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Passionate experience junkie. Lover of the arts and architecture. Want to see and share the world, one village at a time.

Has House Sitting Changed?

 

Immersion travel while house sitting

Lush and private back garden where we house sat for six weeks in Naerum, Denmark

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.

Harbor in Copenhagen and not far from where Irene took us shopping

Harbor in Copenhagen and not far from where Irene took us shopping

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:

  1. 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.”

  1. More Homeowners

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!)

 

  1. More Match-Up Websites

Nomador logoI 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.THS logo

 

New HouseCarers

  1. 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.”

  1. 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:

Don’t Ignore This One Action if You Want to House Sit

The One Guaranteed Tip to Win the House Sitting Assignments You Want

 

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

 

Contributors:

GavinGavin Marritt

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

 

Martin GrayMartin Gray

“..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

 

MarcelleMarcelle Heller & George Mostert

“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!

Josie

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17 Responses to “Has House Sitting Changed?”

  1. Thanks for doing this Josie: Good luck with whatever responses or direction you wish it to take 🙂

    Martin
    (“Martin Gray, a full-time traveller” ??? no actually: Full Time House Sitter: I only travel now when my nomadic income permits, and to get to the next house sit: That’s another BIG BIG reason I decided to concentrate only on 3 or 4 countries here in Central America 🙂

    May 22, 2016 at 9:47 pm Reply
    • Hi Martin and Welcome!
      Thank YOU for adding your viewpoint. It helps for people to realize the many different ways to travel, and your is unique. I think it may resonate with folks who think world travel sounds too huge. You’ve shown them they can concentrate on one section of it.
      ~Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 6:31 am Reply
  2. Thank you, Josie, for this post. I especially appreciate hearing about some alternative sites for house sitting and the link, “Don’t Ignore This One Action.” I work 50 hours a week, write a travel blog, and travel locally or abroad on most brakes. I must make responding to house sits a priority and drop the perfectionism of writing that “perfect letter” which slows me down on writing blog posts as well. I appreciate your advice.

    May 23, 2016 at 8:57 am Reply
    • Hi Cindy and Welcome!
      So glad to help. Yeah, it’s just a matter of learning the basics of house sitting and then forging ahead. I see you have a very full life right now, so concentrating on a new project is a challenge. But the results and benefits of house sitting are worth the effort! I wish you well, my friend, and please let me know what I can do to help you get that first house sitting assignment!
      Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 7:04 pm Reply
  3. Interesting that you say you “won” the assignment, like it is a contest. Housesitting definitely sounds like a great travel budget option, one that I hope to “win” one day.
    Charles McCool recently posted..5 Spectacular Places to Visit in IstanbulMy Profile

    May 23, 2016 at 9:17 am Reply
    • Hi Charles,
      I look at it like applying for a job. So yeah, contest or job, you win the thing. I hope you try it out!
      Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 7:10 pm Reply
  4. Our website is slow in getting recognition but we have changed the fees charged by other websites by giving FREE membership to both owners and sitters. We have offered FREE membership with no end date for nearly 16 months now.
    If you have looked at the fee structures of all those sites you may have noticed a huge change, giving yearly, three month and 6 month membership. We offered those choices 2 years ago.
    No we can’t continue to give FREE membership for ever but until Francien turns 65 on the 21st July we will be doing so. No banking details so no automatic renewals fees taken.
    We believe Francien is the only full time sitter who also offers a website. Felicity also sits every now and then taking her two boys with her. The owners invite her and the boys to come over for a ‘break’ on the farm!
    We are contacted personally and we help owners as well as sitters achieve success. We also share URGENT sits through the media put up by other sites. We are not here to make $$$ but to be of service to all who need and deserve a vacation and to live a lifestyle we so enjoy.
    If we cannot help someone member or not we will give many sites they can look at. It is a pleasure that we can be of help.
    Felicity and Francien (daughter and mother team) would appreciate input in what our rate should be beginning 21st July 2016.
    cheers
    Francien and Felicity

    May 23, 2016 at 9:58 am Reply
    • Francien and Felicity,
      I have such respect for your diligence and sense of adventure. I hope lots of people see you comment and check out your website!
      Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 7:16 pm Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wondered what the houses need from the sitters? Dog walking, plants watered? Dusting??
    Vicki Winters recently posted..Quarantined On A Cruise Ship- How Much Fun Is That?My Profile

    May 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm Reply
    • Hi Vicki and Welcome!
      Yes, homeowners need all of the above. Leaving a pet at a kennel costs a lot, plus Fido is happier in his own home. Plus house sitters add a big level of security, and being present if anything goes awry — like a burst pipe. Cutting the grass, watering the garden, and bringing in the mail.
      Travelers get free lodging and homeowners gain peace of mind. It’s even, don’t you think? I do.
      Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm Reply
  6. Through the travel blogging world, I have come to know quite a few fellow Baby Boomers who have been able to become location independent through house-sitting. I’d love to try it someday (even pet sitting), but for now, my husband still has a day job, which limits the chunks of time we can be away from our home base in Philadelphia. However, we did have the chance to informally have our apartment and dog housesat and it was a great win – win.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..The Hyatt at The Bellevue Hotel, Philadelphia’s Venerable Grand DameMy Profile

    May 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm Reply
    • Hi Suzanne,
      Your first house sitting deal worked out well — that’s the first step to gaining the trust in the practice. That first leap is a hard one for many, especially as a homeowner. Good on ya!
      I have a feeling you two have many more adventures up your sleeves! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your always thoughtful comment.
      Josie

      May 23, 2016 at 7:29 pm Reply
  7. We are house sitting all over the UK at the moment and love it. We couldn’t afford to travel Europe or the US otherwise. We only started house sitting in 2014 and are amazed how many people are doing it. The house sits we had in Switzerland were from Americans and Scots – like the Germans the Swiss aren’t yet to comfortable with a stranger in their house. Thanks for citing me above 🙂

    May 25, 2016 at 9:35 am Reply
    • Hi Marcelle and Welcome!
      Good to hear from a newcomer to house sitting. It IS the best way to travel low-cost, no? And thanks for pointing out that the Swiss are just as persnickety about having strangers in their homes as Germans! And I recently heard from a Swede also, that house sitting is not practiced — or even known there. But you know, this is one of the things I like about travel — that all cultures are slightly different. Lots to discover out there.
      Regards,
      ~Josie

      May 28, 2016 at 10:00 am Reply
  8. Great article, Josie! You really expressed it well and I loved seeing those familiar folks quoted. We started sitting in 2013 and like longish sits with lots of access to nature and meeting local folks. We don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
    Laurie recently posted..How To Get Free Coconut Water (Pipa) in Costa RicaMy Profile

    June 30, 2016 at 3:11 pm Reply
    • Hi Laurie – and Welcome!
      Thank you for your kind words. Access to nature is indeed important, I agree. So glad you stopped by to give your lovely viewpoint.
      ~Josie

      June 30, 2016 at 6:07 pm Reply

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  1. Workers of the World Weekly: October 7, 2016 - October 6, 2016

    […] Has House Sitting Changed? When Josie and Conrad first looked after a stranger’s home in Denmark in 2009 house sitting was little known but the concept has since grown immensely. How have things changed? […]

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