Housesitting 101: Save on housing costs
Guest post by Jane from Live Rich & Free
Last year, I was stuck. I’d been accepted to the masters of education program at Harvard, but I wasn’t looking forward to more loans. I planned to work part-time while in school, but I wanted to cut my expenses as much as possible.
I realized that my biggest expense would be rent. I knew that rent was cheaper outside of the city, but commuting would eat up precious hours each day and parking alone might offset the savings. And then I thought, “what if there were some way I could cut that expense entirely?”
So I got searching on the internet, and found that there are a number of sites for housesitters. Housesitters are people who live in another’s home for any period of time from one weekend to years, and take care of it as if it were their own.
Usually, housesitters aren’t paid, unless there are pets involved. They often pay utilities and perform upkeep chores like raking leaves and shoveling snow. Just like they would in their own home.
I signed up for two sites (they tend to cost around $50/year) and found that a housesit was available in my area, starting immediately and ending on the day of graduation! I emailed the couple who owned the house, and moved in a week later.
It wasn’t all magical. The utilities were a little higher than I expected. The basement flooded six times during the rainy spring. That would be the finished basement, with white wall-to-wall carpeting. The dishwasher broke. In other words, it was just like having your own home.
But in the end, it was definitely worth it. I had a great place to live for six months, a comfortable house that came to feel like home. Since then, I’ve successfully used my housesitting membership for a free two-week stay in downtown Manhattan and a weekend away at the beach.
Is housesitting for you? Some things to consider:
- Remember that nothing is free. Taking care of a house is a lot of work. For a long-term stay, you should ask the homeowner for some past utility bills so you can have a good understanding of your budget before you decide.
- I believe most people are good, but it doesn’t hurt to have an agreement in writing, if only because it makes both of your expectations clear. My favorite site, HouseCarers.com, has a template agreement that customers can download for free.
- You’ll have an easier time finding a housesit if you have references or ties to the community. Being from the Boston area and having experience as a live-in nanny helped me secure my position.
- Many of the positions available are for a week or weekend, all over the world. This can be a very affordable and family-friendly way to see new places and try the house sitting lifestyle.
Jane is a teacher and tutor in Boston. Her blog about her frugal lifestyle, Live Rich & Free, can be found at Live Rich & Free.
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