In my last post I told you all about the benefits of house sitting, and now aren’t you convinced that it’s something you want to do?
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows! Just like anything, there are downsides to house sitting.
This is the second in a three-part series on house sitting, where I give you the complete low-down and tell you what’s good, what’s bad, and finally a full guide on how to make it work for you.
So now, the bad:
Doing this on your own can get lonely. If you’re the kind of person who can walk into a bar without knowing anyone and come out with 16 new friends, it won’t be a problem. But for us introverts, finding ourselves in a neighbourhood where we know nobody at all can be difficult, and there isn’t the constant stream of new people coming through the door like there is in a hostel.
This can be totally ok if you’re a bit of a loner like me, but my introversion also makes it extremely hard to go out and put the effort into meeting new people when I want to, knowing I will be gone in two months’ time. There were definitely times I ended up talking to myself or to the dog or even the chickens for lack of anyone else!
2. Responsibility for pets and plants and property
Of all the downsides to house sitting, this is probably the biggest. As nice as it is to have little buddies around, looking after pets is a huge responsibility, and they can be difficult. With some dogs I found our walks to actually be far more stressful than they should be. One pup loved to chase buses, and would take off down the road after them at any opportunity. He also would sometimes snap at other dogs, and on one of our walks attacked (and maybe killed?) some creature in the forest.
Another dog was scared of bikes but would chase rabbits endlessly if I let him off the leash (ok, that’s most dogs) and yet another dog chewed right through his leash in about 10 seconds flat and at any opportunity would make a break for the ocean, which was nice and close but across a very busy road. I can’t imagine having to tell a homeowner that something terrible had happened to their dog while it was in my care.
There are plants to water and keep alive, and no homeowner wants to return to find their entire garden dead because you either didn’t water enough or watered too much. At one house sit I was brought an orchid, told that it was her ‘baby’ and to please not let it die. Orchids are notoriously hard to take care of, so I was feeling the pressure there!
And of course you need to look after the house. Keeping it secure is key but also making sure nothing gets broken (I broke a couple of things on different occasions, and either replaced it automatically or at least offered to) and that the place is maintained in the same condition as when the homeowners left. This means if you’re going to eat on the couch, make very sure you don’t spill! And that dog that likes to sneak up onto the couch to sleep when he thinks you won’t catch him? If he makes a mess, it’s on you to clean it up.
And if anything should happen, or go wrong, you have to just take care of it. Aside from being a general cleaner, dog walker, and mail collector, at various times in my house sitting career I’ve also been a plumber, gas fitter, shepherd, chicken nurse, rabbit nurse, homestay host, cook, and chicken coop builder (well, fixer, anyway). I also had to go buy a new leash for the dog that chewed through his, and a toy for a dog that needed one. One homeowner had the roof re-done while I was there, which wasn’t a big deal but it was one more thing for me to think about.
The thing with a house sit is that once you’re there, you’re stuck. If you don’t like the place or the pets, or if something happens to make you want to leave, you can’t. In your normal travelling life, if you need to go home all of a sudden, you just go.
But you cannot just walk away from a pet that needs to be fed and walked every day, from plants that need to be watered or a lawn that needs mowing regularly. These people trusted you with their home and their lives and you gave your word that you would make sure it’s all the same when they get back.
4. Living in someone else’s space
Having to get used to someone else’s way of doing things, the layout of their house or kitchen, and the quirks of their stuff can be frustrating. If you don’t have much time before they leave you might get a lot of information very quickly, and if you’re like me, you can’t remember all of it. At one house sit the homeowner just briefly showed me how his very complicated TV worked, but I guess I didn’t really get it because I was never able to figure it out once he was gone!
Mostly this is ok, but when when you spend hours searching for that cheese grater that you KNOW they must have and can’t find it, it gets pretty annoying. And then later when you don’t need it anymore, you find the cheese grater in the most unlikely place, and you just think ‘WHY?’
5. Lots of duties
Sometimes there’s a lot of work to be done. Before the homeowners come back it’s important to make sure the house is as they left it, in terms of cleanliness and also anything you might have moved around to suit you better. If it’s a big house this can take quite a while!
The pets can also take up a lot of your time. One dog I looked after had so much energy that he required at least an hour’s walk twice a day, rain or shine. On some days this really seemed like a lot, and was also hard to plan around when I wanted to be out exploring the area.
One house sit had a massive yard and vegetable garden and they went away in the spring, when there was a ton to do. Just mowing the lawn took me 5 hours, and they had a long list of other things they wanted done. I did what I could, but I think it probably wasn’t as much as they’d hoped for. But then, for those homeowners, I’m not sure any amount would have actually been enough.
6. Some people
This leads me to my next point. At one house sit the homeowners were just not very considerate of me, and I felt a bit more like a servant than someone on equal ground who was there to help them out.
It was one thing after another, a long series of unpleasant surprises and inconveniences for me and unreasonable demands from them, which lasted right up until the moment I left.
Like I said, this only happened at one house sit out of five, and the others were all exceptionally wonderful people. It also did not change the fact that I had a lovely time there, mostly because the homeowners were not around! But it was definitely a learning experience on the questions to ask, red flags to look for, and the general nature of some people.
7. Having to leave
When you spend a length of time in one place, made friends and become settled in the house and active in the community, it suddenly gets very difficult to leave. This is a problem with travelling in general, but it sometimes seems amplified in a house sitting situation. And the absolute worst part seems to be leaving the doggie behind. It’s amazing how I get so attached so quickly! I was almost in tears as I drove out the driveway for the last time with Buster staring at me from behind the gate, knowing I would never see him again.
So there are my seven downsides to house sitting. Have I turned you off it completely? It’s not all bad, go back and read my post about the benefits and you’ll get all excited about it again! I’ve had a great time doing it, learned a lot and had some fantastic experiences.
In my next post I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty, the important stuff: a full guide on how to make house sitting work for you, as well as a chance to download a checklist of questions to ask on any house sit!
Have you had any negative house sitting experiences? Tell me about them in the comments!