Backup plans for full time house sitters during Covid-19 Pandemic
Is house sitting changing for full time house sitters?
As full time house sitters approach the winter months in the northern hemisphere, there are those among us who are perhaps a little nervous of what the future holds for our travel and house sitting communities.
Many of us spent the spring months in lockdown, emerging cautiously in July to tip-toe back to the world of house sitting - mostly domestic sits and always within local government guidelines.
Staycations became all the rage, and the prices of campervans and motorhomes sky-rocketed. The more adventurous holiday makers threw caution to the wind. They flew off to experience summer as normally as possible, throughout Europe, in countries keen to give their failing tourist businesses a much needed boost.
Other house sitters found themselves permanently stationed in countries away from home, competing for the few sits that popped up from second home owners, intrepid travellers, and homeowners who themselves hadn’t made it back to their permanent homes.
So to some it may have looked like house sitting had returned to a more normal state.
But is that really the case?
We don't think so, no.
Our active Facebook Support Group says otherwise. And that’s primarily because travel hasn’t returned to normal. As winter descends across Europe, so the cases of Covid are increasing again, and the number of house sits is diminishing. This is already the second update of this post, because once again much of Europe is returning to some kind of lockdown.
House sitters worldwide are reporting cancellations, revised dates, and a lack of opportunities. Where there are opportunities, the competition is extreme. These are anxious times and there is an urgent need to become more flexible, extra resilient and super adaptable in the face of a new round of travel restrictions.
And it’s no wonder, because the travellers we offer our services to are in just as much chaos. They too are experiencing local or national lockdowns, curfews, alterations to flights, cancellations and changes to quarantine regulations.
Nothing has any certainty anymore and this is important to understand if you are thinking of house sitting during the coming year.
Whether you are new to house sitting or a seasoned pro sitter or home owner, the chances are you will be affected in some way by the Covid pandemic as it continues to wreak havoc around the world.
Should we be house sitting through Covid 19?
With so much uncertainty, and an increasing number of cases of Covid 19 in Europe and the Americas (two very popular house sitting destinations), the question has to be asked... "Should house sitters continue to travel and take house sits through countries affected by the pandemic?"
We think the answer very much depends on your personal approach and the country concerned. Safety is of course foremost on people's minds - the safety of travel just as much as safety on the house sit itself. Read our latest article about the safety measures you can use to make a house sit handover safe.
It's our strong belief that domestic or local house sits are the safest way to continue house sitting at the moment. But as lockdowns return and travel restrictions return, even that may become more and more difficult. There are some exceptions but even in countries like New Zealand and Australia, domestic travel is much less than before. Confidence to travel safely is at an all time low.
But it's also important to remember that not all home owners are traveling for the sheer enjoyment of a vacation. Our latest cancellation in France was for a lady who needed a long awaited hospital operation in a different city. Her husband needed to travel with her and their pets needed looking after. Sadly that sit has now been cancelled too. But it shows how there are some circumstances where house and pet sits still play an important role.
Can we keep house sitting alive?
For those of us able, we've been doing our best to try and keep house sitting a viable option in our lives. We ourselves have managed to maintain back-to-back house sits in the UK since July with only two small breaks, one of 3 days and one of 4. Happily these gaps gave rise to family meetups made possible again after a long time of not being able to visit our more vulnerable relatives.
But during this time we also had 4 short notice cancellations. Despite hope, and no lack of determination from the home owners, each of the sits we had booked for summer before Covid, were withdrawn. Some because of flight and quarantine issues and others because of safety concerns.
No blame can be apportioned – it is what it is… a shit-show of uncertainty, upheaval, and the prospect of short-notice change. All coupled with the prospect of having nowhere to stay if a sit gets cancelled.
If we and others want to remain nomadic, continue to house sit and hope for occasional staycation travel adventures then it’s something we are going to have to get used to.
We are back in lock-down once more, this time in France, where we are looking after a property without pets. Taking care of a second home in a rural area through winter can be another reason why house sitters are still in demand, when it is possible to get to the sit safely.
Over the coming months we know that we will need to adapt even more and risk-assess the future of our house sitting and travel plans going forward. It has now become necessary to prepare ourselves for a new way of achieving our lifestyle choices.
So what might this look like?
Backup options for cancelled house sits
We’ve always advocated that you really shouldn't be considering house sitting if you haven’t got a Plan B. Well now, I’m afraid that extends to needing a Plan C and possibly a Plan D and beyond.
You'll also need back-up funds - enough money to sustain yourself if all other options fail.
This isn’t the time to be setting out on a house sitting lifestyle just BECAUSE you need free accommodation. Nor to find a place to live because you are homeless or jobless.
You may think, “no-one would do that” but honestly, we get emails regularly from homeless people asking how they can start house sitting.
My heart goes out to anyone struggling, but the uncertainty of house sits following through to completion is likely to cause you more problems than you will be able to financially cope with. It is also a time of incredible competition when applying for house sits. This isn't an easy time to get started and it might be better to wait until things are closer to normal before you take the plunge into a nomadic lifestyle.
So what are some of the back up plans we might consider if a house sit is cancelled? Here are some of the ideas and options we've considered over the past year:
- Staying with friends and family. This used to be an obvious and welcome solution for occasional gaps – a way to fill short term accommodation needs and catch up with those you love. But how often can you do this without feeling like you are a hindrance? What if local lockdowns or limitations on groups or households living in the same space, may prevent this from happening. We have to consider also whether the person we are visiting is considered vulnerable.
- Airbnb – this has always been a popular option for travellers between sits or while on travel adventures. Airbnb has adapted well to Covid in terms of implemented safety measures. Guidelines for cleaning have been adopted and in many cases you can enter and leave a rental property without having to meet the owners. Long term discounts are possible, and will likely increase in availability as we head towards winter in northern hemisphere.
- Long Term Rentals – back in March, we negotiated a long term monthly renewable rental including all utilities in Cornwall. We approached holiday home owners who were going to lose income during lockdown. I know many other sitters benefited from similar arrangements. There are numerous rental agencies online, both regional and national, and lots of Facebook groups too. Static caravan parks are another good source of longer term accommodation and winter lets.
- Volunteering and workaway – Maybe this is something you’ve always wanted to do… now might be a good time if you lose a sit or can’t find house sits. Many charitable organizations need ongoing staff to stay viable right now. And these opportunities also provide great references for your house sitting profile, especially if you are only just getting started.
- Looking after a second home without pets – We’ve had offers from some of the home owners we’ve sat for regularly, of accommodation in their second home. The generosity we’ve seen through this pandemic is exceptional. By providing basic maintenance and garden services you are helping them at a time when maybe they can’t of don’t want to travel to their alternative home.
- Buy a campervan – This has been our choice. Rather than buy a ready made van, we have recently completed the conversion of a Peugeot Boxer van to meet our specific living requirements. This will provide us with independent, off-grid accommodation if sits are cancelled or unavailable.
- Take a break from house sitting – It might not be your first choice, but it might be your only one in some cases. If you can’t sustain regular local sits, it might be more cost effective to take a break and rent, or move back into your primary home.
The key thing to see is that most options involve having funds to pay for accommodation. If you are thinking that house sitting is your route to free accommodation at a time of financial difficulty, it might end up costing you more than you expected, and you’ll be totally disillusioned by what can be the most amazing lifestyle.
As far as making that income to pay for backup plans... we've always maintained our connections to online teaching. It's one of the best fall-backs we've encountered, but it's not for everyone. If you make a living on the road, now might be the time to assess and rethink what your backup strategy can be, if this goes on into 2021.
It's not all doom and gloom. As mentioned, there are some countries like Thailand, New Zealand and areas of Australia where they have the virus more under control and domestic travel is once again thriving. In some regions of Australia we have been told that there's a sharp uptick in house sits for the summer months and Christmas.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in one of these places, then house sitting could still be a viable option for maintaining your "new normal" lifestyle. But as we've all seen, that can change overnight, so having your backup plan in place is just good common sense procedure right now.
We'd love to hear more from you about how your life has been affected either positively or negatively... drop us a comment below to let us know!
AUTHOR - VAnESSA ANDERSON
Vanessa & Ian are full-time British travelers and house sitters who have published the online publication House Sitting Magazine since 2016. They provide numerous resources for the community as they continue their explorations and slow travel adventures across the globe. You can find out more about their house sitting lifestyle here or at LongTermHouseSitters.com
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Last updated on March 11th, 2021