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House Sitting - consider this!

As circumstances would have it, we’ve been house-sitting for about 10 months now. After a false move to the sea-side we’ve come back to family and all things familiar, but that’s a whole other story for another time.

Our first house sitting experience was about 6 years ago when house renovations required us moving out of the home for approximately 8 weeks. Far too short to rent anything and staying in a hotel or B&B was just too expensive. We joined Aussie-House Sitters and had a really lovely experience. We choose this facilitator because no money changes hands, we think both parties are having their needs met so why complicate things. On this occasion we met (and still very close friends with) ‘Jane’, who was travelling to America and England to visit with family and friends. As it turned out Jane Allen is a successful author and frequently travels for research, Jane was to be away for 8 weeks which fitted perfectly with out renovation plans.

Up until now that was our only experience with house sitting and it was extremely successful. We have bought into an ‘over 55’s Development’ and were assured that we would be moving in on the 31st July and since it was now the beginning of May we immediately thought that another House-sit or perhaps two would be perfect.

Back to Aussie House Sitters website, we updated our profile and found two positions that suited us perfectly. Both situated in the local area one for 7 weeks and the other for 4, it couldn’t have been better.

The sad truth of the development is that it has taken 6 months longer than expected to complete the build and we still don’t have occupancy. But this article is not about that, it’s about house-sitting.

We are now in our 10th house-sit and hopefully the last, but boy-o-boy have we learnt along the way that not all House-sits run smoothly! and our friend Jane, was the standard by which to measure others. Details, contacts, instructions on how to use everything.....wonderful.

The first house-sit, seemed like it would be good. We were interviewed by the owner, an older single man with no pets, who had a lovely cottage. We were left with a scant list of contacts should anything go wrong and his parting words, as he walked toward the hire-car taking him to the airport were “I don’t want to be contacted under any circumstances and feed the Kookaburra’s at dawn and dusk, the steak is in the fridge”! Kookaburras at DAWN and DUSK had not been mentioned previously!

We feed the Kookaburra’s even though feeding wildlife is something I would never do. We left the house, cleaned and tidy, we also left a nice note of thanks, a bottle of champagne and $300 towards utilities. What we got, 3 months after he returned was a scathing review about the lawns not being mowed (the mower would not start and it was winter so the grass had not grown) light bulbs having blown(they were that way when we got there and 15 feet in the air) a stained tea towel having been hidden at the back of a draw (really? come on!) and the dusting not being up to standard (there were family heirlooms, porcelain, glass ornaments on every shelf and I didn’t want to run the risk of breakage) I dusted all other the surfaces . There was no mention of the clean house, Champagne or the money.

Fortunately this first house-sit was the only nasty one, and we are still not sure why, perhaps he was just having a bad day. Without exception everyone else has been lovely giving us brilliant reviews about the cleanliness of their house and the well-being of their pets. I’m not going to go through each of them but what we have learned is that there are guidelines for success for both the house-sitter and the house-owner.

Our observations are that sometimes House-owners, perhaps in the excitement of travelling, details can get overlooked. On occasions House-owners will purposely hold back information that may deter house-sitters from applying for their job. For a successful experience, House-owners should, as well giving photos and correct details of the pets requiring care, give an accurate thorough explanation of the home including photos. Prepare a list of emergency contacts, electrician, plumber, vet, family member with a key. Show the house-sitters however everything works and let them know everything you want done. Put all these details in the advertisement for the house-sitting position, and certainly don’t throw-in extra requirements as you are leaving.

House-sitters should leave a home in the same way they found it. We shop for everything we need when we arrive, and I mean everything right down to the kitchen sponge. When exiting we wash sheets and towels and have everything packed into our car to exit when we have handed back keys and imparted any information. For those home-owners coming back late or with children I have cooked a quiche and made a salad for them. If you break something, replace it or leave the money to compensate. Use their facilities like they were your own, with respect If you are extensively using heating or cooling then a contribution towards their utilities is appropriate. And finally always leave a note of thanks.

We have met some delightful people, most we keep in contact with, some have become good friends. I would encourage people to try house-sitting, the positives outweigh the negatives.

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE....

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