Thousands have signed up to look after other people’s homes and animals to supplement their income.
You simply stay at the owner’s house, walking and feeding the pets, and perhaps watering the plants.
Fees are modest — some bookings pay £20 a day, sometimes nothing at all — but you can save on your own outgoings such as utility bills.
Homeowners save on putting pets into kennels, which can cost £10 a day for a cat and £15 for a dog.
And they get peace of mind knowing their home is occupied.
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Homesitters connects property owners with sitters. It has more than 1,000 sitters on its books and says bookings were up 14 per cent in 2018 over 2017.
Martin and Kristine Bell, of Collingham, Notts, first offered their services after the death of their beloved dog Harry in 2016. They spend around three months a year in other people’s houses, caring for their animals, via Homesitters.
Martin, 69, a retired engineer, said: “For retired people who have a car, like to travel a bit and do something different, it’s a joy, really.
“The best way of spending the evening is having a dog on your knee while you’re reading. It’s a very nice way to augment your pension.”
Housesitting is not like going on holiday. Homesitters requires its sitters to stay on the property for all but three hours a day, and just one hour after dark.
At night the Bells read and do puzzles, while Kristine, 62, a former legal secretary, enjoys knitting.
On their first job in 2017, staying at a converted granary in Norfolk, they lost power for 12 hours when Storm Doris struck.
At the same property the following year, they were snowed in by the Beast From The East.
Owners unsure about strangers staying in their house should ask agencies how they vet their sitters or ask candidates for references.
Also, find out your insurer’s stance on housesitters. It may breach your policy — but some agencies have their own insurance in place.
'Regulars we trust'
TRAVERS and Katie Nettleton, of Marlborough, Wilts, use housesitters on their hols to look after their three dogs.
The pair, who run a garden ornaments firm in Hungerford, Berks, don’t like sending their dogs to kennels and feel it is too much to ask friends.
Katie, 47, said: “There’s one couple we tend to use who know how the house works.
“If our regulars aren’t available then Homesitters finds us someone suitable.
“If it’s someone new, they will send them for an interview so we can meet them first.”
Travers, 49, added: “Every time, we’ve come back to an immaculate home.”
'We've sat all sorts'
SEMI-RETIRED Ian Usher and Vanessa Anderson have made a career of housesitting.
With demand for sitters at a high, they have decided to live on the road, travelling from one sit to the next.
Ian, 55, and Vanessa, 56, set themselves a challenge of 52 house-sits in as many weeks.
Their service is effectively free but Trusted Housesitters, the agency that arranges their bookings, charges home- owners an £89 annual fee.
Vanessa said: “So many houses want sitters to look after their pets. We’ve sat all sorts of properties. It’s a wonderful way of travelling.”
They pay for living costs by producing an online mag for other housesitters.
SO WHICH SERVICE CAN I USE?
Homeowners: To find a sitter you’ll need to pay a set-up fee of £36, a deposit and then it’s £53.60 plus VAT per day, rising to £53.80 from April 2019.
Sitters: There is no cost to becoming a homesitter. You’ll typically earn £20 a day looking after pets plus a daily food allowance of £8.60 per day (from April 1) and return travel costs.
Homeowners: Pay a flat rate of £89 to become members. No booking fees.
Sitters: Pay £89 to become members and are not paid for the jobs.
Homeowners: The sitter advertises their rates on the Dogbuddy website and the owner pays a 15 per cent fee when booking them.
Sitters: Fees are usually around £20 a day and the website takes a 15 per cent sitter’s fee. The sitter usually takes the dog away with them but it varies.
Homeowners: A sitter costs from £90 a day for looking after the property, with additional fees charged for each animal.
Sitters: You receive 75 per cent of all fees plus travel expenses. There is a long waiting list to become an “Aunt” and you need experience with animals.
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