Housesitting and pet-sitting are rapidly becoming very popular among Retired professionals looking for ways to enjoy retirement, discover active holidays and new locations by living in housesits within a community. Bob and Shirley Hesner are Retired professionals who have traveled for much of their professional careers moving every few years. Latterly they ran their own businesses online and after caring for a friend’s home decided they would travel as housesitters seeking new locations and new adventures from the comfort of a housesit, caring for pets, homes and gardens as they go. In this blog, they tell us about a HouseSitMatch housesit in Spain that they really enjoyed, a cat sit in Palomares in Spain.
Retired professionals fit easily into housesitting
House and pet sitting is a natural fit for us as retired professional, it is the next progression in our ever-changing lifestyle. We moved from city to city while working for a large US-based company when we were first married and then to the world of being self-employed, each owning a small business. And, yes, throughout that time we always had a dog, mostly Husky’s and always a rescue. We started by taking care of a town home for a friend after he moved to warmer weather and our home sold more quickly than we thought it would. You know, there is no such thing as coincidence. When he would return to the area for ski season, we would take off for the winter to countries that were always Summer. Then we would return when he was ready to go back to the sun. Before we realized it, we were housesitting.
As Retired professionals our instincts are to research an idea, stress test and discuss our approach and then plan carefully documenting as we go. We did the research to learn about the details, prepared a website and signed-on with some online house sitting services, and HouseSitMatch was one. We applied for various positions starting in the UK and after being accepted for that first international house and pet-sit, the rest as they say is history.
A big part of house and pet sitting is research and we are always on the computer looking for that next place. We found it while we were finishing our last house sit in Australia. It was a request to care for four cats in Palomares, Spain. We sent out a letter of application or introduction to the perspective homeowner and started a dialogue.
We spent time investigating the area and patiently waited to hear from the homeowner. Before we knew it, we agreed to a Skype video call to meet them and they could meet us, also. By the end of that call, having answered all of their questions and receiving answers to our own, we accepted their offer to stay and to care for Jimenez, Meffy, Juliet and Gabriella.
We loved housesitting in Almeria, Spain
Palomares is a lovely, small town very near the Mediterranean Sea, in fact the whole coast is delightful with many towns such as Aguilas that we visited and enjoyed during our stay. It is a two-hour drive from Alicante, just two hundred fifteen kilometers to the south. We always try to arrive a few days early, so we can learn about the pets we would care for, the house where we would be living and the surrounding area. While we were working time was always so precious we seldom had time to ease into a project or a posting. Now as retired professionals we take time to familiarise ourselves with the task in hand before starting. It is a great luxury and we enjoy our projects more that way.
Preparing by having detailed conversations and making preparatory arrangements are very important to a successful house and pet sit. Our homeowners, Joan and Brian, were very nice and friendly as they showed us around the area, took us out for lunch and allowed us the use of their vehicle while they traveled.
They drove us around to see many of the towns close to Palomares: Vera, Garrucha, Mojacar and its beach community, to name a few. We were invited to meet them and their friends for a coffee in the square. These people became our local contact, should we need one. The Square is the center of the town and surrounded by three cafes.
This is the place to meet friends, conduct business or just relax and people watch, it’s a great habit we now enjoy as retired professionals. A coffee or a café con leche here is just one euro. Before we knew it we were on our own, making sure the cats were fed, and had everything they needed. Everything is just a short walk around this lovely town: the bakery, the grocery store and many cafes, pubs and restaurants. We dined at a local restaurant, La Dulce Casa, on market day, Wednesday. They offer tapas for one euro a plate on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Housesitting allowed us to spend time to discover a region
We were able to drive to see different cities within an hour of Palomares and visited Cartegena, Almeria and Aguilas. We liked Aguilas the best, as it was right on the sea, protected by a cove and just the right size. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right across from the boardwalk. The menu of the day was three courses plus bread and beverage for just eight euros. We were in time to order Paella for our entrées, and were able to sit in the sun, enjoy a wonderful meal and a beautiful view.
There is a market every day of the week in some town or village in this region of Spain. They are listed in the tourist guide for Almeria. Wednesday is in Palomares and on Sunday there is a much larger one in Villaricos, just two and a half kilometers away. Villaricos is a little larger and a little busier than Palomares, probably because it is so close to the sea. We would walk there each Sunday to see what they had to offer. They sell everything from fruit and vegetables, loose-leaf teas, to bread and sweets. Then there are the clothes, shoes, house-goods, fabric, plants and flower kiosks to wander through. At every corner and curve, we found something else we liked about this region in Spain. It never stopped surprising us with its wonderful weather, beautiful views, and warm friendly people. We have already agreed to house sit and care for those ‘carefree cats’ again next year!
Preparations make housesitting arrangements work
We will soon be returning to the States after traveling for over one year, house and pet sitting as we go, seeing many places in the world we had only imagined we might visit. We owe our success to our diligence in making sure all the details were attended to before we arrived at a house sit, and then reviewing one more time together with the homeowner before they went on holiday. As Retired professionals we have a lifetime’s experience of formalising our work arrangements, agreements, communications, and taking responsibility to say nothing of home and pet care. We send checklists like the ones provided in HouseSitMatch’s members only pages via email for the homeowner to review. Whether you are Retired professionals interested in interesting and active travel or fancy trying housesitting for other reasons, HouseSitMatch offer some useful documents such as:
- Easy Guide to Housesitting – 55 pages of tips and advice
- Easy Sit Guidelines and Checklist – key information you need to share as homeowner and housesitter
- Generic Housesitting agreements – legal template drawn up by lawyers for members’ use to itemise agreed mutual responsibilities
- UK Housesitting agreements – tailored to UK Law
- Australian Housesitting agreements – tailored to Australian Law
When considering a house sitting assignment it is essential the housesitter ask for a list of details that they should know about the house and especially, the pets before taking charge. In addition to the HouseSitMatch documents we also use:
- An authorization form for emergency veterinarian care should it be needed;
- An authorization form for vehicle use by the house sitter, if available,
- Most importantly the authorization form that proves we are the house sitters authorized to be in the home while the owners are away.
Once we arrive we review everything important with the homeowners to make sure, for example, we know which cats are allowed to roam and which ones should be contained behind the protective fencing of the property. Managing the details of each housesit has for us been our key to success.
Preparations help you in the ‘What if’ scenarios
Most of this article has been all about the positive, wonderful parts of house and pet sitting. If I did not mention the duties required in house and pet sitting, taking action to care for the home and pets when the ‘What if’ scenarios actually happen, it would be irresponsible. We have completed most of our house sits with nothing challenging happening, and that is the best news we can give the homeowner when they return.
However, occasionally situations happen and as a housesitter you can act to aide the pets and maintain the home. One time we woke up to find the hot water heater leaking and water running down the driveway. We tried to contact the homeowner although it turned out there is no Internet where they were in that exact part of their trip. In this one instance, we made preliminary decisions to fix the problem, once we were able to confirm what we could do and when we could reach the homeowner we explained what happened and what we planned to do. This was three days after the incident. We made the appointment to have the hot water heater replaced before the owners’ return.
Another time: We had to take the dog to the veterinarian because his paw was red and he wouldn’t stop trying to lick or heal it himself. Two hours later, we were home with antibiotics and cream to apply on his paw.
Finally, at another housesit in Italy our retired professionals experienced a freak summer thunderstorm and the roof started to leak water down the wall, over the painting, which by the way is the first thing we removed from the room. Then we were rushing to place every pot and pan from the kitchen and the towels from the bath to keep the water from spreading further in the house. Thank goodness the landlord lived next door and was experiencing the storm too. The next day he helped us to reseal the roof so we did not have to worry should another storm descend on us.
All of these events did happen in the ten and a half months we have just completed house and pet sitting. The truth is “good and sometimes challenging we would do it all again and plan to continue as house and pet sitting because we believe it is just right for us.”