House sitting plans depend almost entirely on travel and tourism. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world and travel restricted in many places, house sitters and their clients are in strange new territory.
When House Sitting Clients Help
In this article from Business World, Jessica Wayne Lockhart shares how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her plans with her partner to house sit for an entire year in the southern hemisphere.
The couple booked a seven-month house sitting gig in Christchurch early in 2020. Unfortunately, when the Coronavirus hit, the homeowners had to cancel their trip, leaving Lockhart and her partner with nowhere to go and an impending lockdown.
As she explained in another article, Lockhart is Canadian and her partner is Australian. If she returned home to Canada, she would have to travel through at least three busy international airports and deal with the bureaucracy of being a returning expat during a pandemic. Worse, her Australian partner would only be able to stay in Canada for 90 days, even if she were granted entry. The same held for heading to Australia.
But then the house sitting community showed its heart of gold. The homeowner of a previous place Lockhart and her partner cared for offered up an extra suite. As the article says, house sitting is a community built on generosity. And, as domestic travel opens up in New Zealand, the duo is seeing house sitting listings come up again.
Housesitting During the Pandemic
Peter and Karen Pecksen, who run their own blog, are among those house sitters who found a sit even during the pandemic. The couple had settled into a cabin outside of Calgary, Canada and were ready to wait for travel restrictions to lift when Karen found an opportunity nearby. The Pecksens now have five months to enjoy in a large home, close to family and full of natural delights.
As Peter says, adaptability is key to the house sitting lifestyle. They find that their lives are still going well and have not been negatively influenced by COVID-19. They can also attribute their new house sit to perseverance. Peter noted that Karen never ceased in her efforts to try to find a potential sit even through numerous cancellations:
“Some might call it luck, I’d call it never giving up.”
Kelly Hayes-Raitt was planning to travel and house sit, but, like everyone else in this post, coronavirus impacted those plans. She was in London when coronavirus hit and the homeowner she planned to sit for in Montenegro contacted her to say that their travel plans to head to Milan were cancelled.
The homeowner offered to let Hayes-Raitt come to share the one-bedroom house, but was unsure if she would be able to accommodate her for the whole time. Hayes-Raitt declined and stayed in London, where she was able to pick up sitting work for homeowners whose planned sitters could not arrive from other countries. Another homeowner offered her the chance to stay in their loft, even if they could not travel domestically as planned.
“There really is this sense of community in the sense of helping,” she said.
Finding Alternative Housing
In Yellowknife, Canada, Cassandra Thibault lost her housing when homeowners had to cancel travel. The government directed residents to stay at home, but like many others, she relies on house sitting jobs to have a place to stay. A community member offered her a cabin to stay in short-term, with longer term plans up in the air.
In the same article, Keith Robertson shares that he started renting once COVID-19 impacted his house sitting plans beyond repair. While one household offered to take him in, much like Lockhart’s clients did, he had the ability to rent and decided it would be the best choice. Many house sitters who can handle that financially are going the same route, losing the ability to save money, but ensuring they have a place to stay until travel opens back up.
Tips from House Sitters Who Have Been Through It
Another couple shared their tips for house sitting during the outbreak. Writer Sue Barnes and her husband Don were in the middle of a sit when the virus touched down. They had been expecting their homeowner to return shortly.
Barnes advises house sitters to adhere to local restrictions and social distancing, to minimize risk for homeowners when they return. They managed the pet sitting aspect of their job by taking the homeowner’s dog for walks in less populated areas while still observing COVID restrictions in those places.
They also planned to entirely disinfect the house for when the homeowners returned and to stock up their home for the 14-day isolation that would follow their return. We hope they found disinfectant in their local market!
Planning for the Future
For house sitters and people who need their house looked after, planning for the future with all of the unknowns of COVID-19 is a challenge. In some places, like New Zealand, as mentioned in the article above, things are moving forward slowly with more domestic and regional travel versus international tourism. That means house sitters have opportunities and that homeowners need qualified, trusted caretakers more than ever.
While things have slowed down now, they will eventually turn around. Some homeowners are advertising for house sitting gigs that are fairly far into the future, hoping that some travel restrictions will lift by then. If you are a house sitter with some flexibility, keep an eye out.
People planning to travel should consider how they can safely accommodate a house sitter, for example, choosing someone from the same region who would be traveling via land rather than relying on air travel. Those on both sides should have a contingency plan for what to do if either party needs to back out. Homeowners should also have plans for quickly finding another house sitter to take over if their first pick becomes ill during their stay.