For nearly a decade, Lamia Walker has been matching vetted house sitters with pet owners — priding herself in top-notch, hands-on customer service while running her boutique company, HouseSitMatch.
HouseSitMatch’s Lamia Walker Reveals 15 fun things about herself — Including her guilty pleasure as a house sitter
Where did your love of pets come from?
As a young child, I was given a kitten and then a puppy. Neighbours heard that I was a pet lover and I was asked repeatedly to care for guinea pigs and rabbits and cats while the neighbours were on holiday – the rest, as they say, is history!
How did you fall into house sitting?
At the age of 16, a friend and I were asked to care for a dog, “Tosh,” for a couple of weeks, while the American family holidayed in Europe. I guess that was my first formal house sit. Blast forward 30 odd years and a friend from Australia came to stay for a month. She had stories of how she’d saved a year’s rent in central Perth by dog sitting for a professional couple who were working overseas.
Starting a house sitting business
After a good brainstorm over a curry one night, we decided to start a house sitting business together. I persuaded her that online was the way to go and I thought of the name HouseSitMatch. She returned home to Australia to do other things but I caught the bug and the business was born.
What’s your ideal house sitting experience?
I have enjoyed every house sit I’ve been lucky enough to do, so it is really hard to choose. However, I have particular memories of a HouseSitMatch assignment in Ile de France for a British Expat caring for her 4 dogs, 10 hens and a cockerel.
The owner, Susan, was so delightful. She returned a couple of nights early and we toured the countryside together. She took me on her favourite dog walks, drove me to the Chateau de Fontainebleau and shared lots of other fascinating places within easy driving distance. The dogs were extremely well trained – all rescues.
One in particular, Perle, stole my heart. She was incredibly timid, the most recently rescued. By the second visit the following year, we were great pals.
Do you usually house sit alone? Or with your hubby? Kids?
I have been fortunate to house sit alone, which is great for a change of scene and getting lots of work done without all the distractions and hot buttons of household chores at home. I have also house sat just with David, my hub, and our whole family house sat together in Cornwall for a couple of years which was terrific fun. We all fell in love with Puffing the Collie-cross dog, who was constantly trying to teach us tricks!
What are some routine things you do when you first arrive at a house sit?
I have a routine on arrival at the HouseSitMatch house sit.
Meet and greet
First, I greet the owners and, of course, meet the pets. Getting to know them really helps put us all at ease.
Study the brief
Then I read or study the brief if I have not seen it before. On HouseSitMatch, we have a template you can fill out called the “Easy Sit Guidelines.” I need to know what the pet and house requirements and routines are and how it all works.
Talk to the homeowner
Ideally, the homeowner is there to greet me and explain anything I don’t understand.
But that doesn’t always happen. I recently did a housesit in Lymington Hampshire, UK, and the owner had to leave to catch her plane before I could arrive. But she had everything laid out for me. The dog was happy and well-behaved and the whole house sit went very smoothly.
What’s the #1 tip you’d offer a new house sitter?
Talk to the owner before you arrive
#1 Spend time speaking to the owner before you arrive. Get to know as much as you can about their pets and home and what the owner expects of you before you arrive. If you can, go for a dog walk together so you get used to each other.
As any experienced HouseSitMatch housesitter knows, this is especially important if you have multiple dogs to care for. They can be handful.
Research the location ahead of your trip
The number #2 tip is research the area so you can prioritise any site-seeing you want to do while you are there. The owner will no doubt be able to help you with this. It really gives you the inside track on what to see while you are house sitting!
What’s the #1 tip you’d offer a pet owner engaging a sitter for the first time?
I also advise HouseSitMatch homeowners to invest time in talking with the sitter/s before they arrive. Get to know them so you can prepare mentally and emotionally for this person as your guest. Help them and they will help you. House sitting is a collaborative arrangement, an exchange of services if you like. We do it for free and most of us are delighted to do it and make new friends wherever we go!
What’s your “little secret pleasure” when you are house sitting?
My guilty little pleasure or le Péché Mignon as the French have it, is being a tourist somewhere new. I don’t have a lot of spare time these days so taking time out to house sit and be a tourist feels SO self-indulgent!
It doesn’t matter where I am, I simply adore learning about new places …
Getting lost in France
Getting lost near a house sit in France and learning that the poorly signed castle ruin in the town was once a fortress for the Knights Templar. Or dog walking during a sit and discovering a manor house in a tiny village that belonged to Lord Byron’s family. That’s what I love about house sitting with HouseSitMatch.
For me, these are all unexpected delights and absolute pleasures!
What’s the best thing about running HouseSitMatch?
I love meeting new people and the members on our platform are all delightful, collaborative people that I enjoy spending time with. They have great stories of places they have visited, and pets they’ve cared for.
I love meeting our members
HouseSitMatch members know that I always tell our members, let’s connect. And if they are house sitting near where I happen to be, let’s meet up and have lunch. I have made so many friends while running the platform. I count myself very lucky indeed. David and I have met house sitters in Wales, Scotland, France, Spain and even in Australia!
What’s the most challenging thing about running your own business?
Getting through the Brexit expat repatriation, closely followed by 3 years of COVID travel restrictions, proved very hard. We lost half our membership. We are a small boutique house sitting platform, we are not funded by venture capitalists – so the revenues we make through membership fees are what drive the business.
Pivoting the business to rise above in tough times
We had to pivot and introduce advertising on our blog, which hopefully members feel is appropriate and discrete. Now, we are running a 2-month campaign offering FREE 12-month Standard Memberships to HouseSitMatch. I think it’ll make us stronger!
Do you have a favorite house sit you return to? Tell us about it, please!
Sadly, our HouseSitMatch homeowner in Southern France has moved. However, we would dearly love to return to Nîmes in the Pays D’Oc to house sit, to visit and see the area from a local’s perspective. It’s such a great historic city with a real Roman flavour. I spent time in the city as a student so it holds wonderful memories for me.
I’d love to return to visit the Maison Carrée, The Roman Amphitheatre and the Pont Du Gard. These are all remarkable structures from antiquity, that have lasted for centuries and some are still used today. You have to see it to believe it.
Sun baked city
What’s more, the whole city has fantastic atmosphere of a Southern Mediterranean city baked in the sun, high on culture and local produce. I love it!
What’s been your most unusual experience while house sitting for HouseSitMatch?
When I was house sitting in Paris with my daughter, I was mistaken for someone else. Now while I can get by speaking in French I don’t speak couramment (fluently)!
But this lady stopped me in the street thinking I was a friend. And she just talked and talked and talked. She wouldn’t give me a chance to explain that I wasn’t the person she thought.
And she went on…
She told me about her latest family saga, her sister’s holiday to Guadeloupe, her mother’s operation… it went on for about 15 minutes before she drew breath! In the end, I had to start walking away and apologizing in my less than fluent French and very strong British accent that she was mistaken. It was a most peculiar experience.
There must be another Lamia look alike somewhere in Paris!
Who have you met while house sitting who turned into an unexpected bestie?
I don’t know if I have ever met an unexpected bestie. However, I did an early HouseSitMatch house sit for wonderful homeowners (Peter and Liz) a few years ago to care for their dog (Nukka) and cat (Tattie). They have since become really good friends – as have 5 of their neighbours.
Charming village in Buckinghamshire
In the village of Lee Common, we now have a lovely selection of gorgeous house sits on HouseSitMatch. It really is a charming community, with a cooperative shop that they all help run. It is quite a unique place with some delightful people who are very well practiced at looking out for each other. It’s what you’d call “old world charm,” and I’m lucky to have met them.
As a thank you, Peter, who used to work for the BBC, scripted and produced a corporate video for HouseSitMatch. I was thrilled and incredibly grateful. In the video, they both tell the story of a 5-week house sit we helped them with. He summarised their story so clearly and invitingly. What skill and what a gesture! Watch the video and see what you think.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I was born in Sudan, Africa. We arrived in the UK in 1970 as refugees from the latest revolution by a military junta in Khartoum, Sudan. We were fortunate that my father was able to get work in the UK and we followed once he was settled in London. I cannot be objective to the plight of homeless refugees from war-torn countries around the world. I was lucky, extraordinarily lucky.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank everyone who has enjoyed being on HouseSitMatch. And especially to those who supported us through recent challenging times. We are excited about our future as more people start travelling again and house sitting grows in popularity as never before!
To register as a House sitter follow this link
To register as a Homeowner follow this link
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