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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

House-sitting is a-changing
Saturday, December 3, 2022 @ 7:31 AM

House-sitting has been around a long time. The concept of having someone stay in your home to look after the house and the pets when you go away on holiday, is a great thing. For years it was done informally on a quid pro quo basis. Then companies sprang up and began to charge home-owners. This provided a guarantee as sitters were vetted and insurance came into the frame.

For the sitters, it was a great way to get a free or cheap holiday, maybe abroad.


History of house-sitting

Angela, 75, and her husband Richard signed up to an agency 12 years ago. They were semi-retired and back-to-back pet-sitting offered an otherwise unattainable lifestyle.

“It allowed us to travel more and do more than we ever thought possible on a limited income,” says Angela. Their housesitting has seen them crisscross the globe: Scotland, France, Australia, America, Italy, Canada and the Caribbean.

Here in Andalucia, Spain, where we live , there is a lot of it going on.

Friends of ours, Hazel and Peter from Derbyshire, do it regularly in the Serrania de Ronda, in order to get a free – or very cheap – holiday. No money changes hands – it’s a classic barter situation. Now that they are retired, they do it even more frequently, sometimes more than once in the same houses. As a result, they are here so often that they have become part of our wide circle of friends.

Other friends and near neighbours, Nick and Julia, use the same married couple whenever they go away. They are currently in Indonesia and Malaysia for six weeks and their sitters are delighted to be staying in a large finca with a pool and sauna, slap bang in the middle of open countryside near Ronda for a six-week winter break.

Another couple of friends, hoteliers Iain and Elaine, have closed their hotel for the winter and are taking an extended holiday in India. They have a Spanish couple living in to take care of their pets and keep an eye on the hotel.

Another friend, Michael, has turned house and pet-sitting into a part-time job. He charges by the day and people are happy to pay him for his services. He gets lots of repeat business from his clients who live mainly in posh villas on the Costa del Sol.

Twenty years ago, I was living in North Wales with my then girlfriend, Maude. Whenever we went away, she would hire a couple via an agency to look after the remote cottage where we lived, her two dogs and to keep the garden in check. From what I remember, it wasn’t cheap. As I recall it was the agency that made the money, the sitters received a pittance. After the first time we suggested to the sitters that we do a private deal and cut out the agency. But they didn’t want to. Insurance, I think.

I kind of had house-sitters for six weeks in February and March of this year. A German family, Ollie and Lily and their four children stayed free-of-charge in my house in Montejaque (Málaga) in exchange for Ollie’s carpentry skills. He did some super jobs in my house, such as fitting wooden banisters, building a shelving unit, hanging doors and fitting wooden handrails on the stairs to the roof terrace.  In our other houses he fitted sliding drawers to the Spanish kitchen “cupboards” (you, know, the ones made of bricks and concrete with just the one shelf in each, where nothing is easily accessible).


A new phenomenon

Since the pandemic a new form of house-sitting has started up. According to The Guardian a new phenomenon is emerging, especially in the UK, that of people using house-sitting as a means of keeping a roof over their heads in these stringent economic times, where mortgage repayments and rents are on the increase.

Confronted with an unstable housing market, inflation at a 40-year high and soaring food and energy costs, increasing numbers of people of all ages and walks of life are turning to house-sitting to keep a roof over their heads.

After all, who wouldn’t want to live rent-free in a nice warm home in return for looking after the owner’s pets and keeping burglars away?


Megan and Sean, both 27, are full-time house-sitters. Seven months ago, the couple decided to quit London’s rental market and go on the road. Their belongings in bags, they have moved from house to house across the UK. In doing so they have managed to dodge the cost-of-living crisis and the rent or mortgage hikes that are ravaging many people’s lives and savings in the UK. They plan to continue living like this for at least another year.

Nick Fuad, of House Sitters UK says, “More and more people are struggling to find a place they can afford to live in, so housesitting is definitely a desirable alternative.”

The number of house-sitters on his site is double what it was before the pandemic. TrustedHousesitters, another house-sitting platform, reports a 275% increase in UK growth since 2021.

With no rent or utility bills, Megan, a PR and marketing manager, is now able to put a significant portion of her salary into savings, while Sean has been able to set up his own business.

As sitters, their overheads are small compared to what they were previously forking out.

Corinne and her partner Jack, both 30, began full-time house-sitting earlier this year. Over the past six months, they have notched up 11 house-sits, staying in a tiny cottage in south Wales, a flat in Notting Hill in west London, a Tudor house in Bath and a residential compound in Spain.

“The only way to live together and save money at the same time is essentially to make yourself homeless and live in other people’s houses,” says Corinne. “Even before the cost-of-living crisis, the numbers were creeping up. This was our chance to get off that treadmill of renting, working, buying.”

The pandemic has brought more owners to the market, too. On House Sitters UK, homeowner memberships are up 400%. This year, 5,000 new sits were posted on the TrustedHousesitters site each day. The surge has been fuelled partly by people itching to travel post-pandemic, and partly because of the mass puppy purchases that swept the UK during lockdown: pet owners looking for holiday cover now account for 85% of members on HouseSit Match.


‘I’m a homeless guy looking after a palace!’

David, 55, turned to house-sitting after his divorce. With nowhere to live, it offered a lifeline while he sorted out his finances. He says it has been transformational, partly because of the kindness of strangers, now friends, he has met along the way.

“I’m technically a homeless guy looking after a palace,” he says.

For those who have been catapulted into house-sitting because of strained finances, it is the community and friendships that inspire them to continue.

Alejandro, 34, felt isolated living with relatives in a small village in Derbyshire. Unable to afford city rents, he began to search online for free accommodation, exchanges, or sofa-surfing opportunities. Then he discovered house-sitting.

For the past month, he has been pet-sitting in London. He will continue until he can find work and get on his feet. “This has been the most incredible thing for me,” he says. “As a gay man, being in this diverse city, it really is life-changing. House-sitting opened doors for me.”


A win-win situation

So, house-sitting, whether you do it to get cheap holidays in lovely houses in beautiful places or as an alternative to squatting, seems to be a win-win.

I look forward to getting feedback on how house-sitting worked for them, as home-owners, from Nick and Julia, and Iain and Elaine, when they return from their extended holidays in Asia and the Far East.

And I hear that Hazel and Peter are heading back to Andalucía soon to sit.

As for whether we do it is another matter – my wife isn’t keen to have anyone in our home.

House-swapping, maybe? It worked for Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in the film “The Holiday” (2006). I wonder…..


With acknowledgements to The Guardian (UK)


© Pablo de Ronda


Tags: Andalucía, barter, Cameron Diaz, cost-of-living, crisis, Guardian, home-owner, house-sitter, house-sitting, Kate Winslet, Montejaque, pandemic, pet-sitting, Ronda, The Holiday, win-win

Like 3


pegeen said:
Saturday, December 10, 2022 @ 10:34 AM

I initially rented a place in Spain and got to know people through a Spanish class that I attended. I met someone who wanted to visit their son in Australia for a couple of months and needed a sitter for their 7 rescue dogs, 4 cats and chickens house with a pool in el Chorro. It was a wonderful experience. There was a good local vet to call on when needed and a neighbour to help water the vegetables Subsequently I built up a reputation and house/pet sat for others until buying my own place. No money was exchanged. I would recommend this to anyone who is happy to take responsibility of looking after someone else's house and pets because it can be quite big.

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