More and more Americans are dumping their mortgages and adopting the life of a nomad, choosing to pursue a strong of house-sitting jobs to stay rent free as they hop-scotch around the globe. About 56 percent of HouseSitMatch.com’s house sitters are over age 60 and its number of monthly matches has doubled over the last year to 35. House sitters registered on TrustedHousesitters.com tend to be over 35, and many are retired, spokesperson Miki Haines-Sanger told CNBC. She noted that the attraction can be quite a draw for those willing to live the nomad’s life and work to build relationships with homeowners.
“Homeowners tend to have some incredible properties, from chocolate box cottages in the British countryside to chic apartments in Paris with resident pugs who love to show you the city. There are eco-lodges in New Zealand where you can take care of lamas and alpacas and villas with swimming pools on the west coast of Barbados.”
Barbara and Bob Hensel, both 63, have made the house-sitting lifestyle work for them. They retired from their teaching jobs two years ago, sold their home and have become full-time pet sitters, accepting jobs across the U.S., Europe, the United Kingdom and Africa. Their expenses are similar to what they were in Florida, but the money is earmarked for airfare, car rental, accommodations, food, sightseeing and travel clothing, rather than a mortgage, lawn service and golf membership dues. To facilitate their search, Barbara Hensel told CNBC they have turned to a number of house matching websites like TrustedHousesitters.com, HouseCarers.com, HousesittersAmerica.com, nomader.com, Mind My House and Luxury House Sitting.
“We love this life. We get to experience different cultures living in neighborhoods instead of hotels, shopping at local stores and interacting with people as a short-term resident rather than a tourist.”
While a house sitter may request money for pet sitting services or flights, and the homeowner may ask the house sitter to pay for utilities, many serial house sitters say the arrangement works best when no fees are involved for either party. Steve Dean, 28, moved to New York in 2011. When he arrived, he did not have full-time employment or much in savings. He actually started house sitting as a necessity. By 2013, he was doing back-to-back house sitting gigs.
“I don’t ask for anything in return for my service. I prefer to remain ultra-competitive by charging nothing. This allows me to be the easiest referral option for the maximum number of people, which greatly facilitates me keeping my housing expenses at zero.”
Lamia Walker, founder of HouseSitMatch.com, told CNBC that house sitters should consider obtaining their own liability coverage as well as making sure homeowners and pet owners have a financial provision/arrangement in advance if a pet is sick or repair is required. To ensure a better match, Walker noted that the site verifies users’ identities with online tools and conducts criminal background checks and reference checks. So that both parties understand what is expected of them, HouseSitMatch.com also provides check lists and guidelines and house-sitting agreements to ensure all parties have documented key information and listed the responsibilities required.
“Eighty percent of our house sits require pet care. They can vary enormously from feeding a single cat once a day, to one of our homeowners who has five horses, nine dogs, and eight cats. We even have one homeowner who has 80 cats.”