Five Things To Know About House Sitting   3 comments

Much has been written about house stilling as a way to see the world.  There are books, articles and even websites, containing house sitting opportunities around the world.  Generally there is no pay for the house sitter(s) unless there are tasks other than house sitting that come with the assignment.  I once saw an assignment in the south of Portugal. They wanted someone who had service experience to care for their small inn and were willing to pay a small salary.  Most of the time what is required or expected of the house sitter comes in exchange for the ability to stay in a place without paying rent.

I, myself, am currently “house sitting” in the mountains on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

The house is in the mountains, just east of the town of Portalon, which lies between Quepos/Manuel Antonio and Dominical.  All three are fairly well-known for being havens for naturalist tourists,especially those that like to ride the almost constant surf that graces the Pacific shores of Costa Rica.

Nearby, there are beaches, jungles to hike, deep-sea fishing, horses to ride, rivers to raft, tree tops to traverse, wildlife to watch and endless gorgeous sunsets to see.

A paradise to live in, right?Absolutely!

Costa Rica is a hot destination place for people from all over the world.  There were 86 applicants for this house witting assignment.  There would probably have been more if the assignment was not for just over five months, August 1 until January 4. But I imagine that not many people can be gone from their lives for 5 months. Though I imagine more wish they could.  I am blessed to have sufficient income and time.  The work I do, readying my book, High School Is Not Enough, for publication can be done from anyplace.

This is my first house sitting assignment.  So, I was wide-eyed about coming here. Let me offer that the old adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch holds to be true for house sitting. Here are some things I’ve learned.

1)      There is a cost to house sitting.  And I am not just talking about the transportation to get there and back, which also is generally not paid by the people who own the house.  I am in the rain forest of Costa Rica.  The nearest store is almost two kilometers down the hill.  The nearest store with a variety of meats, fish and produce is about 25 kilometers away.  There are no buses that come up here.  I imagine taxis would come but it would be expensive and they would hate it.  You really need a 4X4 to get to the house from the main road.  I decided to bring a car (1999 Toyota RAV 4) from the United States.  The car cost me $5000.  The import tax/duty (Costa Rica is really ridiculous in what you have to pay) was just over $2000.  Shipping was $600.  And assorted registration, title and other fees were $500.  A total of $8100, without factoring in the cost of gasoline here in Costa Rica.  Now my case is a little extreme.  But seeing as though I am going to be here for over five months it was the most cost-effective option for me.  What I am offering is that transportation costs. Whether it is by bus, taxi, rental car or other means the house sitting assignment will be in another country.  Knowing what it will take, and how much it will cost, to get around should be a part of the consideration in where people apply.

2)      Get care and maintenance instructions in writing. The people for whom I am house sitting left me notes about the care and operation of their home.  I am very grateful for this.  Pool maintenance; the best time to wash clothes saving on electricity; what to do if the lights go out; which wildlife are not to be tolerated; when is trash and recycling pick-up; and more, means there is something to do every day to care for their home.  Having what needs to be done explained, explicitly, is a good thing.  I would suggest that everyone get it in writing.  It makes it so much easier.  For them to return and feel like their home has been well maintained starts with how clear they are about taking care of their property.

3)      Get an orientation.  I arrived here, to the house, at 4 p.m. on July 31.  They left on August 1.  In hindsight, I wish we had more time together.  Having an orientation is critical to successfully caring for someone else’s property. We did have time for a walk through, even practiced cleaning the pool.  Knowing where things are is really secondary to knowing what the owner really cares about regarding the care of their home.  And the way to really know that is to hear it and see their eyes when they talk about it.  This past week some “leaf cutter” ants got to the hibiscus hedge.  From our time together, I knew that this hedge was something they wanted to protect.  When I could not find the refill for the ant killing spray,  I called.  We worked it out and I took care of the ants.

4)      Get contact numbers. I am sure that every owner will tell a house sitter how to get in touch with them in care of emergency – or hedge eating ants.  What I really like that the owners did for me was to arrange that I meet neighbors, the security guards, and the owners of their development.  Those introductions told everyone that I am supposed to be here.  What they also left me were telephone numbers to the cable company, the utility company, their doctor, emergency medical services, and local police.  I hope that I will never need any of these services, but it is good to know where things are just in case.  Actually, I did make an appointment to meet the doctor.  I was getting over a sinus problem.  I also thought that introducing myself was not a bad idea.  It was not.  He gave me his cell number and made sure that I knew he was available should I need him. I liked that.  I also learned about a reliable car mechanic from one of the neighbors the owner introduced me to.  I hope I don’t need him either.

5)      Get them to show you where things are.  Generally, people want to have a certain lifestyle while they are house sitting.  Whether it is exploring restaurants, nightlife, hiking trails, beaches, museums or other activities most people travel to other countries to experience that part of the world.  I wanted to come to Costa Rica because I have traveled here a lot over the past six years.  Though most of them live in San Jose, about 3 hours away, I have friends here.  What I did not know was this part of Costa Rica.  The owners took me around, showing me other communities, the grocery story, the farmers market, the cable company office, restaurants, beaches, and more.  Having a tour was nice.  Its better when someone who knows shows and gives you the background info.

Again, my assignment is a bit unique.  It allows me to be in a great house in a country I love.  And as I consider living in Costa Rica, this works really well for me.

Aside from all of the positive things about house sitting this is a responsibility.  It is a job, a job that is paid for by barter.  One exchanges their attention and labor for the opportunity to live rent free.  Take it seriously, and enjoy.

PS. This house is FOR SALE…….

Posted September 2, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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3 responses to “Five Things To Know About House Sitting

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  1. Hey Wayne,
    Loved this edition of your blog especially the beautiful photos of the house and your surroundings. We’ve been playing phone tag for a couple of weeks. The last time you called I was at a Steeler home game, my first time in Heinz Stadium. Well, I will try to call soon … also volunteering for Obama registering voters and passing out info concerning PA Voter ID. GOP is trying to steal election from our president. Anyway, enjoy and I hope to join you there either in Nov. or Dec. Would love to come for the lights festival. Talk soon.

    Love ya, KP

  2. Hi Wayne,

    I am interested in house sitting in Costa Rica but am having trouble finding listings. Are there any house sitting listing sites that you recommend?


    • I used the Trusted House sitter website. There is an annual membership fee. Their site makes connections between people who need sitters and people looking for assignments. There is no guarantees that they have opportunities in the places you may want to sit. You may also want to try real estate agencies and property managers. They can have leads.

      Good luck

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