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MindMyHouse News 14 December 2006

by Susan Holtham, 15th December 2006

Check out this fifteenth edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: What else can I do? Boat sitting; AOL have finally lost the plot altogether; house sitting in an empty house-for-sale; and finally: more poll results: what’s in it for house sitters?

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2006

Dear MindMyHousies,
CosiApologies for the more than two-month wait for this next edition of MindMyHouse News. We think we have a good reason for the delay: We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our newest MindMyHouse member. Cosi Eden was born on 25 October weighing in at a respectable 3.1kg. She is our little treasure! Even though I’m up at 4am every morning feeding a hungry little future house sitter we have still been able to research and write this newsletter for your reading pleasure. Nothing is too much for our membership!

There’s only eleven days to go till Santa visits and fills your stockings with all sorts of goodies to make those house sitting assignments run more smoothly (such as a good novel, sunscreen, a portable translation device, guidebook to Costa Rica, a pair of those zip-off hiking pants – you get the picture).

Yikes – where did the year go? With the loss of daylight saving hours we have been plunged back into a frozen northern winter. (But really I’m exaggerating as we have had a sensational autumn here in London.) Snowbirders – I know I always say this at the start of the northern winter – but it’s a good idea to create your sitter wanted adverts now to find that perfect person to house sit for you in time for your imminant departures for warmer climes.

House sitters – if you want to give yourselves a little feel-good pat on the back take a look at the Testimonials page in our Advice Centre. The feedback we are now getting from home owners is that they are extremely impressed with your responses to their sitter
wanted adverts – both at the numbers of you who are responding to their requests for a house sitter and the calibre of your applications. Well done and thank you from us. Without you we are nothing!

Check out this fifteenth edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: What else can I do? Boat sitting; AOL have finally lost the plot altogether; house sitting in an empty house-for-sale; and finally: more poll results: what’s in it for house sitters?

Attention house sitters – your services are required here!

(To contact these home owners you need to login to your account area first.)

Christmas in England’s Home Counties
Three adorable cats need your tender loving care for one month this December-January in a little village north of London. The beautiful university town of Cambridge is nearby too…

English canal boats need sitters too!
If you fancy three weeks aboard a six-foot-wide canal boat in the middle of England next spring get writing to this boat owner!

What else can I do? Boat sitting

Canal boat

I’m continuing my ‘what else can I do?’ strand this month with a little feature on boat sitting. I was thrilled to see that we have had our first boat sitter wanted advert posted to the site just today (13 December)! Boat sitting is something that hadn’t occurred to me until recently, but what a great idea! Most boats will be empty most of the time won’t they? And they have all sorts of maintenance (and insurance) issues from flooding with rain water to…I can’t begin to imagine. But I read this fabulous little article in London’s Independent, The artists, and others, of the floating world that talks about the social life of a particular boat sitter. And I must admit I now wished I had done some boat sitting all those years ago when I was young and footloose. What better way to really experience an exciting new city than by looking at it through little round windows while bobbing around on a crowded urban waterway!

If you want to read all about the thoughts, diary style, of intrepid almost-boat sitter, Lynn Redmond, check out her piece called Reflections of an apprentice first mate. Lynn is excited about getting ‘up close and personal’ with someone else’s boat as she starts her enthusiastic journey to owning a boat of her own one day. While she’s avidly studying the boat’s navigation systems and the like a little detail of the design lets her down big time…

If you have done any boat sitting (or boat owning) I would love to hear all about it and maybe publish your experiences in the Bloggers on Assignment section of our Community Area. Blogging just isn’t the same without you!

AOL have finally lost the plot altogether

In the August edition of MindMyHouse News we speculated that something was on the fritz at AOL. Our system-generated emails (including our email alerts) were bouncing back to us as undeliverable from a suspicious (and over-representative) number of AOL email accounts. We have since found out that AOL had tagged everything coming from our servers as spam and was shunting it into the bin on behalf of their members. Not fair we cried! We know that our members actually really want to receive their email alerts telling them when a new sitter wanted advert is posted to our site. What’s the solution? We didn’t really have one except to add a warning to our registration page that we were currently unable to send and receive (it seems) messages from AOL email accounts. When will this behemoth adapt and make its technology more compatible with everyone else? Hmmmmmmmm. In the meantime we advise you to run don’t walk from this service provider.

House sitting in an empty house-for-sale

I’ve been inspired to write this piece by the posting of a recent sitter wanted advert to our site. This particular assignment required a house sitter to live in a completely empty home-for-sale in the American mid-west for six months. At first I thought the prospect of occupying an empty home would be a little daunting and may feel like ‘camping’ in creepy, echoing rooms but it seems that there is a thriving industry of house sitters (or ‘residential managers’ if you please) in the States who are prepared with a trailer-load of their own furnishings to do just that. Maybe you could become a house sitter with a difference – someone who moves around with all their own household contents to help perfect strangers sell their homes.

If you’re curious, check out the three articles I’ve posted on this very subject in the Media section of our Community Area. In the New York Times’ Talking empty homes; upkeep can be key to a sale a few solutions to selling your empty home are offered but it ends with the trusted solution of finding a live-in house sitter. Nick Ravo claimed in his 1992 article For the 90s, a new breed of housesitter that the residential property manager was doing the traditional house sitter out of a job. These residential managers would not only provide all their own up-scale furniture to help sell someone else’s home but also pay up to US$1000 per month for the privelege. And what’s the payoff? It seems that living in a large up-scale home is payment enough for these people. Firm links housesitters, upscale homes. Looking for a sitter?, first published in the South Coast Times, has the whole story from the house sitters’ angle. My question is: do you need your own truck to do this kind of house sitting?

House sitting – what’s in it for me?

Here at MindMyHouse we think we are a bit clever with the creation of our home-grown polls. These are steadily gathering information from our membership (and guests to the site) all the time. The latest of these asks house sitters exactly what motivates them to seek house sitting assignments. Over 100 of you good folks took the time to share with us what it is that you mainly get out of house sitting. Overwhelmingly 40% of you said you were simply looking for a change of scene. Free accommodation was the reason that 28% of our members sought house sitting (no surprise there); the next cab off the rank at 13% of respondants was the freedom to live alone, followed by looking for a cheap holiday at 9% and enjoying the company of animals at 8%.

Results for survey about what motivates house sitters

I’m really pleased to read that at least a proportion of our membership actually really enjoys the animal-minding part of the job as it tends to be a key requirement! Hoorah for Spot and Fluffy whose care (I’m guessing) seems to be the main reason many home owners seek a house sitter in the first place (but that’s the topic for another poll…)

Happy house sitting (or best of luck with your sitters!) That’s all from me and Santa – have a wonderful silly season and be as silly as you like!

Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!