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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

The London Logs: Housesitting

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | July 20th, 2012 | Comments No Comments

Four years ago, when I started sleeping around to write my book, I never dreamt I’d still be on the road and making housesitting a cottage career. But, here I am! Although I found my initial housesits by word-of-mouth, the majority I found through the internet. chachaand-me.jpg

There are now dozens of web sites that allow housesitters to post profiles for homeowners to peruse. A few require homeowners to post profiles, as well. I determine which site to join (most cost $60 - $80US/year) by pretending I am a homeowner searching for a housesitter in my community. For example, I chose to join www.TrustedHousesitters.com after it topped searches ranging from “I am looking for a housesitter in the UK” to “London Housesitters.” In Mexico, the lovely family I now housesit for every spring and fall found my profile on www.HousesitMexico.com.

Given the number of local UK housesitters listed on TrustedHousesitters, I expected I would be at a disadvantage landing a London gig when I wasn’t already in-country to meet folks. But, I was offered 2 separate assignments – both from young couples interested in supporting my book. merlin.jpgI accepted the longest sit (7 weeks!) and was further surprised by the number of last-minute offers I received from people whose housesitters canceled unexpectedly. I even turned down a housesit in Turkey!

How to choose the right sit? Consider your priorities: rural vs. inner city, pets’ requirements, length of time, cost to travel to the location, other requirements (e.g., mowing the lawn, feeding livestock, etc.). For my London sit, I definitely wanted to be in the city near a Tube stop with minimal pet and garden requirements so I could be out exploring each day.

After a few emails, Emiko and Stephen and I video Skyped and they toured me through their flat with a brief appearance from Merlin, their dashing dude of a cat. We signed an agreement that included penalties for last-minute cancellations on either party. (I once was cancelled on the day before a housesit! See “The Bitch and the Chow” post. I was interested in protecting my interests, as well.)

Emiko and Stephen decided to spend their last night at a hotel near Heathrow and asked me to arrive a day early. With no firm time to arrive, I felt more at ease and we spent a few lovely hours over a fabulous frittata Emiko made getting to know each other and their flat. Their home reflects the love they share: A plethora of love cards, photos with friends and family, even a world map graffitied with friends’ cartoons of dream trips.

(It’s not always the case, though, that I get to meet my hosts. I housesat for an aptly named terrier called Sparky and an above-it-all cat named Jack in Sunland, CA. Although the owners and I spoke by phone before, during and after my housesit, we’ve never met in person!)

It’s an interesting experience – and quite a privilege – to be entrusted with strangers’ most important and intimate aspects of their lives. It requires a great deal of flexibility (my schedule is determined by the homeowner), organization (I live on top of other people’s stuff), and malleability (every home has its own “vibe” that I must adjust to). It’s a great adventure! And one I’m most grateful for.
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Category: Housesitting, London
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