Jill Chiappini shares with YEI readers her experiences when house- and pet-sitting in the UK, enabling her to have a holiday free of accommodation costs
Faced with the expense of one month’s accommodation near South East London for the birth of my first grandchild, I did some digging on the Internet and came across Trusted Housesitters. The organisation is based in England but operates in many different countries around the world. The accommodation offered ranges from a two-up-two-down terraced house to a country mansion to a glorious villa at the seaside.
Trusted Housesitters‘ yearly fee is around R1200 a year or R99 a month, which is a fraction of the cost of accommodation anywhere in the World. Once one has stipulated the area and rough dates, around 10-15 emails flood in per day with specifics on the assignments. The majority include caring for animals, mostly cats and dogs, but also sheep, horses and even fish! Apart from this fee, the stay in the offered accommodation costs nothing. The owners save on a paid house sitter and boarding dog or cat kennels, so it’s a win win situation.
One has to provide a police clearance certificate, the cost of which is minimal in South Africa, and as many references as possible. The owners of the houses in which we stayed were able to contact our referees, which was reassuring for them. Obviously previous experience of house sitting or caring for other people’s animals is an advantage, if not necessary.
Our particular dates and locality were specific, but we still managed to find suitable accommodation. Once we had found our perfect assignments we entered into personal correspondence through the Trusted Housesitters‘ site and eventually via email and FaceTime. This meant we were able to show our own home environment and our beloved Border Collie as well as their house and pets. It is imperative that this step is followed and is vital in securing the assignment and reassurance regarding the suitability of the accommodation. There is nothing like the personal touch! It also allows you to ‘vet’ their houses which is an advantage.
Our first house sit included two lovely Staffies, Phoebe and Floyd. The house in the Hampton Court area was a delight, having had a complete renovation and was scrupulously clean. It was extremely comfortable. Our older son and his wife, who were expecting their first child, live in Barnes and our other son is in Windsor, so the house was convenient to both.
Phoebe and Floyd’s owners were understandably nervous of leaving their beloveds in our care, so we met on the Saturday and Sunday to chat and walk the dogs together. They hadn’t left their animals with other people before and it was vital that we earned their trust. Sometimes one’s itinerary doesn’t allow for this, but it is recommended.
Despite only meeting the owners twice in the two days prior to our assignment, by the time we left we felt as though they were our personal friends. We kept in touch throughout their holiday on FaceTime and via email, reassuring them that Phoebe and Floyd were cared for in their absence.
I have to be honest and say these particular animals were a tie, as they had to stay inside during our absence. However, we had use of the owners’ hatchback which meant that we could take them to Richmond Park and into the country for pub lunches and walkies in Surrey’s glorious countryside. Our second assignment was less restrictive as Benji, an adorable Beagle, was able to go in and out of the house in our absence. As I said, some assignments either don’t include animals at all or include far easier animals, such as chickens or fish!
When one leaves the house, obviously one has to leave the accommodation clean and replace bed linen. It is worth asking for clean bed linen to be left out to replace that used whilst in the house, although one must wash towels, bed linen, etc. It’s a hectic last day, but thoroughly worthwhile.
All in all, we had a wonderful holiday, which included the birth of our gorgeous granddaughter and we would quite definitely go this route again. Trusted Housesitters saved us thousands of Rands.
Trusted Housesitters launched in 2010 and is a global pet loving community. We help thousands of owners find ideal sitters to care and love for their home and pets, for free, in exchange for a free retreat.