What a Life!
Wow, we’ve been house sitting for a year, and we still love it! We don’t see any reason for a change. Visiting new places, meeting wonderful homeowners and magnificent animals, all without working – this is the life!
Jim hasn’t had a full-time job for quite a few years and has long since acclimated to that lifestyle. It’s been six months since I stopped working and I’m still not used to having so much free time.
When you can pretty much do as you please every day that’s something! Obviously, there are always house care needs and time spent playing and cuddling with animals. Primarily, though, my time is my own.
To be able to stay up late or sleep in is very new for me and it dawned on me that I feel a bit guilty when I do those things, but I’m trying hard to remedy that!
How Did We Do?
During this past year, we did 34 house sits for 25 individual homeowners; nine were return visits. We had to turn down 12 requests for repeat house sits and 36 direct requests from owners who read our profile and contacted us! As we said previously, we wish we could clone ourselves! It’s hard to turn down offers, but it is impossible to do them all.
How did that translate into total days booked? During the first six months 156 days (at least one of us had a house). During the second six months 312 days (some were double booked). That’s a fifty percent improvement!
Also, during the first six months, we spent 41 nights in hotels, and during the next six months that went down to eight. We also had nine nights camping, and the cost averaged out to $10.00 a night (California was an expensive place to camp).
We averaged three or four houses per calendar month and cared for 34 dogs, 14 cats, one tortoise, two parrots, and five chickens.
The Websites, Contracts, and Complexity
We added up how many ‘jobs’ we had from each site – Trusted House Sitters – ten, House Carers – six, House Sitters America – five, and one each from Mind My House and Luxury House Sitting. We also had three from referrals (all from one homeowner.)
In that time, we’ve still only signed three house sitting contracts and only been asked for a deposit once. When we started out, we thought that those were a big deal – no! Last but not least, not a single person has asked to see our extensive and expensive background checks!
On occasion, the complexity we must address getting from one place to another goes from challenging to ridiculous, and can even get absurd. Sometimes a rental car is the only way forward and once we had to get an airline involved.
Averages and Variation
One of Jim’s junior high teachers told his class that Wichita has the same average temperature as Honolulu. The students looked out the windows and saw snow on the ground. Hawaii brought visions of sunny beaches, palm trees, pure cane sugar. This assertion seemed improbable. No way could they square those images: snow forts here, hula dancing there.
Then he worked through the math on the board. Numbers don’t lie – right? But this couldn’t be true. A little more math and they learned about variation, the factor that makes averages useful or, in this case, even believable.
Why you might ask, are we mentioning this? Well, we looked at all the places and dates we had been in 2015. We found two places with similar numbers: Oregon and Ojai, one a little valley, the other an entire state. Eight house sits and 113 days in each place. We felt as if we’d just scratched the surface of Oregon but knew Ojai through and through. That friend is what variation looks and feels like.
Working with Homeowners
New ventures mean new relationships, new locations, new activities, new skills to develop. One of the biggest questions we had was what will the people be like? This may be the most surprising and gratifying part of our new life. All the homeowners we’ve worked with have been friendly, honest and decent.
Homeowners appreciate that we always arrive on time and ready to get going. We appreciate that owners return home when planned, no matter how far away their travels may take them. We only had one stay end early, but it worked out well for us. All the homes we stayed in were fine, even great, and no owners ever misrepresented their needs, homes or pets to us.
The Good and the Bad
We have heard house-sitting horror stories, and we pray we never experience one of those ourselves. We believe that the main reason it hasn’t happened to us is using great care in considering possible house sits. If I get a bad ‘vibe,’ we don’t take it.
On the other hand, a few times just seeing the photo of the dog in the listing tells me all I need to know: that is a place for us. Of course, we do apply to more postings than we get and no one is a match for everyone!
If It’s Meant to Be
We did visit one homeowner early in our house-sitting career to discuss taking care of things during his business trip to China. It was three weeks long with one cat, and a beautiful house located, unfortunately, at least two hours from my work.
We needed a place desperately, so we drove down to meet the gentlemen. We had a lovely visit; he said he liked us a lot and that he had a difficult decision to make. He emailed a few days later saying he had chosen someone else. At that point, we were both upset and felt real rejection. A few weeks later we got house sits filling the same dates and a lot closer to my work. It wasn’t meant to be; that’s how we look at it.
We did set up one house sit that got canceled the day before it was to start. In the end, that also turned into something better for us.
A Few Things We Miss – Food
The most important – good quality organic food. Los Angeles style Farmer’s Markets are not the norm! We had no idea how good we had it. Many cities say they have Farmer’s Markets and advertise them. We have been to many by now, and we just have to chuckle. For the most part, we haven’t found much food for sale, not kidding.
Also, in general, grocery stores don’t have nearly the breadth of choice we had in Southern California. Of course, we have found many Health Food stores during our travels, but they don’t have the same level of choice.
Wi-Fi and Cell Service
Even Whole Foods Markets in Portland do not have the vast ready-made food selection. We’re not saying, So Cal has it better than anywhere else it’s just what we have as a reference. It’s also possible that we’re just incurable food snobs from LA.
No matter how good things turn out, there are always things we miss after making such a radical change of lifestyle. We miss having Wi-Fi and cell phone service everywhere we go. In Southern California, all that works fine everywhere, period. But Oregon is not California! Which is one reason we love it! The Wi-Fi and cell phone reception are often terrible on the road, and we rely on them for our house sitting.
Lack of Health Insurance
Having no jobs means no health insurance, at least in the USA. I have a long stretch before Medicare kicks in. Jim’s already 65, so at least there’s that. We’ve hit brick walls every time we try to do something about this. The market is not well set for folks doing what we do.
We weren’t able to save for a motor home. However, after a conversation with my brother-in-law, we realized we don’t want a big motor home. What would we do with it while house sitting? What we need is a pick-up truck we can put a small camper on, that’s it.
We are much more selective in choosing house sits now. For the most part, we only take those that are in places we want to visit. That’s not always so, but it’s an increasingly important criterion for us. I don’t always need to keep my nose in the house-sitting websites all day long since we are often booked far in advance. May it always be so!
Since we left Los Angeles, the only days we haven’t booked were travel days, amazingly enough! At least it’s amazing to us. Please stay tuned as we see what’s around the corner in year two.
What’s Next – our first time in Washington
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