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