Seven Sharp

recently ran

about house sitting. It featured a young couple who, as "professional house-sitters", were able to live rent-free and bill-free for most of the year. They calculated this saved them more than $50,000 annually. The idea was these newly-weds would be able to save the deposit for a house of their own while minding other people's abodes.

House-sitters are often required to mind a residence while the owners are away for extended periods. The house-sitters water the plants, walk the dogs and generally make the place seem inhabited. If I was a young person without a home of my own I'd definitely offer my services to one of the house-sitting websites that match residences with prospective sitters.

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The main drawback associated with being a house-sitter would be having to continually move, but, evidently, as regular contacts are established, assignments start to become longer and longer: as in five weeks rather than five days. It's a lifestyle also suited to retirees. I know a retired couple who sold their home then took a house-sitting assignment while they looked for a new place to buy. Now, several years later, they are still happily house-sitting all over the country. They're even enjoying repeat assignments as home owners who have already used their services ask them to return.

The vast majority of people who want house-sitters living in their home are also pet owners who would prefer not to send Fido or Puss to the kennels or cattery in their absence. They would rather their pampered pets continue to receive one-on-one treatment in a familiar environment than mix with the hoi polloi of the canine or feline world.

The reporter on the Seven Sharp piece commented that he'd possibly feel uncomfortable about people living in his house free of charge. I'd take that a step further: I'd feel uncomfortable with people living in my house full-stop. The mere thought of strangers sleeping in my bed, using my bathroom and rifling through my pantry is enough to give me a bona fide case of the heebie-jeebies.

Call me old-fashioned but I just like knowing that my own personal possessions are reserved for my own use. If they were for the benefit of others surely they'd be called communal possessions.

The other thing I'd fear in allowing strangers to use my home would be that they would snoop through my personal effects. Diaries and personal papers should be strictly off limits but unfortunately some people are burdened with an over-developed sense of nosiness and an under-developed awareness of other people's rights to privacy.

(I must confess I would struggle to resist the temptation afforded by the lethal combination of unencumbered access to someone else's diary and ample time in which to peruse it.)

Still, people with a better moral compass than me would no doubt make ideal house-sitters. Even so, I do wonder at exactly the sort of people who would be prepared to give the run of their home to perfect strangers.

But then, once I remember that it's often associated with pet ownership, it begins to make more sense. If you're happy to allow a pet indoors and are able to tolerate its dribbling, toileting accidents, muddy paw-prints and inconvenient shedding of hair, then a human resident would barely register on the unacceptability scale. Thanks to such relaxed attitudes, house-sitters will clearly continue to be in hot demand this holiday season. Just not at my place.