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Stories I

If it looks too good to be true…

by Alan Koeninger

Jon & Laurie from Canada wrote to us recently with the following story – we thought it would be great to publish it here.

January 2024

The old adage: ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ holds true… sometimes.

It was still dark on a Saturday in early June of 2017 when I went out to retrieve the weekend paper from the driveway at our home on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada. Arriving back in the kitchen, I withdrew my two favourite sections – Business & Travel – and positioned both on the kitchen breakfast bar for consumption once my morning chores were complete.

By midmorning, I had finished the honey-do list and a fresh pot of coffee was brewing. I sat at the breakfast bar and rifled through the Business Section. As I completed reviewing the first newspaper section, the coffee pot blurted out three loud chirps, indicating the coffee was ready. With a fresh, hot mug of Joe in hand, I was ready to tackle the Travel Section of the weekend newspaper.

On the front page of the Travel Section, a headline grabbed my attention: \”Stay Free While Traveling.\” Needless to say, as an avid travel fanatic, this story title was music to my ears. The Guest Editorial documented how the House/Pet Sitting industry was becoming very popular for many travel enthusiasts. The article gave a brief overview of how House Sits work. The report ended with a list of house-sit websites interested parties could visit for more information.

Strangely enough, I had never heard of the concept. A short time later, my wife joined me in the kitchen. I tried to articulate the story I had just read regarding House Sitting. Being the conservative one in our relationship, she was very skeptical. Why would anyone let you move into their home and stay for free? Being the adventurous one in our relationship, I could not wait to spend some time researching the House Sit topic online. I was out to disprove the saying; “If it looks too good to be true…”.

Over the next several days, I spent hours sifting through websites, educating myself on every aspect of Housesitting. One must always do their own due diligence, but with a little bit of work, the House-Sitting idea appeared viable. After completing my extensive online investigation, the House Sit concept made perfect sense for us. During the past ten years or so, my wife and I kept busy practicing being good grandparents, doing humanitarian work in Africa, assisting a Canadian Humanitarian Relief Organization, along with other volunteer commitments. We recently arrived at a time in our life where we desired some “us” time. It was very clear to both of us that with opportunities presented through House Sit websites, we could make this dream come true.

After weighing in on all the research data found online, we enrolled as members of some House Sit websites. Having blogged for several years, writing the House Sitter Profile came easy. As an amateur photographer, all the photos required for our Profile conveniently existed on our computer already. Within one day, our Profile got uploaded and we both were enthusiastic to start the process of finding our first House Sit adventure. My wife and I spent a couple hours each day reviewing House Sits on websites we were members of. We applied to several potential House/Pet Sits.

The process can be frustrating at times, but persistence always wins out. As I sat reviewing House Sits in early August, a newly posted eight-week House/Pet sit in Florida caught my eye. I quickly reviewed it with my wife and we applied immediately. With our fingers crossed, we waited for a reply.

In a few, short hours, we received an exciting email response. The Florida House Sit Host had reviewed our Profile and wanted to talk with us via Skype, so we scheduled the Skype call for later in the week. The days could not pass by quickly enough. My wife and I felt like two little kids’ anticipating Christmas day.

The Skype call arrived as scheduled, and within minutes of introducing ourselves, it appeared as if we had been long-time friends. Our potential House Sit Host informed us that our Profile had answered almost all her questions. After confirming that we could accommodate the dates required for the eight-week House/Pet Sit, the Host offered us the opportunity. We eagerly accepted the proposal and made arrangements to follow up on the smaller details in future communications.

Once the Skype call was complete, my wife and I congratulated each other in successfully arranging our first House/Pet Sit. Over the next couple weeks, through emails and texts, we confirmed additional details of our House/Pet Sit with our Host. Now it was time to start preparing our pre-trip to-do-lists to ensure we were ready for two months – October & November in Florida, the Sunshine State.

As fitness enthusiasts, my wife and I wanted to take our bicycles with us. The twenty-two hundred and fifty-kilometre journey in our SUV would cover a four-day period, including a two day stop in Savannah, Georgia. As the day of our departure approached, we reviewed all our lists and double checked to minimize any surprises.

At six-thirty AM on Sunday, October 1, 2017, we were heading south for two months in our “home-away-from-home” in sunny Florida. The road trip to Florida was picture perfect. After one night in Summersville, West Virginia and two nights in Savannah, Georgia, we arrived at our House/Pet Sit destination in Oldsmar, Florida.

A prearranged agreement to arrive one day early allowed us time to meet our Host and review site details. It also gave us the opportunity to experience a guided tour of the area, plus, enjoy a delicious meal, courtesy of our Host.

The following day, we dropped our Host off at the airport in Tampa. As we drove back to our home-away-from-home, the reality of this dream-come-true began sinking in. In exchange for looking after a beautiful home and lovely cat, we received two months of free accommodations in sun-drenched Florida.

Most days, over the next two months, our biggest decision was; do we beach, pool, cycle, or do a combination of any of the three. Whatever we chose to do, the weatherman always blessed us with near-perfect conditions.

Discovering and enjoying delectable dining establishments consumed many evenings, and on weekends, local, small-town street festivals kept us entertained. As our two-month House Sit drew to a close, we wondered how the time went by so quickly. After our first House Sit experience, we proved that the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true…”, does not apply here.

From: Jon & Laurie, Canada

Alan Koeninger

About the author: Alan Koeninger

The designer, developer and help desker at MindMyHouse was born in Australia, but don’t hold that against him! He is loving his new adopted home of New Zealand. He can be seen in his natural habitat on Onetangi beach with Ellaballoo the Welsh springer spaniel or whizzing between the ferry port and the soccer fields with his soccer-mad daughters and all their team mates in the car.