In the winter of 2019 in India, I had met a woman whose profession was (is) that of a House sitter. I knew of the term and had in fact, tried to register as one as one but expectedly it’s a closely knit community and it takes time to build reputation as a House Sitter.
Many years later, in the midst of 2021, a friend (of 2 months) asked me if I would like to stay at her place while she’s gone. Essentially, if I would like to be her House-sitter. I jumped at the opportunity. I had visited her place and it was the stuff of my dreams.
Auroville, is a community where House-sitting is a popular concept. The diversity of the place makes it a thriving place to practice house-sitting. Many Aurovilians from outside India visit their friends and families in their home countries once a year or so. During this period, they allow a trust-worthy person to look after their house/apartment.
What does it mean to be a House-Sitter?
Things start to fall apart in unpredictable ways when not in use for a prolonged period. This ‘prolonged’ varies for different things. Like the time I got access to things I had packed away after three years, it was sifting through a wreckage of the past. My shoe soles crumbled apart, clothes tore open, zippers didn’t function the same way, and such.
In order to avoid this, some people like to get a reliable person on-board who can keep their house running while they’re away. For some people it might also include keeping their plants and pets alive and healthy.
In my first experience of house-sitting, I had to ensure water tanks were used and filled twice a week (when the water came), Water the indoor plants, that’s about it. In my second experience, I had to water the plants, defrost the fridge every week, and some smaller things like ensuring quarterly maintenance of water filter etc.
Apart from these responsibilities, every community has some unsaid and some outlined rules like using only probiotic products, no parties, no guests, no overnight guests, etc.
Do you get paid to be a House-Sitter?
The woman I had met in 2019 did get paid for her housesitting gigs. But she had worked for many years to build her reputation as a trusted house-sitter. In my experience, there is usually a very small stipend for house-sitting (often when pets are involved), but rarely (read Never) ever in Auroville have I seen a house-sitting opportunity that paid.
Do you have to pay to be a House-Sitter?
In Auroville, yes. In fact you have to pay multiple entities like the following
- Pay the house owner – My friend didn’t expect a payment but the next host did. It’s usually a small sum but that’s because there are quite a few overhead costs in Auroville as a guest.
- Pay Auroville Guest Fee – Every guest in Auroville must be registered with the foundation and they (or their host) must pay Rs. 150 per day of their stay in Auroville.
- Pay the Domestic Help – Almost everyone here has domestic help coming upto three times a week. Each visit costs Rs. 200-Rs.250. The house owners expect you keep the arrangement going. Some, even increase these visits to ensure their house is taken care off in their absence and the domestic help is not at a disadvantage in their absence.
Apart from these, there are other costs like Wifi, special cleaning products, replacement of anything that gets damaged during your stay etc.
In my current situation, my total costs are slightly higher than what I was paying at a guesthouse in Auroville.
What’s in it for the House-sitter if there’s no Cost Benefit?
In the way of clarification, in some situations, there is cost benefit to house-sitting for someone like my friend who didn’t expect a payment to her. I ended up paying (sum of Auroville guest fee and Domestic help) a little less than what I was paying at a guest house.
In my current situation, I do pay more than I was paying at a guest house but the quality of stay is far superior to that of the guest house. I have a private space, attached toilet, hi-speed internet that only I use, fully-functioning kitchen etc.
It’s someone’s home, you have access to and homes are not just a checklist of items a guesthouse has, it’s designed by a person keeping their utmost comfort in mind. It’s that warmth, they leave behind in smaller things that I am so in love with like this perfect meditation spot I have in this apartment with a cushion, a reading nook, study table overlooking a large bougainvillaea tree.
How to Find House-Sitting Options?
If you’re new to the community, the best way would be to read through the News and Notes, a weekly Newsletter from Auroville. Occasionally one can see house-sitting opportunities open up esp. during the summer months of May and June.
Another way is to drop a note yourself to be published in News and Notes. How to send a note for publication is mentioned at the end of News and Notes copy.
The best and most effective way is to be a decent human being. Be nice to people, be thoughtful, and be kind. Giving a stranger access to their homes is a really big thing, many people rely mostly on word of mouth.
Remember, if you turn out to be a shitty house-sitter, you do ruin it for others.
Pros and Cons of House-Sitting?
- You are in someone else’s home, so there is a hesitation in using the space
- A guest house accounts for wear and tear but a home owner may not. Some expect you to replace or repair anything that broke down during your time there but it’s not really fair in my opinion as it may have caused by prolonged use and not because you use it any different way.
- You’re expected to put up with things or people, you may not want to. Like the domestic help in this apartment is scheduled to come once a week but she often takes time off refusing to come another day and I’m still expected to pay her for her hours. This seems very unfair to me and feels like something I wouldn’t have signed up for had I known the extent of the problem.
- There may not be a big cost saving (at least not in Auroville).
- The place is someone’s home so it carries the warmth of a home unlike a guest house
- It’s likely to be more comfortable than a guest house. A home owner buys things to elevate their quality of life whereas a guest house owner would buy things with cost-benefit analysis in mind.
- It’s provides more privacy
- It gives the semblance of a home for people without one
I love gardening and pets so for me it’s also a lovely to experience that without rooting myself to a place.