Escaping the daily grind - Homesitting gives couple a stress free lifestyle in early retirement
Posted on 20 February, 2020
Brian and Barbara Kennedy have been homesitters since June 2004.They have done almost 300 homesits and spent close to 3,000 days on assignments in the past 16 years.
The couple decided to become homesitters after taking early retirement. Brian retired in November 2003 aged 52, after spending more than 30 years working in pharmaceuticals manufacturing. Barbara followed six months later, retiring from her role as Office Manager for a branch of an international security and cash handling company, shortly after her 50th birthday.
Brian explains, “I decided to retire early as I wanted a more relaxed way of life, free from the daily grind of commuting. We’d been mortgage-free for almost 10 years so the potential was there to think about doing something more interesting and my pension could be taken, albeit at a reduced rate due to my age.
“We reviewed our finances and realised we would be OK. We didn’t need to contemplate downsizing to a smaller house or making any other lifestyle changes. At that stage we had no firm plans for what we might do to fill our time.”
The couple knew nothing about homesitting until they attended a pre-retirement course arranged by Brian’s employer and decided it looked like the ideal part-time flexible role for them post retirement.
They researched several different companies and were most impressed by Homesitters’ thorough approach to selection, which included a head office interview, and the fact they would be employed directly by the company. The couple were taken on soon after their interview.
Brian says, “We left the interview thinking it might be nice if we were accepted and offered four or five weeks of homesitting each year. However the demand for homesitters is much greater than we’d thought and we carried out 14 assignments in the first six months!”
The couple take on approximately 200 days of homesitting each year on around 20 assignments. The length of assignments varies from as little as two days upwards to their longest single assignment of seven weeks. They also spent a total of 22 weeks in one house over an 18 month period where the client requested continuous cover.
Brian says, “There is no pressure on us to accept assignments. If we are busy Homesitters will simply select another homesitter. We do the homesits because we enjoy them and in our breaks at home we catch up on jobs in the house and garden or helping our adult children, so we are never at a loss for things to do.”
The couple’s favourite things about the role are spending time with the pets which so far have included dogs, cats, chickens, geese, rabbits, sheep, goats, horses and Guinea fowl; exploring new surroundings and meeting new clients. They especially enjoy walking dogs and believe they are fitter because of it.
Brian explains, “In our early days of homesitting while out on a morning walk in fields with dogs cavorting in the sunshine, I would often think of my former work colleagues attending a team meeting in a windowless conference room, probably thinking of the many tasks awaiting them. I knew exactly where I preferred to be.
“Seeing the dogs and cats happy in their familiar environment is really pleasing. Sometimes they can be nervous when their owners first leave but they soon relax with us and seem to remember us when we go back for another homesit.
“We like tending to the needs of the pets, making sure they are well cared for, fed the correct food at appropriate times and, in the case of dogs, that they have their walks. These regular walks provide us with welcome exercise and fresh air and I believe we are more fit and healthy as a result than we might otherwise be after nearly 16 years of retirement.”
“We also really enjoy the sense of responsibility and purpose we get when we are left in charge of someone’s home and pets, and the satisfaction in knowing we are doing a good job which enables the client to have a stress-free break.”
The couple have stayed in more than 80 different homes, some very modest like their own and others veering towards stately. One house was surrounded by a moat. Many have had beautifully kept and extensive gardens. They say strolling in the grounds with the dogs can feel like being in their own private park.
They have cared for more than 140 different dogs of many breeds from Rottweilers to Chihuahuas, Labradors to working Cocker Spaniels. Assignments have covered many areas including Northamptonshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and areas of London including Hampstead, Kensington and Chelsea, Barnes, Putney and Wimbledon.
Brian concludes, “We have visited and stayed in more parts of the Home Counties in the past 16 years than we did in the previous 40 years. Homesitting has been for us like having lots of small holidays; up to 20 times each year we pack our bags, load the car and set off on a new adventure.
“For us the payment we receive isn’t a strong motivation but it is nice to have. It means we can enjoy occasional pub lunches during our stays in different areas while not putting a strain on the budget. An unexpected additional bonus has been the significant reduction in our home heating bill too.”
Homesitters Ltd is keen to recruit more home and pet sitters in 2020 throughout the UK. For more information on becoming a homesitter visit www.homesitters.co.uk