Home Sweet Home

"We have stayed in some amazing homes across the world, from Ecuador to England, but not all are fancy. Periods of house sitting time can last anything from a week to 6 months,"

By | Tue 28 Feb 2012

Ever fantasised about your dream home? (This is not an ad). A luxurious villa embedded in the rolling hills of Tuscany, a tropical beach house on the shores of Tahiti or perhaps an exclusive apartment in central Berlin? Renting such a high-end abode could set you back thousands…and we aren’t talking baht…even for just a long weekend. As a house sitter, however, with a touch of effort, flexibility and good fortune, you may well just find yourself in such a dwelling – for free!

Meet Betsy and Warren Talbot; two Americans who have both upped sticks and live a life of permanent house sitting around the globe. “We began house sitting unintentionally, we planned to take a year out to travel the world. After selling our home faster than expected, we lived in a series of friends’ homes taking care of their pets and properties while they were away,” says Warren. “Previously we had done all the typical things people do in their 20s and 30s: climb the corporate ladder, get married, buy a house, get divorced, climb the ladder some more, get married again, accumulate more crap, and keep repeating the process like hamsters on a wheel. Two people close to us had major health scares, and we thought ‘what if we don’t live till 40?!’. Travel was something important which we wanted to do before we die, so after a late night of margarita fuelled discussion, the next day we made a plan and began a website documenting our journey,” adds Betsy.

The Talbots’ journey across the world and experiences house sitting have now, enviously (!), become a career and business for the couple, and provides the budget for their main expenses: transport and food. Marriedwithluggage.com has become a popular website about the Talbots’ travels. The couple have also co-written two self improvement books.

Warren and Betsy want to spread the word about house sitting. Currently happily living in Chiang Mai, the couple told Citylife that house sitting is slowly coming to Asian countries.

“We have stayed in some amazing homes across the world, from Ecuador to England, but not all are fancy. Periods of house sitting time can last anything from a week to 6 months,” said Betsy.

The Talbots recommend www.trustedhousesitters.com, which is the website through which they find homes to sit. There are other similar companies available, just look online. The website allows home owners to view references, photos, relevant house and pet care experience, police check information, and even video profiles of potential house sitters. The site is somewhat of a house sitting community where long term relationships have been formed between home owners and house sitters bringing like-minded people together.

If homeowners are going away for any length of time, it is statistically much safer to leave a home occupied, rather than empty. Many insurance companies won’t insure properties which have been left empty for over 30 days. The general upkeep of a house also deters burglars. Home owners may want to manage the maintenance of the house or garden and therefore wish to have someone live in while they are away. Some business owners even welcome house sitters to run their businesses, such as a Bed and Breakfast, while they are away, which could be quite an experience.

So how can you become a house sitter? Initial formalities are par for the course, background checks, references and all that. Once a member of a house sitting site, you can sign up to receive alerts from owners in countries where you are interested in house sitting. After you begin, house sitting sites work on a reference basis, where home owners give references for house sitters for other home owners to see their credibility. House sitters are viewed as more trustworthy once they have built up a good reputation.

Although house sitting may be relatively difficult for most people, trying to balance a job, children and timing, for those who have a little more time or flexibility to play with, such as retired people or those who can work from home, house sitting is more of an achievable way of exploring the world, with all home comforts included.