By Lamia Walker, Founder of HouseSitMatch.com
Like many a good ideas, the Sharing Economy has taken a strong hold pretty rapidly, manifesting itself in multi-faceted forms facilitating many aspects of our lives. In London we all know Boris Bikes and car sharing companies like Citycar, and many of us have taken part in some collaborative trading through sites like eBay and Amazon, in fact they are so much part of our culture that they have been absorbed into our language – we talk about eBay and Amazon-traders as often (or perhaps more often) as we talk about city traders!
The Sharing Economy has begun to seep into our private lives. Though we may not have much time to meet up with people we know because of work and other commitments, online networks help us stay in touch. We hook-up and chatter with our friends and neighbours on Facebook and Streetlife where trading and exchange of goods and services is now as common as social chit chat.
Increasingly we seek collaborative solutions for real urban challenges. What to do with our homes and pets when we go away when we may live at some distance from traditional networks of family and friends? There are housesitting networks, enabling us to care for our homes and pets as if we were resident. Housesitters are recruited online and carry their reputations online with them. Their ratings are the result of 5 star reviews by previous home/pet owners. Trust is built by balance as the home owners are also reviewed by the housesitters. Trust is the key.
Housesitting saves money in kennel fees, and helps keep your home and pets secure while you are away. Here are some stories from real home and pet owners based in London.
– A Home Owner’s Story
Olivia lives in Islington, a nice leafy part of the Borough. She is a professional who works in the capital. Because London is her adopted home her network of friends is new. She recently adopted a rescued cat, Ella. The cat has helped to make her flat a home and is now very much part of her life. When planning a holiday last Summer Olivia was a little concerned about how to find care for her cat. A cattery felt like the wrong decision as the cat had been abandoned before, still rather nervous and only recently settled into her new home. It seemed too soon to take her to yet another new location to be cared for by strangers.
Then when Googling to find a solution one day, Olivia hit upon the idea of housesitting and a website that could allow her to access a network of house and pet sitters – some professional and some amateur. Within a few minutes she had registered posted pictures of Ella and her flat and stated the dates of her holiday.
Within a few days Olivia was approached by Alejandra a registered sitter on the site, who in actual fact is a tourist guide at the Louvre in Paris looking for an affordable city break in London, one of her favourite cities. They exchanged details and references, talked over Skype a few times, and arrangements were made. Both saved money in cattery fees and hotel accommodation respectively through the collaboration.
– A House Sitter’s Tale
Simon is an actor. He is based outside of London in the Midlands although he has regular work at the National Theatre, at the BBC and various other West End locations. The life of an actor is unpredictable and lodging in London can be prohibitively expensive. So Simon decided to try housesitting as a way to save on accommodation while he was in town for his latest production at the National – Dara.
He came across a website with London housesits, where the owners were asking for responsible individuals, with references to care for their property and pets while they were away. Simon registered and approached Louise who lives in Wimbledon. She was planning a four week holiday and needed someone to step in to care for her kitten, Otto.
When Simon was in London for rehearsals they met on neutral ground in a café. Louise checked Simon’s references from the BBC and the National and went to his production! They prepared a short written agreement detailing the routines Simon would need to maintain her home and to keep the cat happy. Simon moved in and looked after everything for Louise during her absence. He saved money on rent, and she found someone reliable to keep things safe and secure for Otto, and much cheaper than a cattery. They made a great match.