HouseSit March the house-sitting network aims to offer an easy to use matching service and expert advice to professionalise the business of house-sitting. One of the new initiatives started by the founder is a series of online talks with experts and practitionners. This is the summary and recorded video of the first house-sitting webinar.
House-sitting webinar expert panel:
- Janine Marsh: the British Guild of Travel Writers and the editor of The Good Life France
- Ruth Johnston: Exploramum, a professional house-sitter originally from Australia
- David the Dog Man: Canine behaviourist and broadcaster on Talk Radio Europe.
- Rachel Morgan-Trimmer: director of The Career Break Site
- Myself, Lamia Walker: Founder of HouseSit Match
Recently we hosted our first house-sitting webinar with an expert panel representing travel journalism, pet behaviour, career break travellers and house-sitting for affordable travel.
Thomas Mason was our Chairman for the discussion. He began by mentioning the sharing economy and how house-sitting is already a part of this phenomenon. There are an estimated 720,000 house-sits taking place globally every year – it really makes you think!
Janine who spoke on the expert panel in the house-sitting webinar, tripped across house-sitting as a travel idea after meeting some young Irish women a few years ago who were caring for a property in France. She then researched the topic and has since written about it saying that she believes “House-sitting enables you to live the life of a local, discovering secret places and seeing the world on a budget.” She now uses house-sitters all the time because she is often tours France as a travel journalist and finds house-sitters essential because her particular pet family comprises 5 dogs, 3 cats and 37 chickens!
I described how I got the house-sitting bug after an Australian friend visited and told me she’d saved an enormous amount of money on rent in Perth, WA for the year by house-sitting, $35,000 to be precise! I was so impressed by that fact that it immediately conjured up the idea of global affordable travel for both homeowner and house-sitter. From our website it is easy to see how house-sitting has shrunk the world – we have people from all over talking to each other, from Paris to Sydney, Kiev to Kingston, Jamaica. I also wanted to stress that many people don’t pay for a general house-sitter: “It’s an exchange of services, so people come to their own arrangements.”
David, a canine behaviourist and radio broadcaster, talked during the house-sitting webinar about the troubles he has had finding a dog-sitter as an expat in a foreign community. It’s made more difficult because he is the owner of two Rottweilers “which don’t exactly get a good press!” In response I explained that on our site you can look at the specific experience of potential sitters in their house-sitter profiles. We have pet professionals like veterinary nurses, and professional sitters in the listings who wouldn’t be fazed by large dog breeds.
During the house-sitting webinar Exploramum Ruth told us about being a single mum and how house-sitting enables her to travel with her 9-year-old son. “We’re currently in our 29th country!” She saves on accommodation and uses that money to travel to the next destination. She is a professional blogger, a digital nomad and an experienced house-sitter. She is currently in France and caring for a poorly dog and a large number of sheep!
Rachel talked about setting up The Career Break Site after taking a mid-career break and finding there was little information available. “When you take a gap year as a grown-up, there’s so much more to think about, like your job, your car, your house, and of course, your pets.” “The most popular countries for career breakers are Australia and New Zealand because of the ease of getting a working holiday visa there” she explained. By tying your work in with the free accommodation that you get through house-sitting you are able to maximise the affordability of the trip.
During the house-sitting webinar Rachel took the time to explain that a lot of career breakers are in their late 20s-30s, although the average age creeps up every year. Janine said she is seeing more travellers who’ve taken early retirement and called them silver sitters.
Q&A during the house-sitting webinar
One of the questions from the floor during the house-sitting webinar was about what kind of insurance you need to go house-sitting – I explained that you don’t need specific house-sitting insurance, but homeowners do need to tell their home insurance company that they’re going away and that a house-sitter will be living in. The owner must give the house-sitter contact details.
Rachel was asked where the best places are to house-sit are and she explained that Australia, New Zealand for the language, and Europe is also good because of the ease of working there (British people don’t need a work permit in the EU).
Ruth named her favourite house-sit as Fiji, closely followed by Ireland (mainly due to the friendly dog).
Another question concerned the role of social media in house-sitting. Janine explained that it was vital, because “word of mouth is really important for the house-sitting community. The opportunities are there, so use social media to find them!” Ruth agreed – she’s shares any information she learns while travelling through her blog to help others, Facebook and Twitter.
During the house-sitting webinar, questions were raised about security and background checking of sitters. Ruth says she offers references (and also takes photos of the house for her own security before she the house-sit begins). Janine also recommended using references and said Skype interviews between homeowner and sitter are great as you can establish a personal connection. I agreed with all the above, and said that we have guidelines to help you get to know each other as much as you can – communication is vital in building trust. I explained that I too have house-sitters in my home, and the couple will visit me before we start the house-sit. That way we meet face to face, ask as many questions as we can, and get to know each other. We can also use police checks and look at people’s social media profiles.
Thanks to our expert panelists who took part in the house-sitting webinar and to Thomas for hosting. If you have thoughts or questions to share on house-sitting or affordable travel please email them and as ever well answer you as soon as we can!
By Lamia Walker
TO REGISTER as either a house-sitter or a homeowner on HouseSitMatch.com FOLLOW THIS LINK