News / Vancouver

Want to see the world on a budget? Become a global house sitter

A Maple Ridge couple that has adopted housesitting as a way of life is spending the next two weeks drinking bubbly made in the vineyard of a stunning six-bedroom French chateau.

Angela and John Laws, who have used for the past five years, are part of a growing travel trend thanks to the custom connections provided by such sites.

When they go overseas for months at a time, the Laws leave their townhome with a housesitter to save on their insurance premiums, which go up if it is left empty for more than 30 days.

"They're like a dating agency for houses and housesitters," Angela explained Friday via phone from France.

"For my membership, I get to be able to list my home, but also as a housesitter. I get daily email alerts for houses that are coming available, and you can specify what countries you want to be notified about."

Angela said about 90 per cent of homeowners on the site are looking for someone to take care of their pets, which is the price you pay for free, spacious accommodations. But for animal lovers like her and her husband, who lost a beloved dog seven years ago and decided not to get another one, it only adds to the charm of travelling.

"It's our way of enjoying animals," she said, noting the empty French bed and breakfast they are staying in has two dogs and two cats.

"The animals are your first priority, and then the home."

Prior to their arrival in the Champagne region they stayed in a three-storey house in London, saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars on hotels during the Olympics.

While the Laws, who are retired and originally hail from the U.K., spend several months a year housesitting abroad, Angela said it's also a great option for working professionals.

"You don't have to do long gigs like we do," she said. "You can actually do this, for say, two weeks' vacation that you've got."

The secure site allows owners to vet references and even ask for a criminal record check, but Angela said a thorough reference check usually tells her all she needs to know.

"I do as much as you would do if you were employing somebody," she said. "By the time my sitters arrive at my house, I probably know more about them than I do about my next door neighbours." charges about $60 per year for housesitters, and $90 for a dual membership allowing users to both make and view housesitter and housesitting postings.

For the Laws, the service also doubles as a way to make new friends around the world.

“They have left a case of champagne and three bottles in the fridge for me,” she laughed.

“They picked us up and last night they barbequed for us and we sat out in the garden and we drank champagne and the house is just lovely, absolutely lovely.”

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