housesitting live like a local

HOUSESITTING – LIVE LIKE A LOCAL!

Are you an active and ardent housesitter who loves to live like a local by housesitting in other places and other people’s homes?

Or, are you a homeowner who wouldn’t dream of putting the family pets into expensive kennels while you’re on holiday, because you know you can get a responsible housesitter in to care for your home and your pets for free?

Perhaps you’re curious about how a housesit works and how to live like a local by housesitting?

As an active and ardent housesitter myself – I’m housesitting with my backpacking husband right now in Southwest France – I want to show you how we slow down by housesitting between our nomadic world travels.

How we use the housesitting experience to ground ourselves and achieve some downtime in a life that would otherwise be constant movement and travel.

How we ‘live like a local’ by housesitting in other places and other countries.

Housesitting in France. The Backpacking Housewife
Our fabulous long-term housesit in France

We’ve done most of our housesitting in France. Except for one time when for two weeks, we looked after a beautiful beach house and two very sweet dogs in the Caribbean, while the owners were away on holiday in Europe.

A two week long housesitting and looking after two sweet doggies in the Caribbean. The Backpacking Housewife.
A two week long housesitting and looking after two sweet doggies in the Caribbean.

HOW DID WE DISCOVER HOUSESITTING?

I have tried to cover everything in this post that we have experienced while housesitting, but if you have any questions, do leave a comment at the end of the post or contact me directly. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Housesitting in France. The Backpacking Housewife

Three years into our nomadic travelling lifestyle, after we’d sold everything to travel the world full-time, I signed a contract with HarperCollins Publishers.

I had a contract to write a series of three romantic adventure novels loosely based on my own travel experiences and adventures.

You can find out more about my writing on my Books Page.

The Backpacking Housewife series of books
Click the image to see my books on Amazon

I had actually started writing the first book while we were travelling in Asia and immediately fell into difficulties.

Firstly, I didn’t have a desk, so I had to write while sitting on the bed in our homestay.

Secondly, I had set up a writing schedule spreadsheet to make sure I could achieve my wordcount and my tight contractual writing deadlines.

So, I was basically writing in our small room for at least six hours a day.

My husband was becoming bored and had to go sightseeing without me.

We both realised this wasn’t ideal and our nomadic lifestyle wasn’t helping.

We knew if I was to complete the books, then we needed to stop travelling for a while, so I could focus on my writing and he could have something constructive to do with his time.

But how? When we had no routine or a home to call our own?

And then, the backpacking husband, suddenly came up with the great idea of living like a local by housesitting!

A perfect writing spot in France!

WHAT IS HOUSESITTING?

Housesitting is a mutually beneficial arrangement between a homeowner and a housesitter which, in my experience, does not involve any money changing hands.

The homeowner can go on holiday or take a longer trip and leave their home and their pets in the capable hands of a responsible housesitter at no charge.

The housesitter/s gets to stay in the house for the agreed period of time, and live like a local by housesitting for free, in exchange for the care of pets and the continued upkeep of the property in the owner’s absence.

A slightly different scenario that we found ourselves in during our very first housesit, was that the UK homeowners didn’t live in the property full time. It was their summer holiday home in South West France.

The property was a chateau – a large family holiday home with extensive grounds – including a swimming pool and two ‘gites’ (cottages on the property) that were rented out to long term French tenants.

Housesitting in south west France

Our housesitting responsibilities were to care for one dear old chat – Monsieur Smudge – and live in the chateau over a six-month period during the autumn and winter months.

Housesitting was a perfect job for my handy-man husband and provided a perfect place for me to write as I now had access to a proper study and a desk.

The Backpacking Housewife - Writer at work
Writer at work!

HOUSESITTING DUTIES

Housesitting duties included maintaining the garden, cleaning and maintaining the outdoor swimming pool, and other general maintenance as needed, while also attending to any issues that might arise with the tenants renting the gites.

Housesitting duties included managing the grounds. The Backpacking Housewife.
Housesitting duties included managing the property and the grounds

We’d arrived in France from Vietnam in early September and the homeowners stayed on with us for a couple of days while we settled in.

They introduced us to the tenants renting the two gites and showed us what needed doing at the property to keep it maintained while they were away.

The lovely homeowners showed us where we could go shopping and they drove us around the local vineyards and local areas of interest.

We even had use of their car while they were away.

Take a look at my post My Top 5 Wine Tasting Chateau in France – with a guide and map!

Housesitting. The backpacking Housewife at the vineyards
At the local vineyard

It was a fantastic housesit for us and peace of mind for them.

September and October in southwest France is still very sunny and warm and we were able to swim in the pool and enjoy eating our meals outside on the terrace.

We discovered local food delicacies and we ate lots of cheese and enjoyed local wine and we made friends with our lovely neighbours in the gites.

In the warmth of that wonderful late summer French sunshine, I often spent the mornings sitting outside in the shade of the fragrant terrace writing, and then stopping for a spot of lunch with my dear husband, whom I could tell was enjoying himself immensely going around on the drive-on tractor mower.

I can tell you that the grounds always looked pristine!

Since that very first housesit – where I finished writing my series of Backpacking Housewife Books – we’ve been fortunate to have returned to the same property many times.

We’ve enjoyed all four seasons and a wonderfully immersive French lifestyle in this house. In fact, if we were to add up all the months we’ve looked after this beautiful home – on and off over the past ten years – we’ll have lived here for two years and this will be our second Christmas here!

Autumn in France. The Backpacking Housewife
We’ve enjoyed all four seasons and a wonderfully immersive French lifestyle

PETSITTING

We’ve also done a different kind of housesitting assignment in France.

A few years ago, through the winter months of October through to March, and while the homeowners were travelling Asia, Australia and New Zealand, we housesat at an old ‘bastille’ (a fortified farmhouse) in the Mid-Pyrenees of South of France.

That time, we had a horse, two donkeys, a herd of sheep, a sheepdog, lots of poultry and several cats to care for while the owners were away.

Housesitting a horse, two donkeys, a herd of sheep, a sheepdog, lots of poultry, and several cats!
A housesit with a horse, two donkeys, a herd of sheep, a sheepdog, lots of poultry, and several cats!

HOUSESITTING IN EUROPE

It was much easier for us (as UK passport holders) to housesit in Europe before BREXIT.

When we first started housesitting in France, we could simply stay as long as we liked.

But this time, in order to stay longer than 90 days out of any 180 (the Schengen rules) we needed to apply for a longer stay visa.

This entailed gathering and photocopying a lot of paperwork to meet the requirements for the application followed by a personal interview at a TLS Visa Centre. There are three such centres in the UK.

Once we’d attended our personal interview we had to wait 10-14 days.

It was an anxious time for us as there was no way of knowing then if we’d even get our visa applications accepted.

Thankfully, after ten days we got our passports back, and inside them was our new French Long Stay Visa. Hurray!

HOW TO GET A HOUSESITTING ASSIGNMENT

We started out by joining a housesitting website. There are two I’d recommend to you. The first is HouseSitMatch and the other is TrustedHouseSitters.

You join as a homeowner looking for a housesitter or as a housesitter looking for a housesitting assignment.

Once you have joined you can set up your personal profile page.

In your profile as a potential housesitter, I would suggest you start by introducing yourself, then say something about why you want to housesit and any experience you might have already.

If you haven’t done a housesit before then ask people who know you to do a character reference attesting to your trustworthiness and good character.

If you are looking to care for animals, then say what experience you have with specific types of pets, and how much you enjoy the company of animals.

For example, in the past, I’ve owned a horse and dogs and poultry and so have a working knowledge of how to care for them and I loved doing so. Include suitable photos of you in your profile.

Apply for housesits on the site that interest you. You can filter your search by country and date if you prefer.

housesit match logo
Trusted housesitters logo

HOUSESITTING WEBSITES

The links I have provided to the housesitting websites HouseSitMatch and TrustedHousesitters are affiliate links which means that if you click through my link and decide to join as a member of either of these sites then I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. It helps to support this site and I thank you for that.

I can give you a 12% discount code off TrustedHousesitters using this code: 12TRUST

Note: you can browse the sites for free so why not go ahead and take a look?

GOOD HOUSESITTING ETTIQUETTE

Housesitting can be a great experience, but it’s important to be responsible and respectful while taking care of someone else’s home.

There are also lots of housesitting forums on Facebook where you can chat with other housesitters and find out more about the life of a housesitter and to garner some savvy housesitting tips.

Communication is key from the outset. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the homeowners expectations and any specific instructions for the house, pets, plants, or other responsibilities.

During the housesit, it is a good idea to keep the homeowners updated on the status of the house, especially if anything unexpected happens. I like to send regular WhatsApp or Messenger to reassure them all is well. Often its just a cute pet photo.


GOOD HOUSESITTING TIPS

Emergency Contacts: Obtain emergency contact information, including the homeowners’ contact details, neighbours, and local plumber, electrician, etc. Know the location of fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and emergency exits. Familiarize yourself with the nearest hospital and emergency services.

House Tour: Before the homeowners leave take a tour of the house with them. Make note of important details like where the circuit breaker is, how to operate security systems, and any specific care instructions.

Security Measures: Follow any security protocols provided by the homeowners. Ensure that all doors and windows are locked and the alarm system (if any) is functioning. Ask if the homeowner uses cameras inside or outside the house.

Pet Care: If you’re taking care of pets, follow the feeding schedule, give them attention, and take note of any peculiar behaviour. Keep their living areas clean. Make a note of the local vet contact number in case of emergency.

Daily Routine: Stick to the homeowners’ daily routine as much as possible. This includes feeding pets, watering plants, garden maintenance, and any other tasks specified by the homeowners.

Mail and Packages: Collect the mail and any packages regularly. If the homeowners expect deliveries, coordinate with them or follow their instructions. On a long housesit we were asked to send mail onto our homeowner’s alternative address on a weekly basis.

Before You Leave: Clean Up: Leave the house in the same or better condition than you found it. Clean up after yourself and ensure everything is in order.

Replace Consumables: If you’ve used any household items like toiletries, food, condiments, or cleaning supplies, replace them before the homeowners return.

Return of Keys: Make sure to return any keys or access cards as agreed upon with the homeowners.

Feedback: Provide feedback on your experience, and let the homeowners know about any issues or concerns that arose during your stay. Consider writing a review on the homeowner’s housesitting profile page, if applicable.

Thank You Note: Leave a thank-you note expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to housesit. I like to leave fresh supplies in the fridge including a meal that can be reheated. Maybe even a bottle of wine.

By following these tips, you’ll help ensure a positive housesitting experience for both you and the homeowners.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post explaining about housesitting. It really has been a fabulous experience for us as housesitters and a valuable part of our travels.

We have been so very fortunate, in that our very first homeowners became such great friends.

Sadly, Monsieur Smudge, the chat in the chateau, has now passed away.

Monsieur Smudge, the chat in the chateau. The Backpacking Housewife
Monsieur Smudge – the chat in the chateau.

But from starting out on our housesitting journey, and from our very first assignment, being able to live like a local by housesitting continues to enrich our lives.

It has be a particular joy to have been able to return time and time again to this now familiar to us beau maison in southwest France.

So, in the meantime, as we say in France: A la prochaine fois!

Have you done any housesitting?

Are you keen to try housesitting?

Would you like to housesit at home or abroad?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

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