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In Utah towns like Park City, 70 percent of homes are often vacant—and housesitters watch over pets and property. Maryse and Jeff McConnell love to ski, so when they aren’t roaming the world, you might easily find them housesitting in Park City.

Meet the people who ‘house sit’ your second homes

In Utah towns like Park City, 70 percent of homes are often vacant—and housesitters watch over pets and property. Maryse and Jeff McConnell love to ski, so when they aren’t roaming the world, you might easily find them housesitting in Park City.

Editors Note: A TrustedHousesitters policy states it is the responsibility of the house sitter to ensure it is legal to enter a country and house sit abroad. “We would advise that you check any relevant travel bureaus and authorities, as you would when arranging any other trips abroad,” the site reads, which may include obtaining a work visa. There may also be tax implications for digital nomads who work outside of their home state. Consult a tax professional to ensure compliance with local regulations.

Maryse and Jeff McConnell from San Diego call themselves “comfortably retired.” They love pets, have four-wheel drive and a background check, and know how to drive in the ice and snow. They also love to ski, so when they aren’t roaming the world, you might easily find them housesitting in Park City.

Seventy percent of Park City’s homes are often vacant, according to the city. With the median price of a home in the resort town estimated at $1.6 million, it’s easy to see why homeowners would prefer to have someone in their house to watch over it when they aren’t there.

ZipRecruiter, a job website, lists the average annual salary for a Utah housesitter at $67,065—but the McConnells do it for free via a housesitting community platform called TrustedHousesitters.

TrustedHousesitters, founded in 2010 and headquartered in the UK, has 110,000 members across 130 countries, according to Angela Laws, social media and community manager for the organization. The subscription-based platform “brings together like-minded travelers,” she says, those who want to travel and leave their pets at home or those who love pets and want to look after them. Most house sits involve pet sitting, but some just include maintaining a presence and care over the property.

Membership on the platform, which starts at $129 annually, allows access to the database of sitters and/or house sits available. Currently, there are 32 homes from Park City listed as active on the site, with more being added all the time, Laws says.

Sitters and owners don’t pay anything other than membership fees to participate, and after they connect on the site, they do all of their own planning, Laws says. TrustedHousesitters provides 24/7 member service, a veterinary helpline, background checks of US members, ID checks, and reference checks for all members.

“Our sitters do this out of love for animals, and that’s what the priority is always for all of our members,” Laws says. In addition to her remote staff position with the organization, she has been a sitter for the past 12 years. “One of the benefits is you can sit in a location you might never otherwise see, and you can do it living as a local,” she says. “It’s a way of traveling that gives you slow travel and allows you to connect with communities.”

The McConnells house sit 70 percent of the time, they say. Aside from the benefit of being with animals and travel, housesitting allows them to cut out one of the most expensive aspects of travel: lodging. They also save money by cooking at home where they are sitting. They house sit in the Western US most of the time, focusing on ski resort towns. They have had sits in Park City, Heber City, and a number of resorts in Colorado. They find that many homeowners who live in ski resorts tire of the long winters, and by about February, they head for warmer climates, leaving their homes and pets with housesitters.

Laws says many insurance companies require homeowners who will be out of their homes for more than 30 days to have some sort of property management in place. Some owners will hire management firms, and some prefer the more personal arrangement of a housesitter.

At the end of a sit, both sitters and owners leave reviews. The McConnells have a long list of positive reviews and they aren’t able to meet the demand for all the requests they get to sit, they say.

Laws says many insurance companies require homeowners who will be out of their homes for more than 30 days to have some sort of property management in place. Some owners will hire management firms, and some prefer the more personal arrangement of a housesitter.

TrustedHousesitters builds community through its online forum in addition to the friendships that develop between owners and sitters, says Laws, who sends daily videos and pictures of the pets she sits to the pet parents. The McConnells and Laws now have repeat house sits because the owners trust and like them. “People plan their vacations around our schedule,” says Maryse, a retired financial analyst.

Housesitting is not just for the retired, according to Laws—it also has attracted the attention of the army of digital nomads brought about by the Covid pandemic. These remote workers appreciate the chance for a change of scene. “Instead of having that view out the window that you have 24/7, 365 days a year, you can actually go somewhere and experience being in another part of the country,” she says, though many members also do sits in their own city. According to Laws, TrustedHousesitters membership has doubled since the pandemic.

Some sitters choose to do a couple of sits a year. Or, like Laws and her husband, they sell their home and move from back-to-back sits for years. Laws, like many of the other sitters who sold homes, has purchased another since Covid. The pandemic brought a halt to housesitting, and it was no longer feasible to be without a home base.

Laws notes that despite all the benefits, connecting on a housesitting site still requires a level of trust. The McConnells say this is alleviated by many calls and video chats before the sit. “By the time we go on the first sit, it’s like we’re long lost family,” Maryse says.

Laws says that occasionally, things aren’t ideal. “We are a product like any other product, and no company in the world is without its issues at times,” she says. The company investigates these events, and usually, the root cause of any problem was there wasn’t enough communication between the owner and the sitter prior to the sit.

All in all: “It’s a lifestyle choice,” Laws says of housesitting. “It’s not for everybody, but for those that actually experience it, the common comment is, ‘It’s changed my life.’ And it really does change pets’ lives as well.”

Laws is still surprised that many home and pet owners are not aware that there are platforms like TrustedHousesitters that offer this match-up service for housesitting.

Cahlan Sharp, a builder, technologist, and entrepreneur from Orem, Utah, was one of those people. He wasn’t aware there were services like TrustedHousesitters available when he recently needed to find a full-time sitter for his home in St. George. It was his first experience looking for one, he says. 

“On a whim,” Sharp decided to post a search on LinkedIn. In his post, he said the caretaker would live rent-free in exchange for managing and taking care of the property. Whenever Sharp and his family wanted to use the home, the caretaker would agree to stay in the adjacent property. Sharp said in the post that this offer would have been “a dream scenario” for him and his wife in their earlier years.

Sharp says he never expected the response he would get to his LinkedIn post—more than 175 comments and close to that many direct messages. “We had plenty of great people to talk with and found an awesome choice,” he says.