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?
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.
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.