Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.
For your next vacation, how would you like to receive free accommodation, get off the beaten tourist trail, and feel right at home the whole time? If this type of vacation appeals to you, then house-sitting could be a great fit.
As a full-time traveler, I travel the world in a financially sustainable manner. In order to keep my costs low I like to volunteer in trade for my accommodation, and house-sitting is a great way to do it. My most recent foray into house-sitting was taking care of a home in the English countryside.
After meeting my home-owner hosts at the train station, I was given a quick orientation of the area before being introduced to the family, which included Tom, Boris, and Henry: the three dogs that would be under my care in their owners' absence. I was also shown around the house and instructed how to maintain the gardens and plants, before the owners took off for their two week vacation in Greece.
While house-sitting, I was invited to use the home as if it were my own. I was given full access to the kitchen (with the proviso that I generally replaced what I used), I was added as a driver on their auto insurance policy, and given free reign of the house - which had a formidable DVD collection, wireless internet, and a beautiful patio area.
House-sitting is a win-win situation for everybody. I had a free place to stay for two weeks, I got to live like a local enjoying all the comforts of home, and I had the ability to use the car for some local sightseeing and errands.
The home owners also won: they could relax on vacation secure in the knowledge that their dogs were being well-cared for (and they were saving big money on the cost of kennels), their home and plants were being maintained, and the house was being lived in (thus adding extra security).
There are a few sites designed to connect home owners with house-sitters. Each has an annual membership fee in the neighborhood of $40US, entitling members to browse listings and (in some cases) providing a mechanism for house-sitters and home owners to correspond securely.
House Carers is one of the more popular worldwide house-sitting sites, and it includes a notification system that sends house-sitters an email whenever listings become available in their pre-selected time frames and desired locations.
HouseSitWorld is another service that covers the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe.
The Caretaker Gazette is a favorite resource of mine for locating various opportunities to volunteer in trade for accommodation, some of which include house-sitting.
A few more house-sitting services you can check out include Mind My House, and Trusted Housesitters.
No two house-sitting jobs are alike. Some home owners are remotely located, while others are central. Some owners simply want a warm body in the house, while others have high-maintenance pets or chores to attend to. So it pays for you to do your due diligence before you show up on their doorstep.
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions about what is expected of you and how much of your time will be required. If the home owners' expectations come at the cost of your ability to do any sightseeing or without enough tangible benefits given your vacation goals, then it might not be a good fit.
Likewise, be forthright with questions about the area, amenities, and what you can expect to receive for your services. Although you are receiving free accommodation, in some cases home owners (especially ones with pets) are also scoring a great deal and it pays to know what you are getting into. This is, after all, your vacation too.
Since many home owners are swamped with applicants when they list their property, you'll need to stand out from the crowd to get noticed. A great way to do this is to provide references, which lend you tremendous credibility. If you haven't any experience house-sitting, then an employer or character reference can suffice.
The basic etiquette to house-sitting involves keeping the house to the same - or better - condition as the home owners left it in. Replenish any food you eat, and clean the place before the owners return.
I also like to do something special by putting myself in the shoes of the home owners and arranging a nice treat that they'll appreciate on their return, like cooking dinner or stocking the fridge with some fresh food.
Remember, if you have trouble getting away because of pets or security issues, then you might benefit (and save money) in having a house-sitter come stay in your home too! Check out some of the related articles below for other creative ways to go on vacation for less.
Take a Free Family Vacation with a Home Exchange
Cheap Accomodation with Style- Hostels Aren't Just for Backpackers
Have You Thought About a Staycation?
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora
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Great post Nora and we are firm believers in house-sitting (and posted a couple in depth how-to's on our website). We are just finishing up a 6 month agreement in Honduras, and are off to our next assignment in Ireland for 2 months.
It surely is becoming more and more popular and to secure that gig you want you definitely need to stand out from everyone else. Like you said, references are a must, and a police check is a good idea as well to give to the home owners to give them some reassurance. We also make sure to ask the home owner for references and follow up with them.
We do the same with a little treat for when the home-owners return and treat them like guests for a couple days. Cook them dinner, make sure their house is spotless, and fill their fridge. Not only will you get a good reference, but you get to know the people a little better and make some life long friendships. Another thing worth mentioning we do for the home owners is write them a reference back.
All the best, and happy house-sitting!
@Pete - Thanks for weighing in! How did you find your own house-sitting gigs?
@Nora - No problem Nora. We mainly have used the websites you mention above (mindmyhouse, housecarers and trustedhousesitters), We actually have partnered up with www.trustedhousesitters.com and if anyone uses the promotional code "HT09" you can get 25% off the annual membership to start applying for these assignments.
We obviously don't want to deprive ourselves of a cultural or otherwise special experience abroad, but we also don't want to return home with the worst souvenir of all: debt we can't afford.
This post isn't (necessarily!) to convince you to travel full-time; instead hopefully it will help you understand the ever-increasing trappings of the "comfortable" life so you can make decisions accordingly.
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