Recently we had a chat with house sitting couple George and Michell AKA ‘The Real House Sitters‘. We took a deep dive into the when, what where and why of their house sitting journey!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves – who are you, where are you from, for, do you housesit full-time or sporadically?
We are George and Michell. George is originally from West Virginia in the USA, and Michell is from Wiltshire in the UK. We are a Yank and a Pom who met in Oz, in a hostel in Alice Springs while on a trip to visit Uluru, back in 2010. Despite the fact we lived on separate continents, we kept in touch and throughout 2011 we maintained a long-distance relationship. In 2012, we both got Working Holiday Visas and moved to Melbourne to live together at last! In 2013, we moved to Wanaka in New Zealand for a year, which is where we started our housesitting journey. Until the pandemic hit, we’d been housesitting full time since 2014.
How many housesits have you completed and where?
We actually haven’t kept count. There have been so many, including a lot of repeat sits time and time again for the same clients. But we know that we’ve sat in 10 different countries – Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, the USA, Brazil, and Argentina.
Why do you housesit? What is the main motivation?
A lot of people’s motivation for housesitting is purely for travel, but we actually got into housesitting because we were looking for a place to live. The cost of rent is so high, we tend to take housesits even when we’re not traveling, just to keep the cost of living down, especially when living in London. It’s also a great way to meet people, we’ve made so many friends through housesitting, both homeowners and other housesitters. And when we do travel, there’s no better way to experience a place then through the eyes of a local!
How did you find out about housesitting?
When we moved to New Zealand, we were looking at a local online listings site to try to find a room to rent. One listing that caught our eye was to stay on a farm and look after the animals for three weeks while the owners went away on vacation. We arranged to meet the owners to discuss, and the rest is history!
The following year, we decided to see if there was any way to find out more about housesitting. We researched a few sites and decided to join Trusted Housesitters, which is we’ve been members of for 6 years now.
Pros of House Sitting?
Housesitting allows you to meet people, see places, and experience things you would never normally get a chance to do. It’s great to see places through a local’s eyes. Since you don’t have to pay for accommodation, it keeps costs down and allows you to stay longer. And you get to look after sweet pets too!
Cons of House Sitting?
It’s not always reliable. You need a backup plan in case a homeowner cancels or the dates don’t line up perfectly. We’ll often stay in an Airbnb or hostel for a few days if we haven’t been able to get a housesit.
What’s been the biggest or best adventure so far?
We had a month-long sit in Rio de Janeiro, looking after a cat in Copacabana. It was our first time ever in Brazil and what an amazing city! It was certainly an adventure, visiting all of the different iconic landmarks in the city, and the fact that we were there for a month meant that it didn’t feel rushed at all. After that, we had another sit in Buenos Aires lined up, but we had a few days spare to visit the waterfalls at Iguazu. Incredible experience!
How do you decide on a destination?
It depends. Sometimes we’ll decide that we really fancy going somewhere, and will search that location and see if any dates come up – that’s how we applied to go to Lisbon for 10 days back in 2016. Other times, we’ll decide that we need to stay somewhere longterm, say for three months or more, so we’ll only search for long term sits – that’s how we ended up in the Dordogne in France for 6 months!
How much luggage do you travel with?
If it’s international we’ll take a carry on each, and one small bag each that we’ll zip together in a bigger bag – it means we only pay for one checked bag! If we’re staying in the UK, we have a small car so we may pack a few more home comforts like a yoga mat or some kitchen essentials.
How has the pandemic changed your house sitting lifestyle?
Some people have carried on housesitting, but we have completely stopped for now and are renting a small flat in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. We do still check Trusted Housesitters to see if there is anything local, but it has dried up completely. I don’t think that we will start sitting again until 2021.
Was it hard for you to secure your first housesitting gig? How many applications did you have to send before you got accepted for your first assignment?
Well, our first housesit was the one in New Zealand where we responded to the online ad, which we replied to and got accepted straight away. However, when we signed up to Trusted Housesitters, it did take a few applications before we were accepted. It helped that we were near the Cotswolds which had a lot of homeowners looking for sitters, and we were local and able to meet them in person. Once we were able to meet the homeowners, we were being accepted for sits, and once you have a few reviews it becomes much easier.
Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?
Our first housesit we looked after a herd of 40 cows! Luckily, George has some farming experience, and the homeowners explained actually how they wanted their animals managed, so it was fine. We’ve also looked after a very grumpy pig one time!
What was your favourite housesitting experience to date and why?
Our sit in Benissa, Spain was really special because one: the homeowners were lovely, we still keep in touch, two: the dogs we were looking after were adorable – we still miss them and it’s been three years! And three: the homeowners were happy for our own family to come and visit us, which meant that my parents were able to come over for a short holiday in the sun. This was such a kind thing for the homeowners to allow, and it really shows how wonderful the whole housesitting community can be.
Have you had any funny housesitting experiences?
Actually, in the same Benissa, sit, one of the dogs, Ziggy, used to jump up and down like pogo when it was dinner time as she was so excited to get fed. The homeowners called her a ballerina, so we found a little tutu at a small hut on the beach that we modified as a gift for Ziggy and as a surprise for the homeowners when they came back – she looked beautiful as you can see!
Tips for Others Wanting to get started?
When starting out, staying local is key. As we mentioned before, you will have an advantage if you can meet the homeowner in person as it really puts their mind at ease, we’ve never met anyone in person that didn’t want us to sit for them afterwards. Also, apply for sits that may not be so appealing to other housesitters, like really short sits, or sits that aren’t in desirable locations. That way, you’ll be able to build up your reviews quicker.
Where to next (when you can)?
We’d love to go to Ethiopia or Japan.
To keep up with the real house sitters checkout their Instagram ‘Therealhousesitters‘.
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