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  1. #1

    Default House care while away

    What are some options for taking care of the house while away on a thru hike? I'm thinking mostly for those of us without nearby family.

    My plan is to come back to my house so selling is not really on the table for me. I do want it lived in, lawn mowed (hire a service), mail retrieved, etc.


    My initial thought is to hire a professional house sitter. This person could also send packages/swap out gear as necessary. I've found websites of companies that specialize in house sitters with background checks. The cost is minimal. Different deals can be had for different locations but I anticipate that for my area it will likely be I pay the bills and let them live for free. I'm OK with that.

    Another thought is to get a student. I am 20-30 minutes from two state universities. Not as thrilled with this option as it could go great or it could go really bad.

    What other options are there? Has anyone used a professional house sitter that you could recommend or share experiences, do's and don'ts?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Default House care while away

    I don't worry too much about the house itself. In the winter, I set the thermostat to 60. ( I was told that if it gets too cold, it could affect the glue under the flooring )
    My main problem is the bills. I have my mail forwarded to a friend or my son, who can open the bills and email me the details, so I can pay them. I know some folks turn off the water.

  3. #3

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    Realize that in some areas squatters can be a real issue. Once they move in its legally difficult to get them out. There are also scams where individuals find vacant homes, break into them, change the locks and the rent them out to unsuspecting renters.

  4. #4

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    You could get a permanent room mate---sort of like a friend or "celibate girlfriend/boyfriend"---no drama or high emotion included---and work them into your backpacking lifestyle. They could pay partial bills---and be there to pay all the bills with your monthly stipend included (as part of your normal monthly bills) when you're gone.

    They could shuttle you too from trailhead to trailhead. After you get home from your AT hike you may still want to go out backpacking every month and may need this kind of setup.

    The challenge is finding someone you can trust.

  5. #5

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    Since you're in Florida...
    Might be worth trying some property management companies who handle vacation/second homes for folks. They are probably used to doing something similar for snowbirds who don't rent out the house while they are away. Might even be able to earn you a little income (or cover their costs) via rentals. They are used to doing the little maintenance stuff and lawncare you might not trust another to handle too.

    I'm fairly well paperless for all of my stuff. Credit cards and bank can be handled via smartphone apps now too. I have only run into a few minor items that couldn't be converted to paperless statements but that's mainly lack of any urgency on my part to resolve it. My wife pays bills via 'bill pay' from Chase for those items and they cut a check and mail it. Point being... might be better to put some effort into that instead of mail forwarding. Whomever ends up taking care of the property could handle clearing out the mailbox once a week. The other advantage is that if something does happen you basically have all the resources you need to resolve it on your phone or a desktop login away.
    Once you know there isn't really anything in the mail... no point in paying to mail junk mail to yourself.

    Unfortunately the rest is a crapshoot. I have a rental property... easiest job in the world until you get a bad tenant.
    Poop occurs... one couple I had were wonderful tenants. But they got in a fight, broke up... and it fell apart for them.
    As you suspect... a college kid is likely a pretty big gamble.

    Biggest issue I'd say- if something does go wrong what will it cost you (financially and personally) to abandon the hike and come home to deal with it.
    Me personally I'd think a professional of some sort would insulate you from that and pay for itself in terms of peace of mind.
    Even something small like a pilot light on a furnace, hot water heater out, or seeping toilet... those are items a property manager could jump on but a sitter might not.

  6. #6

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    If it were me I'd also look into the roommate or house-sitter thing or something similar. I definitely wouldn't want to leave the house empty for that long. I probably wouldn't go for the college kid idea

  7. #7

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    Or if really committed to the solo backpacking lifestyle---sell the house and land and get an apartment---something that can sit empty for months at a time. All bills paid thru direct deposit from checking acct etc etc etc.

  8. #8
    Registered User tarditi's Avatar
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    AirBNB = what could go wrong? :-)

    The idea of renting, short-term, to a responsible adult is appealing - especially if it's someone you know to be reliable.

  9. #9
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    I just left it. It was there when I got back.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    To get my home in "set it and forget it" condition for my expected 5 to 6 month absence while on the AT. I had my in-ground pool dug out and replaced with a xeriscaped back yard, so no pool maintenance issues (I have no children and rarely used it myself). I stripped all sod/grass from my yard and replaced with xeriscape also. Indigenous shrubs, trees, and ground cover that are drought and freeze resistant, so no yard care issues (no watering, mowing, trimming--saving water and electricity since I pump from a well). Put up hurricane shutters, just in case. Set my ac units to 80 degrees (I live in Florida and would be home before cold weather). Set up electronic bill paying and cancelled all catalogs and magazines, so almost no mail. Emptied my refrigerator, made sure all dishes and laundry were done, and distributed moisture absorbers throughout the house. Alerted my nextdoor neighbors re: my absence and left a set of house keys with them (I live in neighborhood with a lot of retired folks). Also sent house keys to my only living relative, my brother. Left contact info with neighbors and my brother. I have a whole house security system with infrared motion activated cameras that not only record all activity around my house and garage, but send alerts with video to me via my iphone. These cameras also pick up sound and allow me to vocally communicate with anyone in range of the cameras, again via iphone. Put my cars up on blocks with full gas tanks with "Stabil" mixed in the fuel and batteries hooked up to trickle charging battery "tenders". Left a slow dripping leak in a bathtub to keep the water pipes in the house clear (I have a passive solar water heating system and didn't want the water to stagnate in it). I arranged for a neighbor to occasionally use my trash receptacle for the weekly pickup so as not to alert anyone that I wasn't home and to pick up any delivered mail. Put devices on my porch lights that automatically turned them on at dusk and off at dawn. I have solar powered motion activated floodlights around the property too. For added security, I had a few gizmos around the inside of the house too. Some of this may seem like overkill, but living alone and not wanting to take on a roommate/house sitter nor wanting to burden neighbors and friends with responsibility, I felt that the effort and expense were worthwhile. By the way, none of the mentioned precautions were costly except removing the pool. Security systems are ubiquitous on the internet at ever lowering prices.
    I now have a mature xeriscaped yard with flowering plants and some fruit instead of a water and chemical hungry lawn.

  11. #11
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    Or if really committed to the solo backpacking lifestyle---sell the house and land and get an apartment



    hmmmmm....

    me thunked that you would have said to get/build a teepee.....

  12. #12
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    Do you trust any of the neighbors? How tight are you with local LE? Can you convince a trusted relative to watch your house? If you have a nice home I'd be careful doing this: "I pay the bills and let them live for free." That's an invitation for appealing to some questionable occupants. Professional house sitters who are background checked don't stay for free. It's a paid position.


  13. #13
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    Bravo Greensleep on the xeriscaping.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    hmmmmm....

    me thunked that you would have said to get/build a teepee.....
    In this day and age of sprawl and urbanization I realize the futility of such advice.

  15. #15
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    this would be my strategy: find a very responsible and able person to rent it with a potential of 100% reimbursement

    basically they would pay rent, but after verified house / lawn / property care get it back

  16. #16

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    Be careful who you rent to, make sure the agreement expressly prohibits porno shoots, unless you’re into that kinda thing.

  17. #17

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    Thanks for all the suggestions.

    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    this would be my strategy: find a very responsible and able person to rent it with a potential of 100% reimbursement
    basically they would pay rent, but after verified house / lawn / property care get it back
    I'd thought of something similar to this. My idea was more along the lines of, for each month I'm away I provide a bonus. Sort of an incentive for them to keep the resupplies reliable and on time but no major penalty to them if I'm forced off trail due to injury or whatever. I plan on mail drops but that's a different discussion.

    The area of Florida I live isn't really a tourist hot spot (although I am only an hour away from a beach that is often ranked in the top 10 worldwide by groups that rank such things). I'm more likely to need to provide all utilities and perhaps a small stipend. I'm comfortable with this if it provides peace of mind.

    I've thought of the roommate thing. I'm not inclined to have a live in roommate but if I relocated I might consider property with separate living quarters for such an arrangement. Like getting a student there are pros and cons to this. Right now the long term plan is to remain in place as I like my current living arrangement.

    Neighbors are a possibility. My biggest concern is I don't like to be a bother but for a few dollars maybe it would be OK.

    AirBnB, renting out, etc. is not for me.

    I'm thinking more and more that the professional house sitter is the best option for me, even if it costs a little more. Unless I get lucky and find just the right graduate student or something. I also consider that if I do get off trail early I may have to compensate my house sitter somehow, but that's part of the deal.


    It would be neat if there were someone who specialized in such things (combination house sitting and resupply services) but I suppose it isn't a big market.

  18. #18
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    One major consideration is, what happens if you break your leg or otherwise get off the trail early? (Had a buddy break his leg coming off Katahdin on day one of his sobo thru.)

    Probably best not to have someone in the house who expects to live there for six months.

    I kinda like the property management idea, let a pro deal with all the maintenance. If you can find a company who handles short-term corporate rentals, that can bring in enough cash to pay for the management services.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    One major consideration is, what happens if you break your leg or otherwise get off the trail early?
    I also consider that if I do get off trail early I may have to compensate my house sitter somehow, but that's part of the deal.

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