House Sitter Haven


IMG_3589We were very fortunate to find Max and Alize to housesit for us when we traveled for a month through Ecuador. Max is from Canada and Alize is from Belgium. They were housesitting in Leon, Nicaragua and posted on a Facebook page for expats in Nicaragua that they were looking for a housesitting gig for a month. They’ve been on the road four years, working online to provide income for their travels.


Our experience was serendipitous. We were itching to travel, and we needed caretakers for our cats, house, and garden. Alize posted on Facebook, I responded, and voila…we were off to Ecuador knowing that our house and critters would be in trusted hands.

Why housesitters?
1. All expats understand the need for a caretaker. An empty house is a target and a burglar magnet, especially in Central America. It is statistically much safer to leave your home occupied, not empty.
2. We have three cats, free-range chickens, and now a new puppy! There are no kennels on Ometepe Island…no place to board our pets. Our cats feel safe and secure in our home. The trauma and hassle of placing our cats with friends on the island was unthinkable.
3. Our garden needed to be maintained and watered during the dry season. We couldn’t imagine returning home to withered and dead young fruit trees and sweet potatoes ( the only vegetable plant in the garden still growing in the dry season).
4. We have a few monthly bills. Someone needed to walk into town to pay them.

Our housesitter considerations
Every homeowner’s needs will be different. Our needs are:
1. People who speak some Spanish. We live in a small community of all Spanish speakers; therefore, an ability to communicate with our neighbors is a necessity.
2. References. It is important for us to know that other homeowners’ experiences with housesitters are satisfying.
3. Word-of-mouth vs housesitting websites. We prefer working directly with housesitters, instead of finding them through a ‘pay-for-view’ website. I really don’t like the ‘middleman’ approach.
4. Wimps not welcome! We live in a rural area with tropical bugs, cows, pigs, and horses that wander the volcanic sand paths, an active volcano in our backyard, and electricity and internet that is unreliable and sporadic (It is getting better, though). It’s Nicaragua, the land of the not quite right. Our housesitters have to expect the unexpected.
5. We need people who love pets. Our cats are independent…they come and go as they please…but, our new puppy is a different story. I don’t think we’ll be taking any extended vacations until El Capitan, Capie for short, is older. He’s a handful!
6. Communication is the key. We need to be able to contact our housesitters while we are away. Max and Alize were perfect. Max is a professional web designer. Before we left, he set up my Macbook so I could share wi-fi with other laptops in the house. He tried to fix my router for me, but it is unrepairable. Since we only have a 3G stick for the internet, Max was concerned about working online.
Puesta del Sol to our rescue. Across the sandy beach path from our house, Puesta del Sol has a fast internet café with wi-fi. Hopefully, our next housesitters won’t have to worry about fast internet because we are in the process of installing a fast internet tower with wi-fi throughout our casita and house. Oh, the plans I have! We’re going to buy a big flat screen TV and a Roku box so we can stream movies, Hulu, and Netflix to our house.
7. Finally, we need people who can tend to our garden. During the dry season, there isn’t much work, but the young trees and plants need daily watering.
8. The first question I asked Max and Alize was, “Do you charge for housesitting?” I’m cheap! I don’t want to pay someone to vacation in our house.

Our process
1. I made an organized list of everything! Pet care, bills that needed to be paid, telephone numbers and email addresses, house quirks, even contingency plans for an emergency, like if the volcano blows.
2. Max and Alize arrived 2 days before we left and stayed in our casita. We introduced them to all the neighbors and took them to town to show them the best places to eat, shop, and where to pay our bills.
3. They took a lengthy tour of our house and property and reviewed the list of what to do if…. including our hiding places for the extra set of keys, should they get locked out of the house.
4. Marina, my neighbor, cleans our house three days a week, and her son, Julio, is our gardener. I left paper clipped piles of their weekly pay with sticky notes attached thanking them for each week.
5. We bought enough cat food for the month, but if they ran out of cat food, we left money for them. We also left some emergency money…just in case.
6. I asked my local friends to visit Max and Alize occasionally and I left the telephone number of Robinson who knows everything about the island.

When we returned
Max and Alize had a delicious dinner waiting for us. The house was clean and everything was in order. They spent the night in the casita so they wouldn’t have to mess up the house. Our cats, Queenie and Black Jack, had some rashes and bites on their tails and bellies before we left, but now, with our housesitters’ tender loving care, their boo boos were completely healed.

We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I would recommend Max and Alize to anyone in Central America. They were perfect, and such a sweet couple.

If you live in Central America and are in need of housesitters for July, you can contact Max and Alize at: info@detourlocal.com  Their website is: http://www.detourLocaL.com

We will be looking for housesitters when our gypsytoes start itching again. If you are interested in housesitting for us and you meet our listed needs, please contact us.

Have you been a housesitter or had a housesitter stay in your home? What were your experiences? Feel free to add to our list of considerations.

 

 

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16 thoughts on “House Sitter Haven

  1. As a full time house sitter myself, I quite enjoyed reading your post, and there are some great tips there for people considering getting house sitters themselves. There is one line however that reads… how can I put it? Unfair?? You wrote: “I don’t want to pay someone to vacation in our house”. Please understand that looking after “three cats, free-range chickens, and a new puppy”, plus looking after a garden is NOT a vacation.

    Whilst I don’t charge for house / pet sitting either, and I go out of my way to do a good job and ensure the house owners are happy with the experience, I never consider myself to be “on vacation” in someone else’s home. A vacation is when you can come and go as you please and sit back or lie down all day if you want to. A vacation comes with no ties or responsibilities. But staying in a house that comes with pets that require daily care, and a garden that requires ongoing maintenance, should never be described as a vacation.

    House sitting should be seen as a mutually convenient arrangement, where both parties benefit greatly, not as house owner doing a poor homeless person a favour. Unfortunately, this attitude seems to be a growing trend now that house sitting is becoming more popular… :-/

    • Michelle, thanks so much for your thoughtful post. Maybe my choice of words was a bit unfair. I think it depends on the location and the circumstances. Our house is located on a tropical island and is a growing tourist destination. I’m sure as a house sitter, you would prefer a unique location where there are many activities, beaches, and places to visit. To be fair, we didn’t have our new puppy yet,and the dry season was upon us, so the garden didn’t need daily tending. We have a gardener and a house cleaner, and our cats are independent, so they don’t need constant care. I left a list of the many places they could visit while they were staying at our house. It was similar to a vacation for them because they could come and go freely. We didn’t need someone to be at our house every minute of the day, only to make sure it appeared lived-in. It worked well for us and we were all pleased with the arrangement. As a homeowner in a popular tourist destination, I want house sitters to explore our beautiful island and enjoy our home. Thanks again for your honesty and sincerity. You are right…both parties should benefit.

  2. We’ve done some housesitting in Antigua, Guatemala and Atenas, Costa Rica and are finishing our third job here in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The first two housesits went very smoothly and both times we felt that we,and the homeowners were in a win-win situation as we helped maintain their homes, alerted them to problems (shut-off utilities due to an online account being hijacked, leaky roof, minor earthquake damage, sick animal, etc.) At this point we have mixed feeling about our third housesit that we’re finishing up. Due to a number of maintenance issues that the homeowner had neglected we’re had several problems (cows and horses wandering on to the 6 acre property because a gate is broken, mosquitos and lots of other bugs inside the home because the house lacks screens (and we’re really not squeamish…) an unbathed dog that reeked and developed a skin infection, embedded ticks, ear infection, etc that we’ve taken to the vet 4 times (and she really does love her twice weekly baths!), a flat tire that we had to replace (actually 2 rear tires that were so bald we were afraid to drive the car we had rented from the owner for $100/week) and on and on. At this point, we’ve received assurances from the owner that we’ll be reimbused (who really is a nice older woman) but we’re out of pocket about $300 above the costs we agreed upon and feeling somewhat taken advantage of… We’ll definitely be asking more questions on our next housesit!

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t respond to your comment earlier. Thank you, Anita and Richard, for explaining your experiences in house sitting…good and bad. Since this was our first experience, I think I went a little overboard with directions and problems that might occur…but you never know. I wanted to be completely honest with them and leave them feeling comfortable and relaxed. Everything went as planned…our volcano didn’t erupt…the cats did their own thing…and they could enjoy the island. Maybe we were just super lucky in finding them. Living here, it’s difficult to plan ahead for everything. But, it was a win-win for all involved. Hope you are enjoying Costa Rica.

    • Jorge, once we get high speed internet, then I need to figure out how to connect the Roku box to my computer so my VPN will send a signal to the box saying that my IP address is coming from Miami so I can get Hulu and Netflix. One step at a time. First, we have to get the high speed internet. 🙂 It will be awesome! Thanks for your suggestions.

  3. I love house sitting.

    I have been a house sitter for a number of years. I sat houses mostly in Costa Rica. I have great stories and not so great stories. It seems that you were a very good planner. It is so much easier to work with home owners that communicate well and think ahead.

    I do not PAY to house sit. A new trend I have noticed is people charging a few to so called housesitters…to me that is renting.

    I love when your friends stop by to say hello. I don’t like the friends who visit to do a white glove inspection.

    And please all who are considering hiring house sitters, please don’t leave your housesitter at your lovely home 20 miles from no where – stranded with no ride, no car, no available taxi, no neighbors, no phone or internet access and only the food growing in your garden for a whole month. I have been in that situation and no one even came to visit. That was a long challenging month. I don’t recall even a thank you.

    I have been on a break for a while and may consider returning to the world of housesitting again soon.

    • Lesa, thanks so much for your tips. I can’t imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere for a month. That sounds very challenging. I gave Max and Alize the number of our moto taxi driver and told them the local rate. Fortunately, they could walk into town along the beach…a short, pleasant walk. My friends stopped in to visit with Max and Alize to see if they needed anything. While they were there, Max was able to help Theresa with an iPhone problem. He is so handy with computers and iPhones. One more thing I would do is to empty a dresser drawer for the housesitters, so they have a place to unpack their clothes. Next time, for sure. It takes only a little planning and preparation to make housesitters feel comfortable and at home.

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