Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How and why we housesit

Cat sitting.

Why do you do it?

Housesitting fits in beautifully with our desire to live a nomadic life. We like staying in places rural or urban, living like locals, trying on different lives.

Many of the gigs involve taking care of pets. Because we travel so much, we don't have pets of our own. We enjoy being the loving babysitters of an array of dogs and cats--and in one case, ducks, geese, turkeys and rabbits.

Housesitting is appealing, too, because it's act of service. The owners can leave home and enjoy their travels without worry.

Walking the dogs in Port Townsend.

How do you get your gigs?

Facebook has been a good way. Several times I've posted a status update about when we are free; that's how we got two different housesits in Santa Cruz.

We belong to two housesitting websites: Trusted Housesitters and House Sitters America. To be a sitter, you create a profile with description, pictures, references and video if you like. You can go to any police station with your ID and ask for a background check, which you can provide to homeowners as a bonus. I include a link to this blog so they can read about our lives and feel pretty sure we aren't murderous thieves.

Trusted Housesitters has a lot of traffic and charges about $100 a year but you can get 25% off with this link. New listings appear daily from all over the world. Through this site we got a two-month stay in Port Townsend, Washington and an upcoming month-and-a-half gig in Chicago.

At $30 a year, House Sitters America focuses solely on U.S. listings. That's how a couple in West Hollywood found us.

I peruse these websites daily, passing by anything that doesn't float our boat, like taking care of someone's rental properties or tending to horses or milking goats. Still, I get a kick out of seeing all that variety out there, the multitudinous ways people live.

Farmer Dave

Do you charge?

No. Although if anyone requests housesitters pay for utilities (which some do), we don't apply. We would consider asking for a fee if the job required unusual or time-consuming tasks.

The advantage is a free place to stay. And if we have vacation renters in our place in Mexico, we come out ahead.

A golden opportunity.

What's it like?

When someone is interested in us, we handle the details by email, phone, or Skype. It's good to prepare a list of questions, such as what the house and environment are like, if there's WIFI, what they expect of us, what their animals are like, and so forth.

Now that we've been doing this a while, homeowners are requesting us. Once we were offered what sounded like a fun urban adventure with a cute little dog, whom we met along with the owners via Skype. However, during the call, the woman said she didn't want us to leave her dog longer than two hours at a time--nor to take the dog in the car, to the beach, or other unfamiliar places. Not enough freedom for us!

The experience in Washington was the opposite. The owners called us and offered us the gig based on our profile. We didn't even Skype, just handled the details by email. They explained their usual routine with gardening and dog care, but they said we could do it however we wanted. When we showed up, they gave us their keys and said if we wanted to take their gorgeous Golden Retrievers anywhere, we should use their truck. They also handed over the keys to their RV and said we were welcome to use it too!

Abbondanza in Santa Cruz.
The house was a custom dream in the forest. Their garden was filled with fruits and veggies that we lived on for six weeks (as we did in the Santa Cruz mountains). We loved the dogs dearly, and enjoyed taking them to the beach. Yet there were challenges: they were very strong males who, on leash, could pull you out of your shoes! We both got a little beat up. And washing them after a day at the beach was a workout in and of itself. Still, the overall experience was great--and we feel like we made new friends in the owners. When they arrived home from their trip to India, we shared a meal and conversation.

When we drove away the next morning, tears came to my eyes. It wasn't easy saying goodbye to the dogs and the awesome Pacific Northwest. And yet, it felt freeing to let go, to move onto the next thing.

Housesitting is a great experience for nomads at heart.

Yoga with Duke, in West Hollywood.

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