There is a full-time house sitting crisis. House sitters across the world are in the position of being homeless, including us. Without sounding either melodramatic or like we’re looking for sympathy (this is, of course, the danger of life on the road), it’s thrown the sitter world into turmoil. With nobody travelling, there are no house sits. The few we have seen in the UK; they are averaging up to 50 applications for one job.
We want to do a couple of things in this post. Firstly, we will share our story about house sitting right now. That is something personal to us but extremely relatable to EVERYONE right now. We also want this to be a proactive post with ideas and suggestions on how to find accommodation or get a support network in place. Finally, how to plan your future one day at a time as a house sitter with various resources we use.
Our house sitting crisis story
We had the whole year planned to perfection. Well, Jen as the uber planner had the whole year booked up with house sits. The first six weeks was to be a faster-paced jaunt through Germany into the Scandinavian countries. This was to lead to a series of month-long sits and a summer in Bulgaria. As we land in Munich, we get our first cancellation in Sweden. However, our homeowners have all checked with us to check we’re still coming, so we persevere.
Before Italy became the centre of the pandemic, we were being kept busy with 11 cats in a lovely apartment in the German Alps. Ever heard of the saying, “it’s like herding cats?”, let’s just say we put this into practice! A posse of hungry cats is hard to control. But with a routine of closing the kitchen door while preparing food then bringing in the cats who need medication first, we managed the impossible! Their eccentric personalities are easy to fall in love with and we quickly learn the art of entertaining several cats at the same time. Who likes a good cuddle and who like their own space.
The mountains are busy with families, hikers and skiers. We join them at weekends and explore the town of Sonthofen. An occasional break from the cat posse is welcome! Onwards we travel to Frankfurt via the city of Ulm. We have a job to do here, to write about the city’s UlmCard and enjoy the delights of this gem on the Danube. In Frankfurt, we are generously received by friends before our next house sit with two adorable dogs.
The virus hits
A morning bus takes us to Berlin some days later. It’s now the virus begins to hit hard. Our international travel show is cancelled but the gig we’re to attend is still going ahead. Armed with hand sanitizer, the supermarket shelves start to diminish throughout our five-day visit. Apprehensively we continue to Copenhagen. We take in the sights and enjoy time off with no pets with a city walking tour and experience our first lockdown. That lockdown was in a bar – not a bad place to be!
We manage to escape to our midnight bus to Oslo. As we arrive in the morning our house sit host informs us, she can only take three days for a holiday, but she will let us stay for two weeks. Our flight to Belgium and the next sit is still in place. Then, disaster hits. Norway is to close their airports. We spend hours on the phone and scouring the web trying to find a flight and rectify the situation. We need to make a plan and fast.
Handling the house sitting crisis
We phone everyone we can think of, the British Embassy, the airline, the airport, but nobody is open. Then there is an announcement. They weren’t closing the airports right away, but we do need to leave. Thankfully, we find a flight that doesn’t cost £400 to get to London. In conclusion, we decided rather than be stuck indefinitely we should return to the UK. A phone call to Henry’s family is made and they say we can stay with them while we figure it out.
Unfortunately, time is against us. Figuring things out means a huge chunk of savings on a short-term lease somewhere. House sits are proving hard to come by, and we are unsure as to how to progress. Our house sits until June are now cancelled. This is a story we hear from many a sitter. We reach out to fellow sitters on Facebook and social media in various support groups. The help we receive is overwhelming, but after offers from friends we decide for the meantime, staying with family is best during the lockdown.
Combatting the house sitting crisis!
We said we were going to talk strategy. Everyone’s situation is different, and we don’t have all the answers. What we can offer is the kinds of online support networks we use, fellow sitters with great advice and some semblance of a strategy.
How to find accommodation in a house sitting crisis
Luckily our family stepped in and offered us something in the short-term, but there’s still a possibility this could last for months. These are the various solutions we are constantly monitoring.
Landlords are finding that their flats aren’t being filled with holidaymakers right now. Others might be facing tenants going back to their own country amidst the chaos. This opens private rooms and entire flats or houses. Right now, there is the scope to agree on a cheaper price for the property. These can be weekly amounts or monthly depending on how long you need. It may be that a six months lease is the safer option as the situation progresses. Other landlords we’ve spoken to are willing to do it month by month. Further down we will give you good resources for finding rooms and flats.
In the same vein, for those with Air BnB’s their apartments aren’t being filled either. It may be that you know of someone with an available flat that you could negotiate a fair price for. Whether this is for a matter of weeks or months. It could be a long time until things start to normalise again. Use the app and message hosts to enquire about accommodation – you never know what kind of offer they might give you.
Workaway, HelpX or similar site
If you have an account with these websites, or a similar website then now may be the time to utilise it. We have heard there aren’t as many adverts going up, but we have heard success stories from friends who have found free accommodation and food for work exchange. This is the sharing economy in action! Places like farms, smallholdings etc are the most likely places looking for people to help with work. Some families are still looking for childcare and even teaching duties during the lockdown. This is still something we might use ourselves, and it’s an avenue worth exploring.
Campsites and holiday lets
Campsites and caravan parks, chalets and holiday lets are also seeing a decrease in bookings and are lying empty. They too are willing to negotiate on the price of campervan spaces, tent pitches and caravans. There are also chalet-style houses and holiday apartments on these sites that are offering cheaper prices. It might be best to focus on your local area and see what’s there, call the site and see what their manager can offer you.
House sits in your home country
This is probably the first thing we all did as sitters – check what’s going in our home countries. We are in the UK and we’ve applied for several sits for people who can’t get home, but none have come to fruition. We do keep an eye and we do have an alert set up for sits. It’s always worth applying for any sit that appears, but this is currently not very reliable.
Online support networks
We have found solace in our online house-sitting community. The friends we have made online via social media has been a rock in uncertain times. These are the various groups and ways we’ve found to connect online.
House sitting groups on Facebook
Way back, when house sitting was new to us, we seek out groups on Facebook for advice. Never have these groups been more useful to us than now. (Links will be listed at the end of the article).
House Sitting Community Support Group
In terms of practical assistance, this has been our number one resource. Run by the editor of House Sitting Magazine, this is such a brilliant and genuine place for advice, laughs and solutions to problems. They have specific threads in the group discussion aimed at hooking up house sitters with accommodation if anyone has an idea of places offering cheap or free places to stay. There are also units for the UK and Canada which outline official websites and resources. A genuinely helpful supportive environment is what we all need right now!
House Sitting Café
This is a community group for homeowners and house sitters to connect and share experiences. It’s a great place for open and frank discussions. For stranded house sitters it has also been a great place to share stories, offer support, receive support and advice. Occasionally we have seen people posting up sits in various worldwide locations.
Reaching out to fellow sitters online
We have an Instagram account which we’ve found has brought us so many real-life friendships. It’s the first place we heard about house sitting as an alternative lifestyle and everyone we chat to online have turned into real-life pals. It might even be worth to DM a fellow sitter to ask what advice they have because any contact is one step closer to finding a solution.
A strategy for future sits in 2020 – Post house sitting crisis
With everything so up in the air, it’s hard to even fathom what might be in the next six months in terms of sitting opportunities. Even if lockdowns are lifted, life will take a while to go back to normal. However, these are some of our plans/strategies for the rest of the year.
Communication with homeowners
We’ve been in constant contact with homeowners that we have done previous sits for. This is also helpful to some people we know as they are getting sits based on recommendations. Homeowners have also said that once lockdown is lifted, we’re welcome to come to them, and they can take a short break.
We’re also in touch with the homeowners we’re due to sit for, and we’re waiting to see what gets cancelled this summer, but they have also offered support in coming up with a solution so collectively this will all make a difference. It may not be the year we were hoping for, but we’re not alone in figuring it out.
The circumstances call for full flexibility for full-time house sitters. As we say, we might find ourselves going back on ourselves to previous sits, or we may need to just find a short term let at home and settle down for a bit. Who knows what will play out in the next two months before summer hits, but the ability to change plans and keep on top of what’s happening is key!
Search alerts on new sits
If you’re not doing this already then definitely get this sorted. New sits are going up, especially on our most-used site – Trusted House Sitters. Their app allows you to set up search alerts, and even though the competition is tough it’s worth applying where possible. The only concern we have is that some sits face being cancelled if the lockdown continues, but if you’ve lost sits later in the year it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s going up right now.
Resources for information, help and advice for the house sitting crisis
These are the websites and media that are helping us cope in this unprecedented situation.
Pet Sitters Confessional Podcast
The brainchild of two pet sitters, Meghan and Collin, this brilliant podcast ‘Pet Sitter Confessional’ covers all kinds of issues, problems and discussion points. Right now, they are interviewing sitters and offering up advice on handling the crisis. They cover adopting fostering pets from rescue centers for those missing pet company, pet care, interviews with sitters and dog walkers, mental health and the future of the industry. To know you’re not alone is crucial at this moment in time and this podcast is a fantastic help.
House Sitting Magazine
A free magazine with articles from experienced house and pet sitters, this is a must-have resource for anyone in the industry. Their Facebook support group, mentioned above is just one way they are helping us survive the house sitting crisis. If you want detailed information and good practical advice, then look up House Sitting Magazine.
Another thing to do right now is to check your government website for updates on the crisis. As international house sitters, we check the travel advice to countries we travel to on the UK Government website. For example, we are keeping an eye on lockdown dates and guidance for travelling.
Helpful official websites
Spare Room (short term lets)
House Sitter Advice by House Sitters
We hope this is useful for house sitters at a loss during the crisis, but also perhaps during times where they need to fill gaps between sits in the future. For ways to earn money online we have a guide to travel jobs and a guide to getting started as an ESL teacher.