing in the $100's for a week away along with the added trauma of having them displaced it certainly makes up for having a stranger in your home. Happy pet, home security and all. While growing up my folks always put our cat in the cattery when we went away - upon returning Missy would be pretty angry with us for a good week before returning to normality again.
If you're the homeowner you can place an ad for free. Fill in a profile of what you need and the type of person you'd most like to have in your home. You're free to only choose those housesitters with experience or who are mature and transparent to your liking. As with any relationship, you'll get a feel for who you come into contact with, don't be shy in asking for phone numbers to get a verbal reference, even if they've got written references, it's your home. No money is exchanged between you and your sitter, unless previously arranged. I had one family give me some money due to their many cats toileting needs that went above the call of duty. I hadn't expected it but it was a pleasant surpise.
Some things to be mindful of
Your sitter usually fends for themselves, but it's common to allow them to eat the perishables (if you're away more than a weekend) and should they use any canned or other food item in the pantry it should be replaced by them. It's good to talk about this with your sitter, just so they know what's acceptable in your home.
Depending on the situation your car is an added bonus to your sitter should they not have their own - please make sure they're covered on your insurance justincase. I've often had the privilege of utilizing the family car - all petrol/gas costs belong to the sitter. You are welcome to draw the line wherever you feel appropriate in your situation.
Do let your sitter know if you have a limit and give them your password. In the two times I've exceeded the limit while housesitting I've paid the difference.
Your sitter will want to use the TV and Sky etc - and off course you pay your rent/mortgage. It's a small price to pay for having home and pet security. Please also do leave them a reference.
If you're interested in becoming a housesitter, you can, it's very simple.
Join a reputable housesitting site and fill in your profile. Be as detailed and transparent as possible, add photos and a video so you can been seen, also, and most important, get some references.
If you're starting out and haven't housesat before, obtain character, work, landlord references. This goes a long away in the beginning, we all start somewhere and I added a couple of character and landlord references at the beginning of my experience.
Think about all the pets you've looked after, raised, and loved over the years listing them. Read through the profiles of other sitters to get an idea of what to write.
Note: house sitting isn't only for the single, it's most ideal for families, young couples and retirees, both men and woman. And some even allow you to bring your own pet and even your own caravan!
Sitters - Do not expect the homes of others to be all luxurious villas :) as everyday people who have a lot of stuff have need of housesitters - from cottages, cluttered homes, farm houses, old homes, huge homes... they all need your love, respect and attention.
Depending how long you've been invited to sit for, be prepared to communicate often if it's needed, people fret about their pets and sometimes things can go wrong. Respect your housesit, honouring boundaries and leaving the home as tidy as you came into it. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Sometimes you'll be asked to mow the lawns (often the house owner will have a contractor do this), pull some weeds, water plants, put out the trash/rubbish, walk the dog twice a day and feed, medicate, brush their beloved fur. You may find a housesit where there are no pets to take care of and you're there to provide security or they may have animals you've never taken care of before - it's OK, you'll soon learn how to feed those frogs live grasshoppers after coating them in 'special' powder and how to feed the horse that doesn't like you. Each home has its own rhythm and it's a small price to pay for the blessing of an accommodation free holiday.
Three great housesitting sites to check out are:
Australia wide, $65 annual fee
New Zealand wide, $65 annual fee
World-wide, $95 annual fee
If you go to a back packers for two nights, you'd get a return on the investment in your first sit (for one person!), think about how much it'll save you for a couple or a family of 4?!
It's all about relationship forming, respecting another's property and treating their home and pet as you'd want yours treated and the blessing of freedom to being in a home.
I've belonged to all three of the above sites over the years and through them have housesat in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.
You might want to note that there is no need to join Trusted housesitters if you're not leaving Australia or New Zealand but it's an ideal site if you're living outside these countries. There are plenty of sitters to choose from and also the same of home owners looking for sitters. You'd be amazed to learn that it's an all year need not just when you have your holiday break.
If you've had some housesitting stories I'd love to hear them.
Have any concerns or questions about housesitting? ask away and I'll answer them below.