If you’re planning on visiting San Miguel de Allende (SMA) you’ve probably looked into booking a room at one of the many fine hotels in the area. You may have even looked into making a reservation on AirBnb. While these choices are great for the short term visitor, those looking for a more extended stay are often faced with expensive hotel stays or having to look for a private home to rent.
San Miguel de Allende of course has long been a magnet for people looking to relocate to Mexico. Many visitors coming to SMA are often trying to decide if they will make this magical city their new home. As is often recommended, its a good idea to live somewhere temporarily before making the commitment to stay long term. Longer stays will allow you to get a better sense of the area and also live like a local for a while. In this blog, I’m going to introduce you to another option for your next stay that may be worth your consideration. Its called house sitting and it just might be the perfect opportunity for you to experience living in this pueblo magico.
Put simply, house sitting is an arrangement between a home owner and someone willing to watch their home for a period of time. In most cases there is no monetary exchange involved. This is a service based on trust and responsibility. While they don’t get paid, house sitters receive free accommodations in exchange for looking after the home owner’s property and in many cases taking care of some pets. Other responsibilities might include watering plants, minor housecleaning, and tending to any problems that may arise while the homeowners are away.
Being a house sitter is really “the better way to stay” in San Miguel regardless of whether you are a tourist, a longer-term traveler, or a person considering a move to San Miguel, says Alexandra Gordon, owner of the Housesitmexico.com Her website, which serves Mexico exclusively, helps house sitters and home owners find each other. Besides skipping the hotel bill, house sitting in SMA has many other advantages. Not only do you get to stay in a real home but the majority of home-sits listed in SMA are the ‘dream’ retirement or vacation homes of Americans, Canadians and other English speaking people. Some homes are nicer than others but they are all comfortable and will give you the real life experience of living in San Miguel.
At times homeowners need to be away from their property for a period of time. They may be going on vacation, visiting with family, or traveling for work. What ever the reason, it is often a challenge for them to travel because they have a property that requires constant upkeep and may have pets that need to be cared for. Some property owners also feel more assured if their home is not left vacant while they are away. In places such as San Miguel for example, the home owners are often expats who return to their home country for visits, or may only live in Mexico part time. Home owners receive the house and pet sitting services of a sitter, and the sitter/s have the wonderful opportunity of living in their home for free. The house sitting arrangement therefore creates a Win-Win for both home owner and house sitter.
The greatest value to a home sitter is of course are the free accommodations. Imaging staying in a beautiful home at your favorite destination for anywhere
between a week and several months and not having to pay for rent. What could be better?
As an experienced house sitter myself, I have had the opportunity to stay in some really nice homes. My accommodations have repeatedly been very comfortable and the home owners have always made me feel welcomed. Don’t be surprised if they take the time to show you around and introduce you to their neighbors and friends. Its a great way to meet people when you are new in town. They will also give you some really good advice on local events and things to do in the area.
With this privilege however, there are some responsibilities that must be taken into account. This is not like couch surfing where you are just looking for a place to sleep. Home owners expect that their property and pets will be carefully looked after. Daily chores might include feeding and walking pets, watering plants, and general maintenance of the home. For many people who home sit, these duties are really no different than taking care of their own home and pets. You don’t need any special skills however.
Anyone really can be a house sitter. You can be single, a couple, and even a family. Sometime you can even bring your own pets but this is up to the homeowner and whether they have pets of their own at the home. What you do need to be is a bit more flexible with your own travel plans. Home owners will post the dates that they require a house sit and prospective house sitters will need to arrange their travel around those dates. Sometimes you can negotiate with the homeowner to arrive a day or two earlier but this will vary with each case.
⇒Tip: If you need to travel during a certain time frame but your house sit dates don’t fit perfectly, try try to work with the homeowner and see if they are flexible. Owners will sometimes need some flexibility as well.
House sitting often includes pet sitting as part of the responsibilities. Where pets are involved, they are big winners here too. They get to stay home where they are safer, healthier, and less lonely than were they to be left alone—with someone dropping by to feed them—or taken to a kennel. If you don’t feel comfortable taking care of pets, there are many opportunities to house sit where no animals are involved.
The profile of a typical house sitter usually falls into one of three following categories :
1. The digital nomad. If you aren’t already familiar with this term, these are folks that are able to work remotely and are not tied down to a specific geographic area. They are the adventurous types and like to explore and travel to new places. Their work follows them where ever they go as long as they have access to good Internet service.
I happen to fall into this category myself. I work online and require a good Internet connection where ever I stay. I have had to turn down some house sits because the Internet service was not sufficient for my needs. Its really important to communicate with the homeowner to find out ahead of time if this will be an issue.
⇒Note: if you are the type of traveler that depends heavily on the Internet, its important that you verify that the home you intend to house sit has good and reliable Internet service. Some homes do not due to the location. Always confirm with the home owner prior to the house sit.
2. People looking to relocate. Retirees planning on moving to a new city or those just looking to relocate get the advantage of living in a new area without making a commitment to buy or rent long term. This is a great way to learn if the new location is a good fit and discover any potential issues that you might not realize during a short stay. You get to live like a local and see what it would be like to have your own home.
⇒Note: Many vacationers fall in love with a location and decide to move there only to realize later that its not always the ideal weather or conditions year round. If you are planning to live in a new location year round, its wise to stay during the off-season to see what its like.
3. Home Swaps. Lot’s of the homes that are available for house sitting are in highly desirable locations. Sometimes arrangements are made between homeowners that seek to stay in each others respective locations. For example a beachfront home owner might offer a house sitting swap with a home owner in the city. Or an expat needs to return to the states and swaps homes with someone looking for a vacation home.
You don’t need to fit into one of these profiles to house sit. Maybe you just want your vacation to feel a little more authentic. House sitting allows you to live in a real home and neighborhood and experience life like a local.
If you like the idea of this type of arrangement, then I would first recommend learning more about the do’s and don’t s of house sitting. There are certain details that need to be made clear before agreeing to any house sit. Not knowing the full extent of expectations and responsibilities are where some house sitters run into issues. Remember this is a voluntary arrangement, so you do not need to agree to unreasonable requests from home owners. But once you have committed to a house sit, you should respect the agreement. If any changes need to be made, you should let the home owners know as soon as possible.
For the purpose of this blog, I won’t list all the in’s and out’s of house sitting. There are many informative blogs and group pages that go into more detail and advice about house sitting. One site that I like is House sitting Magazine. There you’ll find a lot of good information and things to consider when arranging a house sit.
There are a few ways to go about finding house sits. You can occasionally see house sitting opportunities posted on Facebook, Craigslist, and Yahoo group pages. But these will likely be harder to secure if you can’t supply a solid list of references from prior home sits. This method also does not give you a way verify the home owners and house sitters in any way.
The better method I believe for both home owner and house sitter is to work through a house sitting website. House sitting, and house sitting platforms are a growing international phenomenon. There are a variety of reputable established sites that match home owners with house sitters. For an annual membership fee, sites such as Trustedhousesitters allow you to search for available house sits in many different countries . On the site, members create their profiles and include any relevant information such as any special skills and experience. They also can list their references and post reviews. Another great feature is that the websites allow home owners and prospective house sitters to communicate and learn about each other though the platform with out providing personal information.
⇒Note: Besides the many advantages that the paid platforms have such as email notifications, in-system messaging, profiles, and reviews, there is the added effect that they weed out the not so serious house sitters. Home owners and house sitters who are willing to pay for the service will most likely be serious and trustworthy.
While the larger sites cover all the popular locations around the world including Mexico, if San Miguel de Allende is your intended destination then the site I recommend and use myself is Housesitmexico. This site focuses on house sitting in Mexico and regularly posts new house sitting opportunities in popular locations such as San Miguel de Allende, Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Puerta Vallarta, among others. As a member you can scan all the available house sitting opportunities and contact the home owner directly through the website. What’s also great is that as a member can receive notifications as soon as new house sits become available.
Since this website concentrates on Mexico solely, homeowners will find that the house sitters on the site are more committed to being there. Many times they are often already in Mexico and are knowledgeable on how things work here. This works great when home owners need a house sitter on short notice.
For house sitters, the site will have a greater selection of homes where they want to be. It also makes you better known in the communities. It is even more likey that you will be referred for future house sits by happy home owners.
House sitting is a great way to stay and experience San Miguel de Allende. If you are open to the responsibility of looking after a beautiful home and possibly taking care of a pet or two, you will be rewarded with a great stay that is not only free but will make you feel like you’re part of the community.
Further Resources and recommended links:
David Valle is a blogger, travel writer, photographer, and avid traveler. He shares his personal experiences of living and traveling in Mexico. He is also the owner of GofarwithEnglish.com an online ESL teaching platform. He teaches English to students in San Miguel and around the world.
Me Encanta México!