Mar­i­an­nig Fer­rari is the founder and di­rec­tor of no­mador.com, an in­ter­na­tional house-sit­ting ser­vice with free sign-up for new mem­bers.

Living France - - Insight -

1) FIRST THINGS FIRST

With house-sit­ting, the first ques­tions are of­ten the same. From the home­owner’s side, it’s, “How can I trust a stranger I meet on the in­ter­net?” or “What if they come only for a free hol­i­day and don’t care for my pets?”, while from house-sit­ters, it’s, “What if the house is not clean?” or “What if their an­i­mals be­have badly or are ag­gres­sive?”. In the first in­stance, it’s im­por­tant to build trust. Make the most of the tools avail­able to you; ask com­mu­nity mem­bers for a ref­er­ence, es­pe­cially if you’re new to hous­esit­ting. Take the time to get to know each other in or­der to make the right se­lec­tion on both sides.

2) HOME­OWN­ERS

Be clear in the ad­vert about your needs and re­quire­ments. Be hon­est about your home and your pets, as this will al­low you to find like-minded peo­ple. Take your time to select the right can­di­date ( just as if you were hir­ing a babysit­ter!). As in other ar­eas in life, you of­ten get back what you put in, so pre­pare your home as if you were wel­com­ing friends, and the chances are that they’ll look af­ter your home as friends would.

3) HOUSE-SIT­TERS

Be hon­est about your skills, ex­pe­ri­ences and mo­ti­va­tions. This will al­low you to build trust and a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship. Take the time to ask ques­tions, so you can be sure you’ll be happy to live there for a while. Thirdly, re­mem­ber that house-sit­ting is a com­mit­ment and not a ‘free hol­i­day’ – you are en­trusted with some­one’s home.

4) PRE­PARE YOUR HOME

Pre­pare ev­ery­thing ex­actly as if you were open­ing your home to friends or fam­ily: trust­ing some­one does not mean that they don’t need clear in­struc­tions. Use tools like a ‘home book’ where you can col­lect all es­sen­tial in­for­ma­tion in one place, such as im­por­tant phone num­bers, pro­ce­dures, how to work the wash­ing ma­chine, etc.

5) BE AWARE OF YOUR RE­SPON­SI­BIL­I­TIES

Make sure you’ve re­ceived all in­struc­tions to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings. Ask for a ‘home book’, and ask the home­owner how and how of­ten you can be in touch with them while they’re away. And, of course, make sure that you’ve un­der­stood the ba­sic eti­quette of hous­esit­ting, such as never invit­ing some­one into the home with­out clear prior agree­ment from the home­owner.

you and for the home­own­ers, the process can and should run smoothly for all con­cerned.

If you’re al­ready in France – whether as a hol­i­day home-owner or as a full-time res­i­dent – house-sit­ting can pro­vide peace of mind when away from your prop­erty. El­iz­a­beth Oberg, a 56-year-old Amer­i­can liv­ing with her French hus­band and their 13-year-old son in Paris, ex­plains: “Paris in Au­gust – since most peo­ple are on va­ca­tion – is a boon for bur­glars. Ob­vi­ously, an in­hab­ited apart­ment is not likely to be tar­geted for bur­glary.” For the fam­ily’s first ex­pe­ri­ence of open­ing their home in the 8th ar­rondisse­ment to house-sit­ters, she ad­mits that her reser­va­tions were in­fi­nite.

“It’s a very big step to al­low strangers into your home,” she ad­mits. As ever, prepa­ra­tion be­fore­hand is key, and the fam­ily re­quested ré­sumés, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ref­er­ences, copies of pass­ports and iden­tity cards, and of­fi­cial po­lice records (called a casier ju­di­ci­aire in French) from their po­ten­tial can­di­dates. “Proof that our house-sit­ter had a clean po­lice record was fun­da­men­tal to me,” she em­pha­sises.

Their cho­sen house-sit­ters, young French cou­ple Mathilde and An­toine, cared for the apart­ment and their fam­ily cat. “Mathilde sent us emails, pho­tos and videos of our cat ev­ery day via What­sApp, which was so re­as­sur­ing. We’d met at our apart­ment be­fore mak­ing our de­ci­sion, and had got along like two peas in a pod. The con­fi­dence in a suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ence was there be­fore we even packed up to leave”.

Sev­eral months on from my hous­esit­ting ex­pe­ri­ence, and still in Paris, it’s safe to say that what started as dip­ping my toes into the wa­ter of life in the city turned very much into tak­ing the plunge. House-sit­ting in France can be a fan­tas­tic way to find out what it is re­ally like to live in your cho­sen part of France, be­fore you de­cide to buy a house of your very own.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence – a way of re­ally in­te­grat­ing into the heart of a new com­mu­nity”

For El­iz­a­beth Oberg, an Amer­i­can liv­ing in Paris, house-sit­ting gives her peace of mind that her home is looked af­ter while she is away

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