I recently got an email from a customer, John, who had purchased THE HOUSE SITTING BOOK from me. (“A wonderful book,” he said. Thanks John!) (Editor’s note: The book is no longer available.)
After reading the book, he went through all the correct procedures to land a gig. He lost his desired house sitting assignment over failed negotiations about payment of the home’s utilities while the homeowner was away. The home owner insisted on an amount that John felt was too high.
Why are homeowners asking for payment of utilities?
I have seen this more and more lately – that homeowners are asking for a small payment, presumably to pay for utilities. I suspect that this practice is like an infection. In other words, Mrs. Homeowner wants to post a request for a house sitter. So before she does that, she reads over other posts to find out how it’s done, and sees that a bunch of folks are asking for payment of utilities. Then she wants to get on that bandwagon, too. Why not? If other homeowners are getting some money for utilities, why not me, too? So the practice grows.
This is just speculation on my part. I have no proof of how or why this practice of asking for payment of utilities is growing, but the fact is – it is growing.
What do you do?
First of all, the world of house sitting is not a regulated one. John asked in his email if there were any civic ordinances regarding short-term rentals or any taxation involved. House sitting lives way outside of any regulations. And I say that’s a very good thing! That’s part of what I love about house sitting – that it’s impromptu, unexpected, and up to the wits of folks on opposite ends of the planet to come together in a way they see fit. It’s a bit scrappy at times, I fully admit, but I like it that way. Every assignment is so very different from the last – in every way imaginable.
Conrad and I have turned down assignments for a variety of reasons. One time, we knew we had to turn one down because each time we Skyped with the homeowner, we came away cringing at her flightiness and disorganization.
We’ve been rejected, too. We’ve gotten down to the homeowner’s short list of candidates and then they chose someone else for the assignment. It’s a personality thing.
My point is that the personal nature of house sitting is the great thing about it. We have met some of the coolest homeowners around the world and feel richer for it. We’ve met some kooky people too, and one unnamed one that we don’t care to meet again! House sitting is an experience full of real, enriching experiences.
You know darn well that putting regulations on house sitting would zap the life out of it, turning it into a sterile white room, wiped clean of any possible germs.
So, should you pay for utilities?
We have paid for utilities while house sitting. The situation was a long-term house sit in which the homeowners were setting up a new home in another country and not sure if they wanted to sell the original house. We liked them. We felt a kindred spirit with them. And we understood that the expense of their project must be huge, so we agreed to a monthly amount. While negotiating our amount, we brought them down from their original request by almost $100/month – to $150.
The decision has to be up to you whether or not to consider house sitting assignments where they’re asking you to pay utilities. Conrad and I look at every house sitting assignment with new eyes. Is it in the right location? Good length of time? Close to public transportation? Do we like the homeowners?
We do have a list of necessary criteria for every house sit and I have to say we’ve broken every one! Why? Because the other traits of the assignment were so desirable. Like the time we took a 10-day assignment in gorgeous Tuscany where there was no internet. Two of our criteria were broken – we don’t take any house sits less than six weeks and we must have internet. So why did we take it? Because the home was a 1,000 year-old renovated church, complete with a dome in the living room. And because the deal was this – that for three days work harvesting their olives, we could stay for free. Harvesting olives! How cool is that! We had a blast harvesting the olives and kept pinching ourselves as we looked out over the breathtaking Tuscan hills, feeling like we were locals. As the sun set across the rows of majestic cypress trees, we had wine while gazing out the arched brick doorway.
Okay, back to utilities. I can’t tell you which way to go, only that the negotiation process should be part of the challenge – and even fun. My father always said, “Everything’s negotiable,” and I have found it to be true. The searching-out process, the back-and-forth negotiating, the adventure of it all, is all good in my estimation. You win some, you lose some.
Approach every house sitting assignment with a traveler’s spirit – you know – that attitude I see every day from all you bloggers out there. It goes something like this:
I love the unexpected. I’m willing to listen to any story from any person. I’m ready to be amazed by people and places I don’t yet know. Bring it on!
I wish you happy and safe travels