It had long been an ambition for Janet Windsor, a retired American professional, to find a quiet niche in France to immerse herself in the French culture and learn the language. She loved the idea of discovering a new location steeped in history and when she came across an advert for a “house-sitter’ in a gorgeous old house in the South of France, she says she “felt compelled to apply”. The property was owned by an American family who wanted to sell the house which had stood empty for a while. Within 3 months, Janet moved to Lézignan-Corbières in the Languedoc to become a long term house-sitter, rent-free.
House sitting is an increasingly popular choice for all kinds of people to travel the world in an affordable way; they usually don’t expect payment, but care for a property in exchange for free accommodation. For home owners it’s a great way to ensure gardens are tended, pets are cared for and someone is on hand in case of emergencies.
The French home owner’s requirements
The house Janet moved into was owned by a family based in the US, too remote for maintenance and upkeep. It had been empty for several years and Lynn the owner was delighted to find someone to help her with the property. She met Janet through an online platform that matches home owners with sitters and, after telephone conversations and reference checks, the pair agreed on the terms of a housesitting brief.
Janet would move into the house in Lezignan Corbieres, in the Languedoc and help to breathe life back into its empty rooms, in order to prepare the home for viewing by potential buyers. She would act as Lynn’s eyes and ears in the locale for any opportunities or issues related to the house and be resident most of the time in order to keep the house secure. Their housesitting agreement was that she would live rent free and make a contribution to utilities. It is difficult to estimate how long such properties take to sell, but the pair agreed a long term housesit of between 6-9 months.
Opening the door for the first time revealed years of dust accumulated in the unoccupied property. Janet spent the first month organising the cleaning, and finding tradesmen on behalf of the owner to help her bring the heating and plumbing back to life.
Having seen the film Eat Pray Love where the main character heads overseas to find herself, Janet had jokingly thought that one day she might take a trip on her own to indulge herself and learn a language. Here was her perfect opportunity!
Janet quickly organised some furnishings and kitchen equipment and in no time she befriended the local estate agents, the Mayor and her neighbours who owned the local café and boulangerie. Once the cleaning was complete and the utilities were working she began to furnish the house. The property came back to life.
Janet says she had the experience of a life time, a “fantastic” time and highly recommends the whole house sitting ethos.
Why get a house sitter?
An empty property may become damaged if neglected and house-sitters can be a vital presence in a seasonal location, and their presence can be a serious deterrent to thieves, and help to maintain a property. Insurance companies prefer a property to be occupied, any property empty for more than 30 days may not be covered.
Finding House sitters in Three Easy Steps:
Register with a housesitting platform
Post an advert with dates, location and duties and use photos to give a true impression of the property.
Learn as much about the house sitter as you can before committing, some house sitting platforms will assist in background checking.
When you find someone to house sit, prepare a house sitting agreement between the two of you, then you will have a clear understanding of expectations for both parties.