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A Life Less Ordinary

House Sit Chatter – Behind the Scenes

A few weeks ago, when Mark and I were still taking care of Herk and a pool in Rocklin, CA, we faced housing insecurities for a period of four weeks. After not finding suitable listings, we were getting a tad antsy, only a couple of weeks out. Would we be homeless between our week-long house sit in Fairfax, CA and two-month assignment in Sebastopol, CA? What would we do for four weeks? We couldn’t afford staying in a motel for that long… Luckily, some other options started to appear.

Bay in Laguna Beach

“Do you think I should apply to that two-week house sitting job in Lacey, Washington?” I ask Mark as I am reading through the assignment again.

“Sure. Why not, we don’t have anything else at the moment,” he replies. “We have nothing to lose.”

“OK,” I say. I write a nice letter, explaining why we would be the perfect sitters for their two dogs and hit the submit button, thinking how an 11-hour drive and weather that is even colder than Northern California are not ideal.

By lunch time, two other options have appeared online. Since we “don’t have anything to lose”, I apply to both. What a day!

“There is a ten-day sit in the middle of San Francisco,” I tell Mark while we eat our sandwiches. “I did write them a short message and linked to our profile.”

“But, it is only for ten days,” Mark reacts. “Don’t forget we have 28 to fill up.”

“I know, but it is close by and… I’d love to live in this fascinating city for a little while. You really enjoyed it when you lived there, right?” I know the location is hard to beat. I am looking forward to visiting the city again, as well as the surrounding area where Mark and I met in 2004.

“Anything else going on?” Mark wants to know.

“Well, there is actually a five-week house sit in a fancy house in Huntington Beach,” I offer. “The timing and the warm location would be perfect. The main thing about that one is: no gaps at all during house sits, but we would have to cancel the week-long one in Fairfax.”

“Hmmmm. That’s not great either. Although, they only have chickens and mentioned that the neighbors could take care of them, if we found a longer sit elsewhere. It doesn’t hurt having a conversation with them, I guess,” he says.

“That’s why I sent them an introductory email as well. We’ll see what happens,” I finish the conversation.

Before going to bed that night, I open my inbox and find a message that makes my heart skip a beat. “Congratulations! You are confirmed as house sitters in Lacey, WA!” it says.

“Oh no,” I sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Mark asks.

“We are confirmed in Washington! And we haven’t even had a conversation with the owners. They really want us and they think we are committed because of my engaging message. We still have all the California ones pending. Now what?” I am flabbergasted. “I told you I shouldn’t write my emails too enticing when we aren’t ready to commit yet!” Somehow, I find a way to blame Mark. I am good at that.

“Usually it doesn’t happen like this,” Mark reacts, “Your email is supposed to start the conversation. This is not your fault. Maybe this is the first time they use this house sitting service? Don’t feel bad. We never said we would commit.” He tries to put me at ease, but I immediately have to send them an email back, confirming the Skype phone call we had set up for the following day. How do we tell them we don’t want to commit quite yet?

The next morning, I see another house sit in Southern California pop up. This one is for two and a half weeks, in Costa Mesa, with a young dog. The drive is about 7 hours from Fairfax and the temperature 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than Northern California and 20 degrees more than Northern Washington. I apply, feeling a bit guilty towards the people we have a conversation with at 2pm. That’s it for house sitting applications, though. We hope one of the warmer ones will work out for us. The competition is fierce.

When we talk to the friendly owners of the house in Washington, we immediately clear up the air about having applied for house sits in California as well. While a bit shocked at first, they understand the process a little better after we explain how most owners and sitters approach the opportunities and interactions. We hit it off with the couple – they are sailors as well – and they would really like us to take care of their lovely home and cute dogs. “Of course, we would like you to choose us, but the ball is in your court,” they say, after I tell them we would like to have a few days to see if we hear back about our other applications. Usually, the ball is never in our court, but always with the home owners, who have a selection of applicants to pick from.

By evening, the owner in San Francisco writes that we are #2 of his choices, with candidate #1 visiting him in person the following day. He would get back to us if that person would not work out. He remains mute.

The owner of the multi-million-dollar villa in Huntington Beach writes back “Gosh guys, we have a lot in common. I love it! The only dilemma is whoever was going to house sit would be sleeping in our guest bedroom, which has a trundle bed, full size on top and the pull out is a twin so kinda small for a couple unless you guys are short and skinny haha.” I found this answer strange (how can we have anything in common with rich people?) and even a bit suspicious. With so many fancy bedrooms, why do they want us to sleep in a trundle-bed? Nevertheless, after writing back that this is not a deal-breaker, we never hear back from him.

We also receive a reply from the woman in Costa Mesa, who really liked our profile and lets us know she is considering us. The following day, we have a positive Skype conversation with her. After emailing her some references of previous sits, she writes that she would really like us to take care of seven-month-old Jaxx and that she will confirm us on the site as her sitters, if we are ready to commit.

Mark and I think and talk about the sit in Washington and the nice people we met over the phone. We feel bad disappointing them. “Sometimes, we have to think about ourselves,” Mark sighs. “I know,” I respond. The prospect of warmer weather, the opportunity to meet friends in San Diego and extend our time in Southern California a bit, and a shorter drive guides me to send an affirmative email to Costa Mesa. Then, I write a longer, more personal one to Washington, and can barely sleep that night.

Luckily, the couple understands. Who would not prefer winter in Southern California as opposed to Washington? We remain friends and help them find another sitter. Weeks later, we make the home owner and her sweetheart of a pup happy in Southern California. And that is how we got here, right now, with Jaxx! 🙂

(The links for the potential house sits in this post bring you to their initial listings, to get an idea about what we find online and how we decide which ones to apply for.)

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt “selfish” about a choice? Which house sit would you have picked and why?

26 Comments

  1. My head is spinning from the chaos!
    I don’t even know how I would begin to make a decision. That said, I completely understand how you must have felt when the WA accepted your offer. I know how I would react. I’d be packing the car for a drive to WA.

    • It was a pretty hectic week, for sure. Things are much quieter now. Part of us wanted to do the same thing, Ryan, pack up and move on; not make it more complicated, especially since we also came up with the plan to visit a couple of friends along the way. But, it sure wouldn’t be as warm out walking the dog(s) as now, nor would we have been able to enjoy any sea vistas. 🙂 We are still in touch with the people in WA and hope to find something up there over the summer. Are we getting too picky?

      • No, you’re not getting too picky. I was talking more about the state of mind I would have in that situation. Rather than seeing that they had jumped the gun, I’d totally assume I was to blame for giving them the impression I was already 100% in. So Cal was/is the best choice at this time.

        • I actually did feel that way, but Mark talked me out of it. I have a tendency to somehow always find an angle that makes me think things are my fault, because of a certain way I approached the situation. I also hate confrontations and I do not want to disappoint people. Sigh…

  2. Lining up a house sit and trying to make the timing and locations work sounds really stressful! Sometimes, you have to do what works best for you, and hope that things will work out for the other party. Like leaving a job, but knowing that someone else is getting a great opportunity due to the vacancy. I bet someone more suited to WA came along, and it’s a win-win in the end.

    • It has been a bit more challenging after we left the east coast (and our home base), but so far, we have been pretty lucky with the possibilities and the assignments. We actually just found out we can stay a few days longer at our current sit (the owner suggested extending her trip a little bit longer), which closes the gap we had between this one and the next one. We always have back-up plans for the shorter gaps (like a wonderful opportunity staying with friends in San Diego in this case), but it is more convenient to go from one house sit to the next with all our “gear”. The people in WA found a great alternative and we are still in touch. They think we might be more agreeable over the summer up there. And, we are. 🙂

  3. I would have picked the one in Washington so we could finally meet. Lol. Not really (I’m not even in Washington right now). Southern California all the way. I love walking on the beach with four-legged friends! But I would have felt bad about it for a little while too.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Stephanie, I truly think we are kindred spirits. If you are in Washington over the summer, there is a good chance we will meet. If the stars align for Mark and me to find assignments in the Pacific Northwest’ that is the hope. I am reading “The Alchemist” and, apparently, if you want something to happen badly enough, the universe will help out. 🙂

  4. This sounds so complicated. My hair would turn grey trying to handle it. Oh, hang on… too late! Perhaps it would fall out with the stress.

    • Haha, Anabel! The grey look suits you. Not sure about the bald one. 🙂 All this is part of the lifestyle and adventure. Easy for me to say now, since things have been working out all right. Mark’s hair has turned grey, but that is because of our business and all the stress and helplessness related to that. Mine is still “un-grey”, but I have other stress symptoms. They usually appear in regards to time-management, though, not worries about sits.

  5. All a bit tricky, isn’t it? Don’t think I’d be any good at juggling all those uncertainties. You stay remarkably calm between you. 🙂

    • We knew it would be part of the deal when we left the East Coast (and the option of staying at our home base). Once the weather is warmer and we can camp (not ideal for work) or we have a camper again, these uncertainties might be turned into opportunities to travel and explore a bit more. We will see. As of now, we are set until the end of April. 🙂

  6. I would have done what you did. Housesitting is a business and the less personal the better.

    • Thanks for visiting, Beth. While the hiring process is somewhat like a business, with an interview and different applicants, we do approach the sits in a personal manner and enjoy meeting the home owners and their pets, which we end up loving dearly every time. 🙂

  7. Southern California! That said, I understand the dilemma. I hate disappointing people, so it would have been a tough call for me as well.

    • One more week and then we are heading back north. I hope you had a fantastic time in Egypt, Holli!!! I’d sign up for some sun and dry heat right now.

  8. I would struggle with these scenarios, just as I am struggling now as I prepare to leave my current apartment in Washington DC in about 10 days and still have nothing lined up in Houston! On top of that, we are trying to sell a house in Chicago and eventually buy a house in Houston, but all those dates and furniture movements and job start dates, etc, etc, are not aligning properly! Aarrgghh. Glad you ended up somewhere warm!

    • You have so much going on right now, Lexie. I thought you already had bought or decided on a house in Houston… I can totally understand and relate to things not lining up. If you have a job waiting, all this becomes more serious and urgent. Also, your move is closer to permanent than our moves, so, to be honest, if I were in your situation, I would be stressed as well. Sorry. Not helping here. I hope you have friends in Houston, or can rent an affordable place for a few weeks, although, having to move everything twice is no fun either. How about looking into house sitting there? Maybe you can find an assignment for a few weeks or a month there? I can point you to some sites if needed. In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some good fortune and the stars – logistics – lining up!

  9. I love your house-sitting posts, Liesbet. Do you arrange all of your house-sits through Trusted Housesitters? Do you mostly do your house-sits in the US?
    Fingers crossed that you do a Vancouver Island house sit sometime soon!

    • Thanks, Donna. I”m planning a couple more in the near future, since we are hopping from sit to sit these weeks. We use THS and two other sites as well, Mind My House and House Sitters America. We also check House Carers, but are not members (yet). THS is big business and not really our favorite site, but they offer most options for sitters and home owners. As of now, all of our sits have been in the US, because it is more important for us to be comfortable and a bit settled, instead of travel and see many different places. Also, plane tickets are expensive and now that we have a car, we enjoy driving to all our assignments and having all our belongings with us. We plan to stay in North America for now and, maybe, the Caribbean or Hawaii next winter. That being said, we have not seen many listings pop up in those areas… 🙂

  10. Wow, what a cluster! I would have been biting my nails (and Hans’ too, LOL!) in worried anticipation! I’m glad it worked out for you to get the warmer place in California! It is REALLY cold in WA now! You guys are great communicators with your potential clients!

    • Thanks, Terri. I find communication and transparency extremely important, in relationships and with home owners. There needs to be mutual trust and understanding for this great exchange to work. Mark and I are glad that the days of insecurity are behind us for a little while. We are “booked” without gaps until the end of April now and plan to fly east for a few weeks in May to see friends, family and doctors.

  11. I love the style of this blog post and reading the behind the scenes chatter that led to your decision making. Would love to see more like this. It’s a fun way to get to know more about you guys.

    • I am hoping to incorporate this style in my memoir, Ellen. So far, I have a few sections that focus on dialogue to share important events, but, unfortunately, I can’t do it for the whole book… these sections take up so many words and pages. Glad you like it!

  12. Oh my I was feeling a bit stressed just reading! I think in the end I would have made the same choice. Like you I would have felt a bit bad about the couple in Washington. So kind of you to help them find someone to fill the spot.

    • It was a hectic few days, but we are happy with the decision we made, especially since this sit turned out to be three weeks in the end, eliminating any gaps. And, the weather is becoming sunny again. 20 degrees C right now; we won’t complain. 🙂

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