The world is full of home owners who do not want to leave their homes unoccupied when they leave for extended periods of time because their pets or plants need TLC or because they just feel better knowing that someone is around if a pipe breaks or a burglar is prowling. The world is also full of people (like us) looking for a more affordable way to live and/or travel. The solution is house sitting. Here’s an inside look at our very first house sitting gig in Matapalo, Costa Rica.
Here’s how house sitting works
A number of websites have emerged which act as matchmaking resources through which a home owner can advertise a need and registered house sitters can offer their services. Typically no money is exchanged: home owners rest easy and house sitters stay for free. It’s a win-win: the home owners get peace of mind and the house sitters get a (usually) great place to stay in a destination of their choice.
House sitting: love the home you’re in
We haven’t had our own home since we left our apartment in New York City in April of 2006 and embarked on our Trans-Americas Journey. While we love the freedom and unpredictability of our life on the road we sometimes miss the routine and control that comes from settling into a home. We don’t want to do it forever, but having a temporary home base allows us to do things we miss like doing our own laundry and cooking the food we prefer to eat. It also lets us get more work done since we aren’t spending time planning our next moves or driving all day.
It’s increasingly important to our work and our sanity to find more opportunities to hunker down in order to save money, stay on top of our deadlines and project, and recharge our batteries with a bit of domestic bliss.
About a year ago Trustedhousesitters.com, one of the leading websites that facilitates house sitting around the world, gave us a membership. Since then we’ve been religiously monitoring the handy “new listings” email which members receive every day. This is one of our favorite emails of the day since it’s full of dream opportunities around the world. Here’s a sampling of some listings available right now:
- Six weeks in a modern, tri-level penthouse in the trendy Condessa neighborhood of Mexico City with one dog and some fish
- Christmas and New Year in a three bedroom seaside home near Malaga, Spain
- Three months in a unique, open-air house on the beach in Phuket, Thailand
- A classic Italian farmhouse in Tuscany for the winter with cats a horse and a donkey
- Two weeks in a stone cottage in rural Portugal with two dogs and two cats
- Three weeks with two dobermans in a house in Brisbane with a movie room
- Four months in a modern villa in southern Italy
Careful, it’s addictive
If we’re not careful, hours can slip by as we read the details of our favorite new listings around the world. Sometimes we catch ourselves calculating how we could get to the Pyrenees or Tasmania or Malta to take advantage of the dreamiest opportunities on the planet.
Alas, the reality is that we can only pursue opportunities within a reasonable driving distance of our current location in the Americas. That does limit our options. Home owners in Australia and Europe are much more savvy about house sitting than home owners in the The Americas. However, that’s changing and Trusted Housesitters has decided that this part of the world has growth potential so we’re excited to see more and more listings in our region as the site increases their pool of home owners in our neck of the woods.
A match made on Trustedhousesitters.com
House sitting in Costa Rica and pet sitting in Costa Rica are both growth areas because of the number of expat home owners in Costa Rica who routinely return to their home countries for extended periods. When our daily new listings email from TrustedHousesitters.com arrived with a listing for “House and pet sitter needed near Dominical” in a house with panoramic views of the Pacific we immediately responded to the home owners using the easy online form to express interest and encourage them to learn more about us through our profile on the site (which was really easy to create).
Within 24 hours we’d heard from the home owners. We exchanged a series of emails, each of us going over key questions and expectations in detail. Within a week they’d confirmed our assignment and we’d spoken via Skype to go over all the final details. It really couldn’t have been easier.
We arrived at their home the day before the owners were scheduled to leave. This was a really smart idea because it allowed us to get to know each other, get introduced to their dog and cat, and learn all of the quirks of the house–from how to handle their killer water pressure to who to call if the animals got sick (didn’t happen) or the toilet stopped working (did happen). We highly recommend the “one day early” approach whenever possible.
Over the next three weeks the home owners enjoyed their time away and we enjoyed our time in one place getting into a productive routine and indulging in the joys of dog walking and grocery shopping.
House sitting also brings unexpected pluses. In our case, these came in the form of wild animals. We spent hours on the spacious open-sided patio of the home in the jungly hills above Matapalo beach with binoculars and cameras glued to our faces observing three-toed sloths (including a mother and baby), parrots, toucans, aracaris, poison dart frogs, white face capuchin monkeys, king vultures, a jaguarundi and foot long female stick bug having sex with a remarkably small male. It was like living inside our own Animal Planet channel, only our viewing blind was a comfortable, modern house. All of the photos in this post, including the ones of the sloths, were taken right from the patio.
On a related note, this was the first time these homeowners had retained house sitters and they told us that they decided to list their need on Trustedhousesitters.com because a neighbor had recently used the site and had a really positive experience. As for us, we’re back to scouring our daily “new listings” emails from Trustedhousesitters.com in search of our next house sitting opportunity.
Here’s more about travel in Costa Rica
Congrats on what looked to be an AWESOME house-sitting gig! We’re about to move into our 10th next week – it is also the ideal way to travel for us. I’m like you, I LOVE that daily email alert with all the cool listings. :)
Love the pictures! What a great place to stay and what a view! Keep having fun.
I love me a good view – and those are just to die for! Incredible.. need to get some house-sitting on my agenda soon :D
Nice that this housesitting gig comes complete with wildlife viewing opportunities!
House sitting is great when the plan comes together. We’ve done three house sitting gigs, and they’ve all worked out however we’ve also had last minute cancellations and a difficult time getting responses to quite a few applications. Also, you have to watch for listings that are obviously expired as well as listings that are really looking for employees or tenants.
The photos of the animals are spectacular! I want to see a sloth in real life one day…
Hey Eric and Karen,
Great post and amazing photos, especially little Penelope! I wouldn’t have gotten any work done, either — how mesmerizing. I’m such a goof for all those critters too.
I’m glad you discovered the joys of house sitting. Yes, so logical. I hope you enjoy many more!
We are still trying to find the perfect fit for us as well. Have had a couple we have applied for, but nothing that has worked out from our end yet due to travel plans changing. Next year will be the year for us I think!
What a great way to travel! At some point, I would love to be able to spend several weeks in one location yet not live out of a suitcase. Very inspiring!
Thank you for writing this and sharing your pictures :D I am going to look into housesitting for my trip to Spain this summer!
[…] hit it out of the park with our very first house sitting gig which we enjoyed in late 2012 in the hills above Playa Matapalo on Costa Rica’s Pacific […]
we are just getting started with our house sitting adventure. Do we need to register with a site? we have had several “likes” on our craiglist ad –
That’s great that you’re getting into housesitting. It’s certainly been a great thing for us! We would recommend joining a housesitting website. They’re one-stop-shops for seeing what opportunites are out there, affordable to join and give homeowners a way to quickly learn about you and see your experience and endorsements from past housesits. There are a number of housesitting websites – your final choice will likely be made based on which one has the most listings in the parts of the world you want to visit and on how easy the site is to use. We are members of Trusted Housesitters and we love the fact that we get a daily email of NEW listings so we’re always on top of the opportunities that are available. Good luck and enjoy!
We have the house sit and adventure travel bug, too! We started about a year ago and have really found we agree with you that the house sits give us time to collect our thoughts and get a routine going.
We have been on the road since April 2013, visiting family, house sitting and adventuring. We also wrote a number of articles about house sitting. Favorite place to house sit so far was Western Australia with our sweet little dog, Chienne.