A while ago I had the pleasure to come across another midlifer, Maura and her husband Terry, via their detailed and well-captured photographs on Instagram. Who just happened to be from New Zealand. Like us have been housesitting fulltime for nearly 3 years.
Let me introduce them to you.
Maura and Terry
At the age of 50, we sold our home and small business, hugged our three 20-something-year-old sons, and left New Zealand on an adventure. So far we have explored seven Asian countries taking four months, before arriving in Europe our long-desired destination.
With only a backpack and each other, and lots of excitement, we embarked on a new way of living our life.
When deciding to leave behind the security of a job and a home, our confidence the decision was right for us, came from listening to people 10-15 years older. The way they spoke of the “wish I had,” “do it now while you’ll young and fit,” and “grab the opportunity before the grandchildren start arriving,” inspired us to do it now.
While it is not everyone’s choice, and we have caused some travel envy with friends, we know our new lifestyle compliments who we are. When we wake each morning with a nuzzle from the homeowner’s dog wanting a walk, knowing that is our top priority for the day. Followed by a walk to the Boulangerie for a croissant to have with our coffee.
We know for now that house sitting is our way of life.
What made you choose to housesit as a way of life?
We were watching a TV Programme (60 minutes) when they featured a couple working and living in Sydney without the cost of rent or a mortgage. They called themselves house sitters, and it piqued our curiosity.
It got us thinking, house sitting might work for us.
Our life together has always been a bit nomadic, so we started searching the web for more information. When we decided to start travelling full time, house sitting was at the top of our mind as a way to extend our travel budget.
What was the process you went through to become a house sitter?
A couple of years before our full-time travel date we started house-sitting for friends. Two house sits in and around Sydney, Australia, one with pets and another as a house minder, started our international house sitting. This experience gave us an insight into what are the needs of the homeowner and their pets, and what to expect as a house sitter.
Next, we started applying for memberships to websites, organising a Police Check and writing up our profile. With references from our previous house sits helped us secure house sitting assignments for our arrival in Europe and the UK in 2016.
How long have you been housesitting?
We have been house sitting full time since we arrived in Europe mid-2016 to embark on our “rediscovering travel at 50” adventure.
Our journey started in Australia travelling from Melbourne to Adelaide and onto Perth. From Perth, we arrived in Singapore for our four-month, 7 countries Asian Adventure. Then we stopped off for a few days in Abu Dhabi to experience the desert and ride a camel before arriving in Europe for our house sit.
Many of our house sits in 2016 were for first time homeowners new to house sitting. We made many friends and often return to help some of these homeowners with 2nd, and the 3rd house sits.
What are the positives and negatives of housesitting?
The positives of house sitting for us is being able to choose the house sits in small villages away from large cities to experience life in a Europe. New Zealand is a relatively young country at 200 years old, so we love exploring the history of Europe.
Pets are another favourite for us.
We enjoy the interaction with the dogs and cats we care for, but also learning new skills like caring for rabbits and a tortoise. It is lovely when returning to care for pets we know, to already have the interaction with them.
And of course, house sitting allows us to keep travelling on a reduced budget as approximately 280 nights each year are at a zero-accommodation cost.
We enjoy house sitting and know we need to be adaptable to the houses and pets in our care.
There is only one negative for us, and that would be the beds at some house sits. Unfortunately, we can’t choose the bed comfort or size, so we need to be adaptable.
In general, cleaning up is part of the service we provide, but we have had a couple of occasions when the homeowner has had excessive cleaning requirements.
What are your priorities when choosing a housesit?
We look for the type and number of animals to care for, the location, dates and duration.
Depending on where we currently are house sitting, the location may attract us if it is a new location we haven’t yet visited or if it is nearby.
The type of animals and the number of animals to care is a consideration. We have looked after fish, birds, cats, dogs, rabbits and a tortoise. However, farm animals are not suitable for us due to the skills you require, especially when caring for horses.
Dates and duration need to fit into our schedule as we are often booked six months in advance. And we like to keep some dates free to return to our regular homeowners.
Do you prefer long term or short term sits?
Our shortest house sit we have had is a week and the longest two months.
The minimum length of stay we prefer is two weeks, but our ideal is 4-8 weeks to give us the feeling we have lived like a local, getting to know the village, the people and exploring the surrounding area.
A more extended house sit can be more settling when travelling too.
We will only choose a week-long house sit when we need to fill a gap between housesits. We have found the week-long house sits we often select are in small villages and easily accessible for us as we have a car. A great help to the homeowner who can sometimes find it difficult to attract a house sitter to a remote village.
Though we are New Zealanders, we also both have European passports. This is a significant advantage as we get to spend more of our time in Europe, which is our current preference.
What website/s do you use?
Trusted Housesitters and Nomador for Europe
Kiwi Housesitters for New Zealand
When we started travelling, we started a blog for family and friends. However, with our success in growing an Instagram account quickly to 10,000 followers, meant we had offers from companies to work for them. Our blog (www.travelkiwis.com) gradually changed into showcasing the beautiful places we visited when we were house-sitting or when moving between house sits.
Go House Sitting (https://www.gohousesitting.com) is our newest website dedicated to helping people understand all about house sitting. For anyone considering being a house sitter or a homeowner wanting to learn more, the website is to help them through the process.
House sitting is still a relatively new option for a homeowner to consider. And it is slowly becoming an alternative lifestyle for others.
When not housesitting, what sort of accommodation do you mainly use?
When not staying with friends, fellow travellers we meet, or homeowners who are now friends, Airbnb is the accommodation we use.
Unfortunately, with the rising cost of Airbnb, we purchased a tent only to find campsites closed outside of the summer period. And even in the summer season, campsites can sometimes cost as much as an Airbnb.
So why lie on the ground when you can lie in a bed.
Our next consideration is to look for a small campervan to use in between house sits.
What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone who was contemplating their first housesit?
Do some trial housesits with friends and relatives first to find out if you are suited to house sitting. What you will find is the experience is so much more than popping around to feed your friends cat.
When you have total responsibility for another person’s house and pets, the experience is different.
And, if you have done a great job, the reference they give is the key to you securing more house sitting assignments.
Catch up with Maura and Terry on the following links: