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House-sitters: Worry-free Travel for Expats

By alison - November 8, 2011 (Updated: December 1, 2014)

We can explore the world, worry-free, with our house-sitters at home

We can explore the world, worry-free, with our house-sitters at home

Andrew and I travel often and, at least once a year, we are away from home for more than a couple of weeks. People often ask me what we do with our cats and if I worry about leaving our flat empty. The truth is I used to worry about our pets and our home, when we were on the road, but two years ago I discovered a great solution for travelling expats – house-sitters.

Ok, before you say it, I know exactly what you are thinking, because in all honesty, I though it too. You let strangers stay in your house while you’re gone… with your cats and all of your stuff? Isn’t that weird and, well, dangerous? Well, sure, it would be if I just grabbed the first person to walk down my street and handed them the keys to our flat. But that’s not exactly how we’ve gone about it. And I promise you, we’ve had no regrets, other than not finding house-sitters sooner.

For us, having house-sitters is a worry-free way we can travel and leave our cats well cared-for, without spending a pile of money or counting on the kindness of our friends, to stop by once a day.

What is House-sitting?

House-sitter Sherry

Our first House-sitter Sherry, even cooked us a meal before we left!

So what exactly is house-sitting and how does it work? Well, in the broadest sense, a house-sitter is simply someone who stays in your home while you are away. For some home-owners, just knowing their house isn’t sitting empty and someone is on-hand in case there is an emergency, is all the reassurance they need. For Andrew and me however, it’s been so much more than that.

While we’ve been away, our house-sitters have looked after our cats, tended to our plants, kept our flat tidy and sent us regular up-dates via email on how everything was going. It was such a relief to know that our cats were, not only being fed, but played with and loved while we were away.

An added bonus for us is that we really hit it off with our house-sitters and have made friendships that will last a life-time. (Of course this isn’t going to be the case for every house-sitter relationship but it’s certainly a possibility.)

How can House-sitting benefit expats?

Most expats travel frequently. We travel for work; we travel to visit family; we travel for vacation; some of us (well, not us but maybe you) have multiple properties to keep an eye on. House-sitters can benefit expats in many ways.

  • House-sitters are affordable – These days, we’re all feeling the financial pinch and house-sitters can be a financially viable option. Many house-sitters are willing to stay in your home for free, to help off-set their own travel costs. It’s a win-win situation for the home-owner and the house-sitter.
  • Care and attention for pets – If you have pets, you know how expensive kennelling can be. Sending your pets to the kennel can be stressful, for you and your pet and there is a greater risk that they will catch a virus by coming in contact with other animals. With a house-sitter, your pet gets to stay in his own familiar environment and still have companionship, while you are away.
  • Your house or flat won’t be empty – Empty properties are a natural target for burglaries. Some insurance policies won’t cover homes left empty for long periods of time. If there is someone living in your house while you’re away, it becomes less of a target for thieves and vandals.
  • Home maintenance – One of the worst things about coming home after a long holiday is launching straight into cleaning and maintenance; the lawn needs mowing, the floors need vacuuming and every surface is coated in dust. A house-sitter will take care of all of those tasks for you, so you can ease back into post-holiday life without too much difficulty.

How do I find a house-sitter?

I’ll admit, I met my first house-sitter through somewhat unorthodox means. I connected with our second house-sitters through a forum for travel writers. Luckily, you don’t need a network of travel bloggers to find a reliable house-sitter. There are several agencies to help take the guess work out of the whole process.

Note: I have not used these services personally. Before you sign up for any house-sitting service, make sure you carefully read the terms of service and seek out reviews from other clients.

  • House Carers  – Free for homeowners to post ads. Based in Australia with international service. Has been active for 10 years.
  • House Sit World – Free for homeowners. International service in multiple languages. Active since 1999.
  • Mind My House – Free for homeowners. Large database of resources for homeowners. Blog and community available.
  • Trusted House Sitters – Free for homeowners. Huge database of house-sitters (many with police background checks available). Started by a house-sitter to fill the gap in the market, for reliable house-sitting services.
House-sitters Warren and Betsy

House-sitters Warren and Betsy use Trusted House-Sitters to connect with home-owners

Although we didn’t use a service to find our house-sitters, the couple who stayed in our flat this summer, often work with Trusted House Sitters. Warren and Betsy wrote an informative post about their experience house-sitting around the world; an interesting read from the perspective of the house-sitter. It’s a great way to travel on a budget and live like a local!

The kind folks at Trusted House Sitters have also offered a discount to CheeseWeb readers who are interested in their services. If you use the promotional code CheeseWeb you can get a 6 month complimentary homeowners membership, as well as a 25% discount for house-sitters and a 50% discount on the combined premium membership (for those who want to house sit while also having someone care for their own home).

So, if you’re an expat on the go, there’s no need to worry about who’s feeding the cat and how tall the lawn is getting. Find yourself a house-sitter and enjoy a stress-free holiday.

Have you used a house-sitting service? We’d love to hear about your experience with it. Share with your fellow expats in the comments below.

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 7 days ago

6 comments

  1. Comment by Pete

    Pete November 8, 2011 at 15:29

    Love it. In the past year we spent practically 90% of our time away taking care of other peeps houses. It’s a great mutual benefit for both parties. It can give you peace of mind that your pets and your house will be in good hands when you leave. Plus it’s extremely affordable (at least we don’t charge 😉 For us the benefit is finding accommodations around the world. The world needs more shared resources like this.

    All the best guys 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison November 8, 2011 at 15:35

      You’re right Pete. It’s such a win-win situation. We’re looking forward to trying out house-sitting in the future as well; as house-sitter, rather than house-sittees 🙂

  2. Comment by Dalene

    Dalene November 8, 2011 at 15:31

    As you know, this is our preferred way to travel! Nice to see an article from a home-owners perspective! 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison November 8, 2011 at 15:36

      Thanks Dalene! It’s been nothing but a positive experience for us. I only wish we had have done it sooner! We’re definitely jealous of all the great house-sitting adventures you guys have had so far 🙂

  3. Comment by Jade Johnston

    Jade Johnston November 22, 2011 at 13:08

    Awesome! bookmarked this post to come back to later! I want to do house sitting some day!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison November 23, 2011 at 11:47

      It was perfect for us and I hope to be able to house-sit some day as well.

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