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House Sitting - a Win-Win Situation

For this article, we contacted a number of our sitters and home owners, and asked them about their experiences of house-sitting from both sides of the fence. One thing they all agreed on was that house sitting is a win-win situation.

Here are some of their stories.

Nick and Cherie lived overseas for a number of years, during which time they rented out their house in Australia. Before their departure, they had already had some house-sitting experience.

On their return, having retired early from full-time work, they decided to leave their place rented ("It was too big for just the two of us, anyway," says Cherie), leave their furniture in storage, and take up house-sitting again.

Since then, they've been sitting houses virtually full-time, with the occasional break to visit with friends and family. They registered with Aussie House Sitters about twelve months ago, and also have a network of regular sits from their previous experience.

"We get more enquiries than we can possibly handle," says Cherie. "The key is to get back to people quickly and let them know if we're available. We also like to meet home owners well beforehand, to make sure there's a fit."

She also advises sitters to always do what you promise, be really honest, and leave a place spotless when you go. By doing this, your word-of-mouth, friend-of-a-friend network will grow, and you'll have the opportunity to see the country with all your accommodation free.

This couple's longest sit has been for four months, but they'd take up to a year if they really liked the area.

Final comments on house-sitting? "It's a great life!" smiles Cherie.

We spoke to Ron and Leah at their seven-week house sit in Kempsey, a town near some of Australia's most stunning beaches, just north of Port Macquarie in NSW.

After registering with Aussie House Sitters under the name of "Aaron" their first "job" as house sitters was to caretake a 75,000 acre cattle station near Charleville, Queensland. Leah also provided meals for the owners' son, who was managing the station. Ron, a retired country police sergeant and something a handyman, tidied up and did some fixing around the grounds, and looked after the farm dogs, while Leah kept the house and garden shipshape.

This allowed the owners to take a holiday for the first time in years.

From there Ron and Leah had a booking to house-sit in Helensvale in SE Queensland. While there, they met friends of the owners, who asked the couple to sit for them as well a short while later!

Although they planned to take the next few months off from house-sitting, they found themselves in such demand that they've agreed to help some more people out.

"It's a matter of building trust," says Ron. "And having respect for other people's property. Once your reputation builds, there's no shortage of opportunities."

Karl from Brisbane put his thoughts down in an email from a house sit in Western Australia.

"We prefer that homeowners contact us rather than the other way around," he says. "But I do check out the offers in "sitters wanted" from time to time, just in case we need to fill a gap."

"When we commit ourselves to a housesit we undertake to keep the place clean and secure, maintain the garden, feed and love the pets and farm animals if any," says Karl. "And most important of all, we provide peace of mind so that the owners can go on holiday without any cares."

He sees house sitting as a means of seeing the country, while providing a very essential service for people who are prisoners of their own environment, and need a break from pets, house cares etc. According to Karl, most people are loath to involve friends and/or relatives, either for reasons of privacy, or not wanting to cause inconvenience.

For them, he says, it's much better to involve strangers with whom they have no emotional ties, other than working out compatibility and security issues.

"We love housesitting," says Karl. "For us it has opened up a whole world of experiences and friendships, sometimes with the homeowners, but more often with their neighbours and members of the community where we live temporarily."

"We also enjoy providing a service to the best of our ability," he adds.

Any other advice for intending house sitters? "Put your profile on the Aussie House Sitters website; it gives people an idea of who and what you are. It seems to do the trick — we get more offers than we can handle."

Rosie and Peter are the owners of the cattle station mentioned above. Rosie was delighted with the service provided by Ron and Leah, who she came across on the Aussie House Sitters website.

"We're very happy," she says. "Ron and Leah maintained the house and grounds for us, were company for our son, and made sure he had a hot meal at the end of the day. They also looked after the animals, and watered the garden for us. It was great to have that break, knowing things would be taken care of. We'd certainly have Ron and Leah sit for us again."

A couple from Monterey Keys, near Sanctuary Cove, Queensland, who requested not to be named, were also more than satisfied with the experience of having house sitters in while they were away for a month. They especially wanted the security benefits of keeping their house occupied, but didn't want relatives, friends or children in their home during their absence.

"I don't know of anyone who's had a bad experience with house sitters," the gentleman of the house said.

Another couple who have had their house sat twice during vacations were Nick and Sonia from Mt. Tambourine, Queensland.

"We found our most recent sitters from the Aussie House Sitters website," said Sonia. "We were away for seven weeks, and were very satisfied with our sitters, and with the whole house sitting experience."

Neil and Chris are a "young" retired couple from Nerang, near Australia's Gold Coast. As home owners who are "addicted to travel," they too were delighted with their sitters, and with the whole sitting experience. So much so, that they're about to have the same sitters back for the third time! They've also recommended the couple to friends of theirs.

Plants, not pets, were their main reason for wanting somebody in while they were away. Chris has invested a lot of money and time into her garden, and didn't want to see it dry up and die in the East Coast's present drought.

As homeowners, their first thoughts about allowing strangers into their home were: "We don't know these people; can we really trust them to look after our home and garden?" They overcame their concerns in two ways. Firstly, they looked up the couple's references in the phone book, called these references, and found their proposed sitters highly praised and recommended for their past sits.

Secondly, they were able to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the sitters well before their departure. This removed any further doubts, and Neil and Chris recommend it as the way to go wherever possible.

In particular, Chris found the Internet (starting with the Aussie House Sitters' website, then exchanging emails with sitters), a great way to build up a picture and develop a relationship with your sitters.

We sincerely thank all our contributors for their time, and for agreeing to give us their input for this article.

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*FREE: House sitting is usually free, for both sitter and house owner, although this is completely up to the individuals. There are usually some costs that need to be covered by either the sitter or the house owner e.g. electricity, phone usage, vet fees etc. How these costs are handled needs to be agreed before the sit begins. House sitters pay a single annual membership fee, while house owners pay nothing to advertise their house or to contact sitters.