By David Agren Original Print Publication: July, 2007
Tips For Housesitters
Prerequisites: Common sense, flexibility, the ability to learn the habits of others.
In case of emergency: Get phone numbers for emergency services, friends, neighbors, and know how to shut off the electricity, water and gas.
Compensation: Must include free housing, and may include perks such as use of automobile and a small salary.
Contact: Always know how to get in touch with the owner.
Steven Miller stopped paying rent years ago, but he never lacks a comfortable place to crash. The retired U.S. Air Force officer housesits fulltime in the Lake Chapala area – and sometimes other places – and finds no shortage of homeowners looking for someone to care for their places while traveling or heading back north. A quick glance at his calendar shows no free time until November, when he plans on heading to Argentina for several months.
Image:Courtesy Steven Miller
Steven Miller enjoys the comfort of luxury homes without paying the mortgage.
He broke into housesitting by accident and never advertises his services. While he seldom complains about his lifestyle, the occasional mishap – like having the refrigerator suddenly quit – can sap the joy out of an assignment. Miller spoke to Inside México about the ups and downs of housesitting and the places he’s lived.
Inside Mexico: How did you get into housesitting?
Steven Miller: About four years ago my neighbor asked me to housesit for them and move into their house while they were gone. I was renting a large home at Lakeside (the Chapala area) ... and could have just fed the two small dogs as needed, but homeowners want someone to live in the home, watch over it and the pets, and sleep there. After that, it was was all word of mouth and non-stop requests ever since.
Two reasons I’m in demand: I don’t charge and I often fix things that don’t work. I have two pensions so I’m financially secure.
IM: What are the benefits and the downside of what you do?
SM: Living in luxury homes year-round, rent free that usually include a maid, gardener, pool and spa, is an attractive lifestyle. I enjoy the pets and the change of pace, homes, and locations. But best of all, I meet the nicest people and often become good friends. “A downside is that when you need a fork it’s not in the same drawer as the last home and the light switches have moved. I had to fire a gardener once, but hired and new one that was much better. One home sprung a water leak on the roof in the middle of the night and flooded. I fixed it and the maid and I had all the clothes and such dried out, cleaned and put back so the homeowners didn’t know until they returned. There was little evidence of a mishap. It also helps to be mechanically inclined.
IM: What have been some of the best assignments you’ve received?
SM: The best ones are long term, three or four months in great locations. I’ve had many, including a large, luxury, Mexican home in San Miguel de Allende which included the use of a big, new Honda all-terrain vehicle. Housesits Lakeside often include use of a car, but ATVs are more fun.
IM: What kind of home style is most common in Ajijic/Lakeside?
SM: Most are quite large, newer, hillside lakeview homes with pool, lush gardens, and breathtaking views of Lake Chapala. Cool breezes and gorgeous sunsets are the norm. Most are quite modern with all the amenities including a gourmet kitchen, dishwasher, whole house softened and purified water, satellite TV, wireless high-speed Internet, and a large carport for my minivan.