A House Sitters Nightmare And How To See It Coming

A House Sitters Nightmare And How To See It Coming

 

Not all house sits are created equal… Here’s our house sitters nightmare.

 
Becks and I feel it’s important to show the whole experience of our travel adventures and in this particular case, of housesitting. In all the previous blogs documenting our Ultimate British Road Trip we’ve talked about the huge benefits and joys we’ve received through house sitting so it wouldn’t be right to hide this house sitters nightmare behind a wall of smiling selfies. This is, by far, the worst of all our house sits but it’s a reality check for us and hopefully we can learn from it together. Where did we make a mistake in choosing this house sit? Further down we unpack how we found ourselves in this mess (quite literally) and also share some pointers so this doesn’t happen to you.
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(Please note that to protect the rights of the home owner we shall not use names or images of their house/dog.)
It started with a phone call minutes before we were due to arrive.
“Prue would you mind coming in 40 minutes?”
This wasn’t a big deal at the time but in hindsight it made sense.
After making ourselves scarce for an hour we return to the unit block and park. We message the owner to let her know we have arrived and to pass on the units number so we can come in.
For 15 minutes we hear nothing until a frantic red-faced lady followed by her energetic golden retriever beckon us in.
“Yes it’s here” she professes. “And no you are not lost.”
Taken aback by her bluntness we entered the ground level unit.
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 It felt as though we’d walked into an old chip shop, first came the smell of stale oil.

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The next fifteen minutes were a whirlwind of spitfire paced information sharing and just like that she was gone.
Considering we have never met this women or her dog, this was the fastest handover in history.
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It didn’t take long to get our bearings in the small apartment. Immediately we noticed that the surfaces, in fact ALL of the surfaces; Dining room table, kitchen bench tops, light switches and so on were smeared with white fat. Some of it was soft smears, some of it was solid lumps. Finally, when we opened our bathroom door we were greeted with the remnants of builders long gone, dust and mould lay thick at the bottom of the shower, and scum coated the sink, toilet and taps.
A House Sitters Nightmare And How To See It Coming
(Image not related to this story)
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The more we looked, the worse it got. Our hearts sank and we became more and more dispirited. The washing machine and dishwasher were obviously out of use, they were now storage closets for boxes and random gadgets. The cutlery draws were in a bed of mould. The fridge, bare apart from two greasy bottles of mayo and tomato sauce, was the same and it goes on. An overused toaster overflowing with crumbs and the microwave… oh hell. Gloopy stains had formed on most of the cupboards, obviously something sticky had been left to solidify.
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Our lab, who is just older than a puppy, excitedly watches us as we look around her small home in dismay. Sadly she has no garden or a spare room to move and so she eats/sleeps/lives in the 3m/3m living room. The carpet was stained and within minutes clumps of hair had begun to cling to our socks.
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It was a house sitters nightmare and we faced one dilemma… do we walk away? 

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Maybe we should have but in the end there was an innocent dog to look after so we decided to stay. But we couldn’t make this place habitable until we put on some gloves and started cleaning. For three hours Prue and myself scrubbed every surface of the tiny flat, scraping the fat from outside and inside the microwave, disinfecting every door handle and tabletop and eventually, scrubbing the shower and toilet with bleach and taking a vacuum to the carpet. The only thing left in sight was the stalactites of crumbs hanging from the range hood above the cooker.
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You can probably imagine our mood by the time we finished, at around 9pm. We headed straight out for some commiseration burritos.
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Hindsight is a beast, but we have learnt a lot from this house sit saga.

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Here’s what we missed. Clues that we were walking into a house sitters nightmare.

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1. No interview

For all of our previous house sits we have been asked over for a cup of tea and a chat – how very British. In the past we have been annoyed at the effort we need to put in just to be ‘approved’ even though our references are fantastic. However we weren’t aware how much they benefited us too. By the owner requesting an interview and inviting you into their home before-hand they are proud (or at least happy) to have their home inspected by you. From this interview you not only have the ability to put the owners mind at rest about your personality, but you can check out if the sit fits your standards too.
This home owner did not request an interview.
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Now I understand a face-to-face interview isn’t always possible due to distances or transport but I’ve seen on forums that the way around this is via Skype or FB video messenger. Whist the owner is interviewing you, it’s wise to gently ask for a walk through tour.
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2. Changing her tune

Although we didn’t meet face to face before hand, we did have 3 phone conversations. The first conversation was in the selection phase and we heard nothing but praise for the dog, the apartment and the area. She explain that her dog is extremely well behaved and well trained, so much so that it accompanies her to work. She also explained that her apartment is newly renovated and we would get to enjoy all the new furnishings. The day before we arrived the call was very different. Her dog is now going though a ‘puppy’ patch and will need to be kept on the lead, and we learn that her washing machine is suddenly not working. She seemed to be back peddling on the ideals she had previously delivered.
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3. No reviews and cheaper platform

HouseCarers was the first house sitting platform we signed up to because it was loads cheaper however there isn’t a review system. Unlike other sites, previous sitters cannot leave a review on the house to let others know the highlight and pitfalls. So when we signed up to this sit we had no real idea what we were getting ourselves into.
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For more information on the differences between House Carers and Trusted Housesitters you can read up in our post ‘Our Favourite Travel Tools of 2017‘.
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4. No welcome package 

House sitting websites encourage owners to fill out a welcome booklet which is ultimately becomes the pet sitters bible. It asks detailed questions about the animals behaviour plus general aspects of the way the house works e.g. bin collection dates. An organised house sitter should have this to you long before you arrive or ready for you not he day. This home owner never filled hers in.
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A House Sitters Nightmare And How To See It Coming
(Image no related to the house in discussion)
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An owners profile, like yours, needs to be appealing. More often than not when reading through a home owners profile it’s not about what they say, it’s about what they don’t say and if we want to be prepared it’s our job to fill in the blanks.
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What we didn’t know before we house sat:

– there was no garden
– the local beach (the reason we wanted to come here) doesn’t allow dogs on it
– that her dog cannot be left alone because she whines and annoys the neighbours
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In the beginning of our housesitting escapades it was exciting  just to be accepted. It is FREE ACCOMMODATION after all! But pretty quickly we realised how valuable we are as house sitters and need to remember that we are not only saving these owners loads of money but we are providing top notch one-on-one around the clock care for their animals that a kennel could never provide. We have a right to enjoy this experience. So don’t hestiate to interview them whilst they are interviewing you.
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Questions you should ask before accepting your house sit:

1. Does the dog have a a garden to enjoy during the day?
2. What type of dog do you have? (This might sound silly but some owners do not declare their breed of dog meaning you don’t know if it’s a moulting dog or not, big or small and therefore don’t know what you’re walking in to)
3. What does my day look like with your dog/cat? Eg. walk schedule, dinner schedule, etc
4. If we want to go for a little adventure during the day is the dog able to come in the car? Is the dog ok in the car?
5. If we want to go out, is the dog able to be left alone? If so for how long?
6. Does the dog/cat sleep in your room? If yes, would they whinge if they didn’t?
7. Do you have family that will be popping around? Or cleaners or any other workers?
8. If the dog gets dirty from a walk what do you do? (This may seem a weird question but we’ve had people say to just let the muddy dogs into their house)
9. Do the dogs have access to all areas of the house including the couches?
10. What times are you leaving, arriving? (While it’s a good idea to have a crossover, spending a long time with home owners can become uncomfortable so this is always good to know)
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oh and one last thing… From experience there is a correlation between detailed profile pages, early welcome booklets sent and a clean home. In other words, an organised home owner is usually much cleaner.
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Written by

Prue Sinclair is a twenty-eight year old Aussie who for the past seven years has been exploring the furthermost reaches of the World. Living anywhere but her homeland, she now resides somewhere in the UK where she writes about the adventures of her Ultimate British Road Trip. Her message is simple: You can get anywhere on any budget, you just need to think outside the box. You can trust she’s finding her way to somewhere lesser-known and writing a ‘How To’ guide.

2 Comments
  • Inge says:

    Great share! This is a very interesting post! We plan on housesitting in the near future and we hope to never encounter a house like this one. I can imagine the horror! It seems like you’ve been housesitting a lot. I hope that most of these sits were more enjoyable 🙂

    • Hey Inge,

      overall we have loved housesitting, I’m sure you will too. It’s a fantastic way to meet people, get free accommodation and have the company of animals. This was a solitary example amongst the numerous house sits we’ve done.

      Let us know how you get on 🙂

      Kindest regards,

      Becks

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.