Interview with house sitter Toni (AU)

Posted in Pet Care 8 months ago

In one of our last blogs you could read about the house sit experiences of Adriana and Matěj. In this second interview you can read about the house sit adventures from Toni, an Ozzie solo traveller for more than 10 years. Enjoy!

1. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Who you are, where you live, etc. 

 I have called Melbourne, Australia home for most of my life - except for when I had my "living abroad" stints in London and Vancouver in 2013-2017 for working holidays. By day, I am a full time relief teacher, working at one high school in South East Melbourne but by night, I spend a lot of my time writing content for my travel website Enchanted Serendipity, a site which I hope inspires others to travel the world and get out and see their own cities. I travel a lot - I get 12 weeks holiday a year, but I plan on traveling full time next year for as long as I can. So I am always heading off somewhere. 

2. How many house sits have you done and where?

I have completed 90% of my housesits in Melbourne - and take sits based on how far they are from my work location. I started out sitting in January 2018 when I stayed in Bondi Beach for 2 weeks while friends traveled in the UK (I only had plants to worry about!), and also sat in Canberra as well. So I have been doing some interstate sits too.

 In Melbourne, I have so far completed short and long term housesits in the suburbs of Flemington, Bentleigh, Blackburn and Rowville, as well as the bayside suburbs of Mordialloc, Mornington and Seaford. I have upcoming sits in Ringwood, South Yarra and Lilydale. Most sits are for friends or acquaintances however, I also have found some awesome sits on housesitting websites for people I don't know too. I mainly use Mindahome here in Australia. I allocate my sits around where I work in South East Melbourne. So as long as I am less than 1 hour drive from my school, I can housesit in a lot of places in our amazing city. 

 3. What was the first time you did your first house sit? Where was it? What kind of animals were you taking care of? What was your 'first timer' experience?

I started off housesitting by dipping my toes into just looking after houses and plants for friends. I wanted to get my bearings with housesitting and jumping into caring for pets was a little scary - though I had grown up with a dog, birds and fish. So I stuck with the less stressful option of plants but quickly gained confidence and started caring for pets too, as long as the animals were ones I could feel confident with. My first ever pet that I housesat was a labrador and some chickens. They were not hard to care for, and stayed mainly outside. It was for a long weekend so it was a great first step into housesitting with pets. From there I have grown into looking after a heap of different cats, Schnauzers, a Kelpie and a Boxer. It felt weird to stay in people's houses initially, but now it feels very comfortable. 

4. What was your most special/remarkable/memorable house sit sit and why? 

Every sit has been memorable in different ways. I loved some of the houses I have sat in - they are places I could see myself living. A major reason for why i housesit is to experience different regions of Melbourne and see what I like for when I eventually buy. But in all honesty, it is about the animals I get to interact with as well. I was a dog person for my whole life pretty much, but I have looked after so many cats now that I have really warmed up to them. I learn a lot about what I like and dislike about certain houses, where they are located and the different kinds of pets I can own myself. Let's just say, caring for puppies - particularly ones that have high energy can be hard. One puppy I looked after would run around the house like a crazy person every day as soon as it hit 3pm - it was like clockwork! He started ripping up a lot of his owner's rugs, so I had to take them away and hide them! He was full of beans, but I still loved hanging out with him (when he settled down of course!)

5. Have you had anything bad happen to you or a pet while you were house sitting? 

So far no - I have been very lucky. I did have a dog on an upcoming sit pass away the week before I was sitting - so I ended up looking after just the chickens instead of the dog, but it all worked out well in the end. But I am so thankful that the dog didn't pass away while in my care. As she was old it was much nicer for her to pass away with her owner, than a housesitter. This is a reality you have to be aware of though - bad things can happen when you're looking after a pet. 

6. What have you learned from this that could help future home owners/house sitters? 

That being prepared is the best way things can be for a house sit to be successful. For home owners - leave as much detailed information as you can. I have had people leave photos in guides for how to use the washing machine and oven etc. (Not that I expect that much detail in things!) Things can happen - so it is better to do a run-through and be prepared for what you are heading into as a sitter, as well as leaving everything - all food for animals (or money to buy more), making space in your house for someone to temporarily live in etc if you are a homeowner.  

7. Why would you recommend house sitting?

For me, it adds value to my life in so many ways. 

1. I get to test out places in my home city -  so I can try before I buy when it comes to location, type of house I want etc.
2. I get to live locally in a new area. 
3. I get to test out pets - do I want a dog or cat and what breed would they be? I get to interact with pets I may never have done so before these sits. 
4. I save money - I don't pay rent. I save a lot and can use that money to travel. 
5. I will be undertaking international sits in the UK, USA and Canada in 2020 - not only can I save on accommodation costs I can also save on my travel costs - which having the Aussie dollar so low, really helps. 
6. I would be renting or living with my parents to save money for a house deposit, through housesitting I get to live alone, have space and enjoy living a really interesting life. 

 Housesitting has been the best thing I have ever done. Many people are in awe that I do it, the kids at school find it interesting - it's a great way to meet new people and find new places right in your own backyard.

8. When you look at an ad from a home owner, what is the thing you pay attention to?

I really pay attention to detail. If people have basic information and not the best photos, I am less likely to consider them. I like to get a feel for a sit before I even meet the owner. If the photos and information on what you need/are looking for is not enough of an effort, then you will miss out on great housesitters. Many of us are in demand, and get to pick and choose where and when we sit. You want to show us your best first impression (as much as we do the same.)

9. What is the question you ALWAYS ask the home owner before you start sitting their pets/house?

Do you have wifi? - this is so important for my job/travel blog and sanity. I need internet. 

Beyond that, it is what are looking for? - if I am working or traveling I won't be at their property 24/7. But I will be there majority of the time. Many people have animals that require you to be home all the time and I feel that is really unrealistic of an expectation to put on someone. People should pay you to stay there if you aren't able to leave for 4-5 hours a day to go explore, work or even eat out at a cafe. Some homeowners think they are the ones doing housesitters a favour and can ask anything of them; when in reality it must always be a mutual balance. Housesitting is hard work sometimes, and can be stressful. You want the housesitter to enjoy living in your house. But you also want the housesitter to feel that they can still have a life when caring for your most precious things. 

10. What do you tell about yourself in your application? Any specific things?

I am up front about my life. What I do for work, what I housesit for, what I can offer in housesitting for someone. I like to give people a really in depth picture of who I am so that when they meet me it just enhances what they already know and like about me as a person. When I meet a potential housesit homeowner, I am usually offered the sit immediately. I am very personable and relatable and trustworthy. I can make friends with anyone. I really like all of the homeowners I have sat for too and have gotten on very well with their pets. Now that I am heading overseas for some of 2020, my profile has a little about that and why I am traveling. But being abroad is no different to Melbourne and how seriously I take housesitting. 

11. What is your favourite animal to take care of and why?

Dogs for sure. I love them. I have sat for Schnauzers more than anything. They are a really cute, but unique kind of breed. Very easy to look after but cute and cuddly too. I grew up with a Maltese Shitzu so I love them as well - they look like my family's dog but all act so differently. I love all the animals I have looked after though - I miss them all. But I love trying to take photos of them and sending them to their owners - we get a lot of laughs together as a result because let's face it - some animals don't care to have their photos taken!

12. Anything else you want to share with us? 

I don't know why I waited so long to become a housesitter. It really is so rewarding. As a traveler, helping someone have piece of mind that their property and animals are being looked after is paramount to me. But as a housesitter you gain so much from it too. I completely recommend it to anyone who thinks this may be the right fit for them. 

THANKS TONI! WANT TO FOLLOW TONI'S TRAVELLING ADVENTURES? HAVE A LOOK AT HER WEBSITE, OR FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK.