Former finance professionals Neil and Karen Oddy, both in their 50s, have been home and pet-sitting for 18 months. They have visited new parts of the UK – and stayed in fabulous homes in the countryside – all for free.
The couple, who live in Sidcup, Kent, both used to work as busy professionals, but took early retirement to find a better work-life balance after Neil suffered a stroke.
Neil says: ‘When we retired, Karen had wanted to get a pet, but as we travel a lot – including spending several months of the year in Portugal where we own an apartment – getting a cat or dog was not practical. Home-sitting and pet-sitting seemed like the perfect alternative.’
After attending an interview for Homesitters, they were employed by the company. Neil adds: ‘Our assignments have included staying at a huge period house on a 50-acre estate with beautiful views over the Kent countryside looking after a Cairn Terrier and a cat. Also, an ultra-modern house in Surrey with high-spec appliances and a cinema room looking after a Chihuahua and a Miniature Bull Terrier.
‘But our favourite home-sit was at an old farmhouse near Epping Forest, between London and Essex, where we looked after two French bulldogs. We have been back three times now and love the peaceful setting – and spending time with the dogs.’
The couple earn around £150 per week for this particular assignment.
While the initial attraction of house-sitting was being around animals, Neil and Karen have found a host of other benefits.
Neil says: ‘When we both worked full-time, we would take our holidays abroad. But now we get to explore the UK and visit areas we have never been to before. We have also been lucky enough to stay in some truly gorgeous homes. It always feels like a holiday.’
If you are an animal lover, like the Oddys, then signing up as a sitter can be a great way to get a travel experience that does not cost you a penny in accommodation. A growing number of retired people are opting to become house-sitters to stay active, boost their social lives, and to travel the UK and beyond.
In some cases, this enables them to top up their pensions, too. With Homesitters, for example, pay is a minimum £19.40 a day which includes the care of the home and a daily food allowance.
Additional rates may then be paid for pet care and other responsibilities.
Alan Irvine, chairman of Homesitters, says: ‘The vast majority of our home-sitters are aged 55 and over and many are retired. Being a sitter means you get to explore the UK, enjoy new experiences, and earn a little bit of extra money.’