A Housesitting Guide for Newbies

For you millennials out there working 9-5, we get it, you can’t always just pick up and go. But, if you’re planning on finally taking off those vacation days you’ve been racking up, here’s a guide on how to see the world by housesitting!

Editor’s note: although this writer talks about retiring, housesitting is booming among millennial nomads and those who just want a break from their day to day once in a while. Disclaimer – keep the partyin’ in hostels...housesitting is not the place for that.    

Until the past couple years we housesat for friends, family and family friends and got the opportunity to see the Caribbean and various places in Ontario. In the past year however, we have come to realize that housesitting is an incredible opportunity to not only see the world but to experience living in another culture. Housesitting is a brilliant way to discover if you like the life of an expat and explore potential areas and countries to live in. It is also a way for us to have pets without a permanent address and share our love of animals.

For the homeowner this is a fantastic way to make sure your home is taken care of. If you go away for any length of time the cost of having your pets stay in a kennel can be very expensive, not to mention incredibly traumatic for fur babies.  What do you do if you have chickens, rabbits or horses who looks after them?  Perhaps you have a great garden with vegetables and a yard to maintain, whatever better way to make sure the garden is taken care of. In addition, your house is vacant and you can be robbed, pipes could burst, windows get broken and damage could occur that you have no idea about.  With a housesitter all this can be a thing of the past.

As a newbie we have found the best site for us to find great housesitting gigs so far is House Carers, all of our sits have come through this platform but we expect now we will have much better references and lots of experience so we hope to utilize the other platforms and get some more sits. I reckon we have applied for over 60 sits between all the platforms in total. One annoying factor is that you apply for sits and never hear anything, not even the decency of a ‘thanks, but no thanks.’

Housesitting in Antigua

Housesitting in Antigua

In other cases we have got the sit but the homeowner has backed out for various reasons. In a few cases we have met the homeowner when we didn’t get the sit and are first in line for the next available sit. It pays to be polite and friendly and always take the chance to chat and get to know the homeowner. Particularly if you really want to sit in the area. Just as an example we are currently housesitting in Yorkshire, but we got turned down for the sit initially. I contacted the homeowner and said thanks for considering us and if you should need someone in future keep us in mind. Well they did just that and we got the sit.

Housesitting in Ireland

Housesitting in Ireland

We are retired so we have all the time in the world to sit, but many folks do this for a few vacation weeks a year. If you can find local friends and family to sit for do it – this is how you build references and recommendations. Look for local sits that you can take on in your home area so build some references up. Don’t be afraid to apply, just go for it – you just never know where you may end up.

Local sits around your home country, province or state could be the answer.  You will have a vehicle which in some areas can be a bonus. Rural areas in particular can be difficult to find a sitter for as a car is generally required. You could travel the entire country housesitting with a car and get to see places you might never have been able to through housesitting.

Housesitting in Mexico

Housesitting in Mexico

These are some important facts that you should know about and arrange details before you housesit.

1. Make sure you know the length of time you can stay in a country and do you require a Visa before you go.  If you are a snowbird (Canadian) you are allowed 180 days in Europe and 182 days in the US and Mexico is 180 days.

2. Another great option is that of dual citizenship.  If you or your parents were born in an EU country (UK, Ireland, France, etc) you are eligible for a passport which these days is an EU Passport.  This will allow you to stay much longer in European countries with this dual citizenship and you may be able to obtain work.

2. Banking is very easy in this age of technology, we have downloaded the apps for our bank onto our phones and computers and our pension money goes direct into our accounts. Our bank has an agreement with international banks and we don’t even get bank charges if we use a Global ATM bank such as Barclays.

2.  No, we don’t give up our pensions either, we are still entitled to CPP, private pensions and the Federal Government pension (as Canadians) which is direct debited into our account. In the US you can still get your Social Security as well. If you are an expat you may want to look into a reciprocal pension arrangement that countries like Australia and Canada have with the UK and Ireland.

3. We highly recommend getting police checks from your local Police station. Most homeowners will be reassured by this and you can link it up to your profile.

4. In addition, gather your vehicle insurance and driving record information this could prove useful if the homeowner has a car you can use. We learned that as Canadian drivers we can easily obtain a UK or Irish license with a 5 year certified Ministry of Transport abstract. This will make renting a car and driving in Europe much easier. Alan has a DM license here in Canada which means he is assured of a regular license driving standard in the UK. We also got an International Driver’s License from our local office of the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) this license is good in over 49 countries and very handy when travelling.

5. On a practical note, keep a computer file with all your references and contacts for references handy and someplace you can find it. Keep in that same folder scans of your police checks, insurance information, email addresses of references and anything that might apply to your sits.

6. Healthcare, if you are out of Canada less than 6 months your Provincial healthcare system will still cover you. However you will have to pay up front and then claim the costs back when you get home. If you have private coverage speak to them before you go and arrange for out of country expenses to be covered.

7. All countries have a healthcare system that you can pay for.  For example in Mexico a visit to a Dr. will cost around $250 pesos (about $15 US) and then medications are incredibly cheap there.  In Ireland a Dr. visit will cost you around $50 and again you can get a prescription and the cost of drugs is subsidized in Ireland.

8. If you require insurance you can get travel insurance from the usual suspects which will cover you for things like flight cancellation, lost luggage and so on.  But if you are living in various locations you may need a different kind of insurance.  This is a great site for more information on insurance.

Volunteering at a Spay/Neuter Clinic in Mexico

Here are some tips to make your profile standout:

1. Make sure you note in your profile any animal experience you may have, from grooming, to dog walking or cat bathing. Don’t forget other animals you may have come across or had during the years; rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, reptiles, birds and more all need to be looked after. Did you have a horse or pony and take lessons, learned how to groom, fed, watered and cleaned up after horses?

2. Have you ever volunteered at a Spay/Neuter Clinic, raised money for the local Animal Refuge, adopted or fostered an animal? Worked fundraisers or volunteered at special animal events? Did you look after a friend’s dog when they went away for a day or so? These are all good things to talk about in your profile.

3. Don’t forget your work skills particularly if you want to get involved in sits that are B&B’s or small resorts, caretaking properties is also a growing area of housesitting and caretaking. A good resource for these types of housesits that often involved employment is The Caretakers Gazette, the cost is around $29.95US for an online subscription and it has some great locations to work from.

4. f you are looking for work so that you can afford to housesit try looking into remote working opportunities. You would be amazed at the amount of people living in Mexico working as forum moderators, online captioning, online sales and virtual assistants. In many cases folks make their own jobs by creating Property Management companies, or paid pet minding and walking, some have opened beach bars and restaurants. The only limit is your energy level and commitment.

5.  It can take a great deal of applications before you get a sit. The trick is to be persistent and keep trying.  You may have to apply for 50 sits before you get one but eventually you will.

6. Keep in mind the potential for a few days between sits. To cover this period of time look for relatives you might be able to visit.  Or check out Couchsurfing, Air BnB, Homeaway, look on it as a bit of a vacation and check out deals for hotels and hostels in the area that you can stay at. You haven’t paid rent or a mortgage while housesitting so a few days in a BnB won’t hurt the budget too much.

7. Interested in a certain area to housesit?  Check out Facebook sites for that area. There are platforms specifically for the UK, USA, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand and several Facebook sites where you can connect with potential homeowners and other housesitters.

Our upcoming housesits include Ireland (both North and South), Cyprus, Spain and the UK. We hope to spend at least 2 years in that area and Europe exploring and living within local communities. We started applying for housesits after joining the following platforms:

Housesitmatch – a new platform for us, but I have been really impressed by the support and customer service aspect and they appear to be growing in leaps and bounds every day.

Trusted Housesitters a very popular site, quite likely the largest range of sits and sitters on the internet so a lot of competition. $99US per year. Recently THS has changed their system and there has been much grumbling about the expense of getting their police checks and required certifications in place. This is also a very popular site and it can be difficult to get sits from here without much experience.

House Carers Costs $50 US per year and this is the site we have had the most luck with. We have obtained all our sits to date from this platform. I do receive a very small commission from this site if you sign up to use it from the ad on the page sidebar.

Nomador – I really like Nomador. You get 3 free applications for sits before you pay. The cost is around $89 US a year. Many of the sits are in France but they are starting to get a broader range of sits. It’s an easy to use platform and Nomador also has Nomador stopovers where you can stay whilst in between sits.

Mind My House Cost of this platform is $20 US and it covers worldwide with lots of sits available.

Originally written by Faith Coates via www.xyuandbeyond.com