House-sitting is a great way anyone can stay in beautiful homes in exotic foreign locations all year round. Here’s the lowdown.
House-sitters are generally expected to look after properties while the owners are away.
Tasks may include looking after pets, basic security and light maintenance, but you aren’t normally required to work for more than a couple of hours a day. The rest of the time, you can enjoy a house that may be glamorous or belong to a millionaire, explore the local area and take in the culture.
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House-sitter pay is usually low. Around £10 a day is common and there is often no fee at all. But travel expenses to and from the house are often covered, and there’s no accommodation costs.
It’s essential to control spending, though. Anticipate all outlays from mobile-phone bills to haircuts, so that unnecessary indulgences can be identified and curtailed.
Try it out with friends first
Start by house-sitting for friends or colleagues. You’ll get experience of the tasks required – anything from security checks to changing bulbs and fixing leaky gutters – see if you enjoy the experience, and can ask for the references that other clients will require.
After that, it’s a good idea to register with a reputable house sitting agency or website (for details, see below). They can link you with thousands of properties and owners around the world and may vet everyone involved.
They may also offer advice on drawing up a contract with the homeowner, which can cover issues such as what you’ll be paid, what happens if you damage something, your food allowance and exactly what kind of work you’ll be expected to do.
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Make yourself attractive to potential employers
Take time with your personal profile for house-sitting websites. Include photos of yourself, relevant experience you have had in caring for homes, pets and gardens, language skills, and character references from reputable people you’ve already sat for, such as a lawyer, banker or former boss.
Get a criminal records check. This is priceless to a homeowner, because inviting strangers into your home is not an easy thing to. Knowing that the police has vetted you takes a weight off the homeowner’s mind.
Be flexible. You’re unlikely to get luxury properties in dream locations from the start, but if you build up your CV, those homes may come later.
Be alert. The best jobs are often snapped up very quickly, so always be ready with your application.
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Ask the right questions
Ask the homeowner questions before you take on a job, so you are informed about practical matters, such as emergency numbers, local transport and/or use of a private vehicle, distance to shops and other amenities, and internet availability.
Be prepared to deal with the problems and emergencies that crop up and be honest with the homeowners about anything that happens.
House-sitting is not suitable for those who have dependents or pets of their own, who need to know where the next month's income is coming from, who are unable to live out of a suitcase, or who are intolerant of other people's eccentricities.
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House-sitting agencies and websites
Trusted Housesitters, 01273 358769: Specialises in pet-sitting opportunities
Mind My House: Accessible international site linking homeowners and potential sitters
Nomador: Pet-sitting community site, with emphasis on free house-sits
housecarers.com: Australian firm, established in 2000, with global coverage
Homesitters: 01296 630730 Covers many higher-end properties
To read about the couples who spend their whole lives house-sitting in glamorous homes around the world, read the January issue of Saga Magazine.