From Housesitter to Homeowner

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
We are total pros on the other side of this housesitting equation. We’ve racked up almost twenty house-sits around the globe, from within our home country to Honduras, Turkey, France, and many more. We’ve housesat for as little as a week to as long as six months. We have always come away with stellar reviews and dear new friends of both the human and animal variety.

In fact, if a cruel twist of life hadn’t turned us into semi-traveler instead of full time nomads, we might even have had a few new ones lined up right now. But, the cruel twist won out, and now instead of being permanently on the road, we actually have our own home. (Oh, and some cats. Because a home isn’t a home without feline companions.)

But of course, we still find ourselves on the road a lot, and when my Mom isn’t able to care for the fur babies, then outside help is needed. For the very first time, while we are in Europe we found ourselves in need of housesitters.

For the very first time, while we are in Europe we found ourselves in need of housesitters.
Dalene and the Turkish Dogs

Dalene taking care of dogs at our house-sit in Turkey.

The Other Side

What surprised me immediately is how scary the prospect was. As housesitters, I know that we are trustworthy. Of course we’re going to take good care of another’s house and love their pets. Of course we are not going to rip them off. But suddenly, when it comes to considering our house and our beloved animals, then my back immediately went up. Could we ever trust someone like we have asked others to trust us?

We know that the world is good. And after careful vetting, we knew that we would find someone who would be as trustworthy. We KNEW that.

Right?

Could we ever trust someone like we have asked others to trust us?
Paris House Sit

Taking care of a cat in Paris.

Cat in Belgium

Peek a boo. Finding the hiding cat in Belgium.

Pete Cat Sitting

Pete the cat sitter

Learning to take our own advice

We started out with just listing on our favourite website, Nomador.com. We’ve used it plenty of times, trusted the system well, and knew it was loaded with qualified sitters. Within a couple of days of making our listing, we had an inquiry from a couple in Oregon. They were interested in touring through parts of Canada that summer, and our two-week housesit would give them a break from living in their camper. We got off to a bad start and had troubles communicating. Through a series of blunders, we just continually missed each other when trying to connect. She misconstrued time zones and called when I was in a meeting, and for some reason (I still blame chemo brain), I blanked and gave her a phone number that was not even our own. When we finally made contact, the call was fine but there wasn’t that instant spark of connection and trust (and honestly, I am sure she felt that way as well). After that, even though we had no other prospects, we decided it wasn’t a good fit. We had to trust our gut.

Which is the first thing we tell people in our housesitting ebook (from the perspective of a housesitter, of course). Another piece of advice that we give in that book is to sign up for more than one website in order to increase the odds of finding the perfect match. Because we live in a relatively unknown corner of Alberta, we knew that getting people interested in the sit might be a little more difficult.

Enter Housesitters Canada – a site totally dedicated to sits within our own borders. Within one day we had a solid application, and within a day after that, an agreement with a qualified sitter. Most importantly, the spark was there.

Because we live in a relatively unknown corner of Alberta, we knew that getting people interested in the sit might be a little more difficult.
Dalene and Beau Sleeping

Dalene sleeping with Beau the cat.

Prepping for our leaving, and her arrival

At our third housesitting gig ever, we arrived to find the place was a disaster. The little cottage that we were meant to stay in hadn’t been touched in awhile. It was dirty, grimy, and a total mess. The home owner told us that previous potential housesitters had left immediately on seeing the place.

“You’re not going to do that to me, are you?”

Damn. The polite (pushover?) Canadians in us forced our stay. As did the sweet dog, who we became attached to quickly. We had no other immediate options and so spent a whole day scrubbing the place from top to bottom. We made it comfortable – comfortable enough, anyway, for our two month stay – but that experience really made us think twice about our approach to housesitting going forward. Not only did a homeowner have to trust us with their home and pets, but we had to have confidence that we would enjoy the stay as well.

In turn, we didn’t want our housesitter to feel the least bit uncomfortable. We did as we tell all others to do – we cleared out space in our closet and dresser, we left the fridge stocked with food, we made sure she had everything she would need to enjoy her stay. We booked maids to come the afternoon that she was to arrive. (We did, however, leave her with two complete babies for cats who need a lot of love because that’s what they are used to getting from us. I won’t apologize for that though.)

At our third housesitting gig ever, we arrived to find the place was a disaster. We didn’t want that for our housesitter.
Ireland House Sit Farm

Front yard at our Ireland housesit,

Ireland House Sit Manor

Irish 10th century manor house-sit

Ollie the Dog

Taking care of Ollie the dog.

During the sit

I’m trying not to be too needy. I wonder constantly how things are going with the cats and if our housesitter is finding everything she needs. I wonder if I should email her again, or if I should give her space, and I wonder if she wonders why I haven’t emailed her or if email her too much. As housesitters – we had one homeowner (with 4 cats!) who asked us not to bother her during her six week absence unless it was a dire emergency. Another who requested messages strictly sent every two days.

She promised me in our last email exchange that I am not bothering her.

But I wonder.

I wonder if she wonders why I haven’t emailed her or if email her too much.
Norman the Cat

Norman is doing just fine.

All will be well, right?

If there is any one lesson that I have learned in our years of travel is that people are good. Really, genuinely, good, and worthy of trust. But I suppose this is what it is like for people who have something to lose, whether it be a home or beloved fur babies. Before it was just us and what we could carry.

Yet somehow, even as weird vagabonds, people let us into their homes. They had faith in us. They had confidence that they would return to an intact house and happy pets.

And I do have that too.

I am sure that I will arrive home to a well-kept home. That the kitties are being well loved. That I’ve done everything in my power to make sure that our housesitter is happy with her stay.

I am sure of all of that.
And that in our next time of need, I’m sure I’ll feel a little more comfortable with it, too.

If there is any one lesson that I have learned in our years of travel is that people are good.

how to do it

We’ve had so many grand experiences housesitting while we travel, and now we’re glad to see the other side of it. In the end, I think this will make us better future housesitters as well!

If you’ve never housesat before, consider it for your future travels. Not only do you get to stay in a new place with no accommodation cost, but the experience overall is more enriching. Meet locals, enjoy the love of pets, and stay with all the comforts of home around you. We wrote an ebook about it, and the cost of the ebook is easily made up with subscription discounts!

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