We 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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.