Have you already calculated the amount you pay in rent?
I don’t mean per week or per month. How much have you paid in rent in the past year? What have you paid for over the past five years?
Most people have no reason to do these equations. It’s best not to think about it too much. You must have a roof over your head, right?
But for house-sitters, it can be a bit energizing. These numbers are not charges or obligations, they are potential savings.
“I didn’t fully understand what percentage of my money was going to be rented until I stopped paying it,” says Tom Clift, a 29-year-old from the inner suburbs of Melbourne.
Home care for family and friends
Tom was paying around $ 800 a month (plus bills and utilities) for a “dilapidated room in a crappy shared flat” in Melbourne’s Brunswick East before starting to keep his house.
He was still thinking of moving when his aunt offered him his place for a month. She was traveling and needed someone to take care of a pet. He thought he would stay home for a little while before he found a new place.
But then another family member left. And another. Then the friend of a relative and the relative of a friend and the colleague of someone else …
Suddenly 18 months had passed and Tom had $ 20,000 more in the bank. He has since put the money for a deposit into his own apartment.
“It just kept lining up,” he said. “It certainly helped to have a large family who are all of a certain age. And that they were rich enough not to sublet their homes.”
But using your home network isn’t the only way to make it work.
Find temporary places to live online
Kate Smith, 34, got her first babysitting job in February this year creating a profile and responding to an ad on an online platform.
She had previously rented a room in Redfern, in Sydney city center, for $ 250 a week. But she spent most of 2020 in Cairns to be with her family during the pandemic.
Her shared home broke up while on the wrong side of the border and she had nowhere to stay when she returned to New South Wales.
“I never thought [house-sitting] before, “she said.” But it seemed like a cheap way to have temporary accommodation while I was looking for an apartment. “
Once again, what started out as a temporary fix suddenly felt like an achievable life situation.
She has stayed at eight locations over the past three months, including one in Launceston, offsetting the cost of a cheeky Easter vacation. She meets new people and tries different places all over Sydney. And, above all, she did not pay a penny in rent.
“Suddenly being uprooted makes you think, ‘Well, you know what? I can handle being uprooted every week.'”
Four things to consider before keeping the house
But this traveling life is not for everyone. Here are some important questions you should ask yourself before you tear up your lease.
1. Can you live without your belongings?
“You have to be cool not to have a lot of stuff,” says Tom. “I lived on a backpack.”
It wasn’t too hard for him because he didn’t have much to start with. His shared houses have always had a lot of furniture and he has always been a bit minimalist.
Kate agrees: “You should only do this if you’re the type of person who can sort your stuff – or if you accept that most of your stuff is somewhere else for a long time.”
After giving away most of her belongings, Kate turns to alternative solutions like renting clothes for special occasions.
“I rent what I need to look what I need, and then I can send it back when I don’t need it anymore.”
2. Do you like animals?
Almost all babysitting jobs exist because of pets. While some house-sitters get paid, the gig usually involves free rent in return for general pet care: feeding, walking, brushing, and administering medication.
When he was at home, Tom looked after dogs, cats and very old chickens.
“I had a chicken that died on me,” he says.
“I had to bury the chicken in the backyard, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, please let the owner come home before the second chicken dies.'”
3. What is your backup plan?
Even the most successful house-sitters sometimes find themselves homeless.
Knowing where you might stay when you’re between houses – for days or even weeks – can help.
Do you have friends or family nearby? Could they realistically accommodate you for a few nights?
Do you have extra cash on hand for last minute accommodation? Where would you go?
If Kate can’t find accommodation, she usually opts for a cheap, clean hostel in town. And she is also prepared for any complications related to COVID.
“When there was a positive [COVID] case in Sydney, I stayed in my own room rather than staying with other people. I didn’t want that extra exposure. “
“If there were massive border closures [and tight restrictions] I would probably rent a place that is fully furnished for a consistent period of time. “
4. Does it work with the rest of your life?
Of course, not everyone can move three times a month and check in at a hostel all the time.
The situation is going to be much more complicated if you have children. Or if you have mobility issues. Or if your work situation is particularly rigid.
Kate is determined to keep going “as long as it doesn’t compromise the life I want to live”.
Tom is very happy with his life after being a house keeper, but says it was a “shock to the system” to pay for housing again. He now lives with his partner. He’s got a whole apartment full of furniture. He has his own pet (note: not a chicken).
“I don’t think I would do it again, but it’s just a reflection of where I am in my life right now.
“Would I do it again if I was younger? Absolutely.”
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