Housesitting can be a good way to experience a more “local” kind of living, and a great way to save money too! We were asked to stay in, and look after the home of a long-time friend, while we were in California, and so we decided to investigate further. We joined a housesitting website – there are lots out there, the one we use is Trusted Housesitters. We decided to try to find somewhere local to see how it all worked, and then we would explore possibilities in Australia.
We applied for a few listings and got lucky with one in Oakland. Most homeowners need their pets looked after, more than the house, and this was our situation too. We had two older cats: Bob Dylan and Miles Davis to take care of. They were pretty mellow and easy, although Miles was a bit fussy about eating and had to be encouraged to eat. Bob was the opposite, and had to be kept away from Miles’s food! Miles also need liquid meds to be given each evening. Of course no animal is keen on this, but with firm but gentle handling, I managed to give him his meds with the minimum of upsets and scratches!
The house was in a quiet leafy neighbourhood near Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We visited the local farmers’ market, went to Chinatown, walked up and down Piedmont Avenue, enjoying the variety of shops and cafes. We even walked through the local cemetery!
Set up a killer profile! Mention your deep love of animals, your trustworthiness and cleanliness around the home. Include photos with your own, or friends’ pets if you can. Get good references. Try putting the word out around your friends to see if anyone needs housesitting, so you can start to get experience and collect references. Also ask employers or neighbours for character references. Be flexible. I think what helped us was that the homeowners needed the cats and house looked after for two separate sets of dates, and we were willing to do that.
When you get a housesitting opportunity, it’s important to understand the homeowners’ priorities. What sort of feeding and exercise routine do they want you to keep to for the pets. What to do about mail. Make sure everyone is clear about what you’re expected to do, or not do around the house. We think it goes without saying that you should respect the homeowners’ property, and leave the house at least as clean as you find it. Gardening might be required, so make sure you’re willing to do that. Check out if internet is available, perhaps there’s a car you can use. Importantly, make sure you have several emergency contacts: the homeowners of course, but any trusted friends or vets, just in case. Agree on a contact schedule. Would the homeowner like email updates daily or weekly? Agree on arrival and departure times. If possible, it’s helpful to overlap with the homeowner at the beginning, so you can meet the pets, and be shown around the house. On the last day, pack your bags, strip the bed and wash the sheets and towels, and wait until the owners come home before leaving, so you can have a proper “de-brief”.
We had a great experience, it was lovely to check out a neighbourhood we didn’t previously know, we enjoyed having cats around again, and the price can’t be beat! We’re definitely going to try housesitting again!
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