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How to become a professional homesitter in the UK

Voice Of EU

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Be my (house) guest: Want to live in a country pile but don’t have the funds? Housesitting could be the answer…

  • Enquiries at website Home Sitters have risen substantially
  • Margot Andrew explains how she became a professional homesitter 
  • We explain how to get involved and the practicalities  

To experience the life of a multi-millionaire in a vast country house with tennis courts and a swimming pool is nothing more than a daydream for most of us.

But not for Margo Andrew, who — ten years ago — became a professional homesitter. 

‘I had just retired as a hotelier but I simply couldn’t get used to a life of playing golf and lazing around,’ says Margo, 69, who lives with her husband Tom, 72, in North Cumbria. 

Sitting pretty: Enquiries at homesitters.co.uk have increased from 250 a month pre-Covid to a current high of 314 a month

Sitting pretty: Enquiries at homesitters.co.uk have increased from 250 a month pre-Covid to a current high of 314 a month

‘I wanted to travel, see different places and work with animals, so this seemed like the perfect job.’

Margo’s sits have taken her to properties of jaw-dropping splendour, including a Scottish castle on a loch, an ancient country estate, complete with its own herd of deer, and a fabulous farmhouse with racehorse stables. 

She usually sits for three weeks in every four — sometimes, but not always with Tom.

This is a boom time for sitters and their agencies. Ben Irvine at Homesitters (homesitters.co.uk) says inquiries have increased from 250 a month pre-Covid to a current high of 314 a month. 

Jackie Bullen at Minders Keepers (minders-keepers. co.uk), meanwhile, says calls requesting her sitters have doubled.

‘That’s partly because so many clients bought pets during the lockdowns,’ says Jackie. ‘For wealthy people, kennels or a daily visit from a neighbour just won’t do — they need to be cosseted.’

It’s not only doting pet owners who find sitters useful. Insurance companies often stipulate that cover is invalid if a house is empty for more than a set number of days a year. 

Sitters have been known to deal with everything, from floods to attempted break-ins. Above all, a sitter ensures a home feels cared for when its owner returns — no piles of mail and overgrown lawns.

The perfect job: Margot Andrew became a professional homesitter ten years ago

The perfect job: Margot Andrew became a professional homesitter ten years ago

Homesitting is a lifestyle choice: nobody would do it to get rich. Some agencies do not pay sitters at all, apart from basic expenses, pointing out that they live in a place for nothing and save by not using their own gas and electricity. 

Minders Keepers pays £24.80 a day and Homesitters offers £11.85 on top of expenses.

As you would expect, sitters are stringently vetted. Applicants to Homesitters face a four-page application form, then a 35-minute phone interview followed by three hours of face-to-face interviews. 

The majority of sitters are around retirement age — though Jackie has noticed an increasing number of younger home workers joining her books.

Though homesitting can benefit everyone involved, things can go wrong. Huge mansions aren’t immune from infestations of rats and mice. And it is harrowing if an animal dies and it is up to the sitter to inform the owner. 

Normally, dogs and cats are easy to deal with, but exotic animals, such as alpacas, llamas and micro-pigs need a little specialist handling.

Homesitting can, therefore, be stressful. One sitter thought she had ‘lost’ a herd of deer. Thankfully, they were just hiding in the woods.

Some owners’ instructions border on the bizarre. For example, one demanded that her pet be given ‘cuddles’ at bedtime and that the sitter read it a good-night story. The pet was a pony.

What advice would Margo give to anyone thinking of being a homesitter? ‘Ask yourself, do you like solving problems — are you a can-do sort of person?’ she says.

‘If so then try to build up a bank of about 12 regular clients. That way, you’ll learn the idiosyncrasies of each one’s plumbing system and burglar alarm. 

The pets will learn to accept you, too. And if you’re organised, homesitting can be relaxing, with lots of time for painting and drawing in the most lovely places.’

Make a note of these companies… 

Trusted Housesitters 

This website, aimed at pet sitters, has nearly 100,000 members and prop-erties all over the world, including the UK, America, Australia and most of Europe. Membership is from £99 per year. (trustedhousesitters.com).

Nomador

For those looking to housesit in France, Nomador is the place to look. The website also has a stopover feature that makes free accommodation available for those in between housesits. From £60 per year. (nomador.com).

House Sitters UK

If you’re keen to stay closer to home, this website specialises just in the UK. Membership is only £29 a year and there are a good selection of housesits on offer. (housesitters

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Bluewater grows its entertainment offer (GB)

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Landsec has announced the opening of a third ‘UK first’ attraction at Bluewater, Kent as the destination expands its partnership with Hangloose Adventures. Skydive, a free-fall experience not found anywhere else in Europe, and the UK’s only outdoor skydive machine has opened at the centre. It follows on from Europe’s biggest purpose-built giant swing, standing at 46-metre tall, which opened at Bluewater earlier this month.  

 

The announcement builds on a successful first year for Hangloose’s initial attraction Skywire, the longest zip wire in England, which has welcomed 30,000 guests since launching at Bluewater last June. Landsec will continue to work with Hangloose to expand its offering, with up to five more experiences set to open at the centre by 2024: a bungee tower, giant slide, clip and climb, waterdrop boulding wall, and Via Ferrata, a route-marked climb using metal rails and rungs embedded in Bluewater’s cliff walls.

 

Mark Warne, Brand Account Director F&B and Leisure at Landsec commented: “Delivering new experiences which are unique to Bluewater is central to our overall offer for guests. Hangloose’s innovative concept raises the bar when it comes to leisure attractions and draws guests from across the UK to Kent. By partnering with Hangloose to grow their business and create shared value, we’ll be able to give guests even more exciting experiences every time they visit.”

 

Brian Phelps, MD of Hangloose Adventure, said: “Since the beginning, we’ve worked closely with Landsec to grow our leisure concept and drive performance, putting us in a unique position where we’re able to expand our offer after only a year. We’ve enjoyed great success at Bluewater so far and are already thinking about how we can provide even bigger and better experiences in the future.”

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Author with immaculate house offers ten tips for a clean home

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Is this the secret to NEVER having to clean? Houseproud author claims she saves hours by sticking to a ten-step mantra – including banning chairs in bedrooms, wiping as you cook and only ironing shirts and dresses

  • UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply
  • She shared top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers
  • Among them are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom, not having a chair in the bedroom and cleaning  the kitchen while you cook

A houseproud author has revealed her ten essential tips for keeping a house spotless – saying simple ground rules for family members and cleaning as you go means never wasting time on dull chores. 

Writer Natali Juste Simmonds, who was born in the UK but now lives in the Netherlands, penned her top ways to keep on top of cleaning on Twitter, saying she has time to focus on her writing because she follows her own advice about dodging ‘thankless’ cleaning tasks. 

The author of a series of paranormal romance novels told her 20,000 followers on Twitter: ‘I know so many people who spend hours cleaning up after their family every day, but I refuse to. 

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UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she's cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules - and making sure family members comply

UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply

‘It’s boring and thankless. I prefer to write. Yet my house is spotless. Here are 10 ways to keep on top of s*** so you don’t have to clean for hours.’ 

Sharing her ‘tough love’ mantra, she said that the key to keeping a home clean is making sure every family member is engaged, saying learning how to tidy is a lifeskill that everyone needs – and no-one should get away with not doing it. 

Natali wrote: ‘Train everyone in the house to do the following (cats are the exception). After a while these habits will become routine, but you MUST stick to them and make sure no one is let off the hook.’ 

Among the tips are filling a bag with things that are in the wrong place at the end of every day and placing them back where they belong. 

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter - saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds' home)

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter – saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds’ home)

The writer also claims having a toilet brush doesn’t help keep a loo clean and dousing it with bleach instead is a more reliable way to ensure it’s sparkling. 

And getting used to wiping down mirrors after using a sink also helps, she claims, writing: ‘Keep a dry cloth next to the bathroom sink. Every time someone uses the taps or brushes their teeth, wipe down the counter and mirror. Takes literally 2 seconds. No cleaning toothpaste stains off counters.’

Teaching kids to pull their weight around the house is key to success, and equality reigns supreme in the Simmonds house. 

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom - using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom - to prevent people leaving clothes on them - and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds' very tidy office)

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom – using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom – to prevent people leaving clothes on them – and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds’ very tidy office)

‘If one kid lays the table, the other clears. If one hangs out the washing, the other collects. I don’t say “I need help with dinner” I say “who will chop the veg and who will wash up?” Its called a presumed close. I have no option, why should others in my house?’

The author, who has written books including the Indigo Chronicles trilogy and the Blood Web series, admits that having a cleaner is still useful…because they can help keep on top of areas where grime quickly builds, including fridges and ovens – but she suggests ditching a takeaway a week to cover the cost. 

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DIA Group closes 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal

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DIA Group has closed 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal, resulting in the loss of approximately 159 jobs. The retailer said the closures are the result of ‘the effort to adapt, modernise and balance the operations of DIA Portugal, with the aim of better preparing the company for current and future challenges arising from the current economic situation in the country,’ according to media reports. In the last two years, the multinational company operating in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina, accumulated losses of over €620m.

 

In Portugal, net sales reached €283.1m in the first half, 4.5% below the €296.3m generated in the same period last year, due to the reduction of stores and mobility restrictions. DIA Group confirmed its intention to continue to invest in Portugal. The company hopes to adjust its operation to the current reality in order to ensure the future success of the company.

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