In 2009, wide-eyed and anxious, Conrad and I won our first house sitting assignment.
“We’re going to Denmark!” I said.
And during the first two weeks we were there, eating meals in the lush backyard garden, we kept gleefully stating, “We’re in Denmark!”
We’re pretty simple people. Not rich. Not prone to staying up late. And not looking to take the world by storm.
What we have discovered though, is that the simple joy of shopping with Irene, our Danish neighbor, for fresh fish at the docks, and then enjoying the meal together, is one of the true and delightful discoveries of house sitting. We shared thoughts on our different cultures and customs, tolerated political statements, and found common ground. We spoke as cultural ambassadors, breaking bread over our hopes and dreams.
What mattered that night, in that slice-of-life, is that I believed in humanity again. The surroundings connected us on a tangible level and I was changed.
This is what house sitting is to me. The benefits gained are both a pleasant surprise and deeply moving. My view of everything in the world is broader now because I have viewed local life as it is lived, in all of my “home towns” and with new neighbors across the globe.
But has house sitting changed in the past seven years?
Fundamentally, I think not. In reality, the deep connections travelers, locals, and homeowners cultivate – taking them outside the cocoon of home – are just one aspect of why house sitting has grown exponentially.
You also can’t forget that house sitting makes travel affordable for people who never believed they could venture out to foreign lands – heck, that’s the compelling thing that pulls so many into house sitting.
But when floods of people partake of anything really good, there are bound to be issues. And the floodgates seem to have opened. Back in 2009, my email inbox would have 10 alerts each day for house sitting opportunities. (I was a member of two match-up sites back then: HouseCarers.com and MindMyHouse.com)
Today my inbox has more than 80 alerts per day. (The two sites I belong to now: TrustedHouseSitters.com and Nomador.com) That’s a huge increase!
But I get ahead of myself. Here is my list of what has changed in the house sitting world in the past six years:
More House Sitters
Ten thousand baby boomers retire each day in the U.S. alone. In addition, the younger generations are answering the call of travel in big numbers, finding an internet-related career to sustain them. Throw in the disenfranchised middle class – of every age – who lost jobs with the Great Recession of 2008 and are out there searching, and you have a huge class of location-independent global citizens, all reaping the financial and cultural benefits of house sitting.
One striking thing I’ve learned is that there is this whole sub-culture of travelers out there, from singles to families with small children, to couples and retired folks, many of them house sitters, especially if they are full-time travelers. They are making new industries and connecting the traveling world in ways not possible before the internet.
“I haven’t belonged to house sitting long enough to sense a change,” says Cindy O’Leary, a fellow traveler, “but I can tell you it is becoming ever so popular especially for those who have very flexible lifestyles and enjoy living!”
Martin Gray, a full-time traveler, has a unique style that keeps him centered in one continent.
“I kind of have dropped back into keep it simple,” says Gray. “and in a more concentrated area of the world, (Central America/Yucatan Peninsula), which, a) Minimizes my travelling costs and border hassles, b) Means I get to know areas really well, which is also good for homeowner trust and confidence in me, and c) Offered repeat sits.”
Gray also find his limited area of house sitting choices keeps him away from the “background noise of thousands more sitters looking for that elusive assignment.”
“I don’t think it has changed that much,” says another traveler, Gavin Merritt. “Yes, there are more people doing it, however there are also more opportunities.”
I used to say, “You’ll never find a house sit in Germany.” I had never seen one come across my email alerts. And Asia? Forget it. But times have changed. As this phenomenon rolls across the planet, (I’d like to think an uptick in trust plays a part), homeowners everywhere are posting their needs on match-up sites. In the past few weeks I’ve seen sits from Vietnam, Tokyo, Belize, India, Turkey, Dubai, and yes Germany. (Perhaps the people looking for house sitters in Germany are expats, a German friend of mine says. No German is going to let someone else stay in their home, he claims!)
More Match-Up Websites
I used to be able to count the number of sites on one hand. Now there are many to choose from. A quick search rounded up 20. Pick your focus: pet sitting, (TrustedHouseSitters), luxury, LuxuryHouseSitting), country-specific, (HouseSittersAmerica), or lowest cost membership, (MindMyHouse). This is a tiny representation and they are all vying for our attention. I think they are all good depending on the house sitter’s need.
Reviews and Other Functionality
Long-needed on the house sitting match-up sites has been reviews, both on homeowners and house sitters. This is a self-policing policy that is vital in the sharing economy. Reviews not only keep out the riff-raff, but in the long run eliminate the need for governmental regulations. House sitting’s so charming in part because it has not been infected with regulations. Not all the sites are on board with reviewing, but they are changing in that direction.
Another egalitarian function taking hold is that both house sitters and homeowners pay the same membership fee on the match-up sites. Read more about my take on this here.
Fellow house sitter Marcelle Simone Heller had this to say: “House Sitting Webpages are much more professional with references, detailed profiles and email alerts. It’s easier to find a good match nowadays.”
Getting the Assignment
Several house sitters recently have said getting the assignments lately is harder because there are so many people applying to each sit. One gave an example by stating that 60 people had applied to a sit he was hoping for. My first house sitting assignment – the one in Denmark – had the homeowner drowning in 125 requests. That was in 2009. The numbers since then have not changed all that much, simply because the rise in house sitters and available sits has increased in equal measure.
I can understand the frustration, and believe me, I’ve been turned down by plenty of homeowners, but I disagree that the number of people applying is the reason house sitters may not win the assignments. I believe it’s because people are more savvy about how to introduce themselves to homeowners. Potential house sitters are writing stellar letters of introduction – tidbits they have learned on sites like mine and many others. There’s even a House Sitting Academy, given by the dynamic duo Natalie Smith and Jodie Burnham. I give talks on how to get started house sitting in my home town.
The fact is that potential house sitters have gotten the message about how to go about this thing and are putting it into action, scooping up the assignments. The top two articles here on this site offer tidbits loud and clear:
Okay, so I’ve talked about some of the nuts and bolts of house sitting and how they’ve changed. But I always come back to why I love house sitting so much. And I’m certainly not the only one. I leave you with thoughts from two other house sitters.
“For us we love to be of service to others, see new places (we are on our 52nd country) and most importantly we love to blend and mix with the locals and expats of the places we visit. Whether that be hike or bike with a local group, join a Tuesday Stitch & Bitch, do volunteer work with locals. This is the stuff you can’t get staying in a hotel or resort.” ~Cindy O’Leary
“And for the record I do consider myself a professional, not because I am ‘paid’ but because of the high levels of service and accountability/responsibility I offer and strive to maintain.” ~Martin Gray
Gavin grew up in Melbourne Victoria. He started working in the Aviation industry as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and spent his time working on, maintaining and modifying both commercial and private jet aircraft. He then transferred to simulation where he developed a passion for electronics and software programming. Currently he runs his own online consultancy business which gives him the freedom to do the things that he loved such as further travel, volunteering, looking after animals and living in new places.
Visit Gavin & Jill’s website: jillgavhousesitters.com
“..Youthful 55, life-experienced, responsible, accountable and culturally interactive. Former IT professional in UK, but gave it all up to travel, often in S.E.Asia, then settled in NZ (Citizen since 1999). Ran my own small enterprise (massage and wellness studio) though now developing new, more creative & portable lifestyle (eg: published book plus other web-based art and photography works). Ever-increasing interest in other cultures and languages, especially S E Asia and Latin America. I speak good and competent Latin-America-Spanish. Now in my 4th Year of Travel/Study/House Sit experience in Central America (since Aug 2012).
Visit Martin’s website: martinhousesitter.weebly.com
“I’m searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I’m travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.” ~Marcelle
Visit their site: Travel Bug
My motivation has, and always will be to inspire and offer tips so that low-cost life-changing travel comes into focus for as many people as possible. Travel is simply marvelous, my friends!