Living Rent Free as a Property Caretaker
by Gary C Dunn, Publisher of the Caretaker Gazette
The property caretaking field is growing and retirees are in demand as caretakers and housesitters. Many people now own multiple homes and properties throughout the world. They often require the services of a housesitter or caretaker to look after their properties. A glance through the pages of The Caretaker Gazette reveals that, in many cases, property owners are seeking "mature" or "retired" singles and couples to fill these positions.
Housesitting and property caretaking can provide retirees with the opportunity to experience life in a different geographic locale and save money by living rent-free. While there are numerous positions available throughout the United States, more intrepid retirees opt to explore the caretaking lifestyle in another culture. For example, Iowans Tom and Jean retired from what they describe as "intensive careers", responded to an ad for housesitters that appeared in The Caretaker Gazette, and are now living on a hacienda in Alamos, Mexico. Alamos, located in the lush green hills of central Sonora, is a colonial town that is home to a large number of American and Canadian retirees.
Tom explains, "Housesitters are great people. Not just because we are housesitters, but the sitters we have met are adventurous, dedicated, service-oriented folks. They believe in "Su casa es mi casa" [your house is my house] and take care of it like it is."
Housesitting has provided Tom and Jean with the time to pursue hobbies and special interests. Tom is able to participate in performing arts, writing, gardening, seminar and workshop presentations, and finds time to play the guitar. Jean has been able to indulge her interest in art and nature, wellness, writing, reading, swimming, and walking. Their stint as housesitters in Alamos has provided Tom and Jean with the experience to become professional housesitters.
Seniors Dave and Sumana retired from life in the fast lane to caretake a 40-acre resort property located outside of the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. After visiting Mexico and deciding they would like to find a way to spend more time there, the couple responded to an ad in The Caretaker Gazette that read, in part, "seeking a responsible, intelligent, thoughtful, multi-talented, semi-bilingual couple to care for a villa that has been in the family for 30 years."
Owned by an American, the house is oriented toward magnificent views of a series of mountains that surround the city. Dave and Sumana enjoy the interaction with the guests who come to stay in the property's guesthouses. The region is home to a vibrant community of American and European expats who are helpful, hospitable, and appreciate the rich, simple life that is possible in Oaxaca.
Sumana describes life as a property caretaker, "Living here is like taking care of your own home. You see what needs to be done, and you do it. As we slow down, there is a very nice sense of being connected. We have no great plants or social schedules. Our door is always open and we always have time for a visit. We are lucky to have found this oasis of warmth in a world that doesn't always recognize its neighbors. We are living a life that 'fits'."
There are virtually no age limits when it comes to caretaking. An adventurous septuagenarian, Captain Jack spent many years in the Navy and was able to see much of the world while he was in the service. He notes, "I got my chance to see the globe the hard way - by participating in a lot of wars: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War."
After so much activity, Captain Jack took early retirement from the Navy in 1963 and, at the age of 39, got involved in the field of property caretaking. Captain Jack started his caretaking career at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in eastern Tennessee, right on the North Carolina border. He stayed for one summer, working at the hikers' guesthouse called LeConte Lodge on top of Old Smoky Mountain along the scenic trail there. Captain Jack recalls, "I truly enjoyed that caretaking experience and, after spending so many years at sea, I decided to settle down into a land-based caretaking lifestyle."
Captain Jack soon landed an exceptional job as a caretaker for an American physician. The doctor's home was built on a warm, paradise island. That island, Roatan Island, is one of Hondura's three Bay Islands. It is located about 30 miles north of the Honduran coast, east of the Gulf of Honduras. Captain Jack explains, "It's a beautiful green island with mountain peaks rising to 700 feet. With a population of 20,000 at the time I was a caretaker there in the 1980's, Roatan was an inexpensive tropical Eden."
Until recently, most American retirees settled in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belize. Because Roatan was slightly more difficult to reach, it remained relatively pristine and undiscovered. According to Captain Jack, "When the doctor choose to build his home on Roatan, he was looking to escape from the expense, noise, and crime of the United States." The doctor found that the Honduran government made it fairly simple for an American to move to Roatan. Although there was a $1,000 fee for establishing residency, there was no duty charge on the first load of household goods, the first car, and the first boat. The doctor's home, a two-bedroom ranch-style house, is located high above a scenic lagoon with a beautiful view of the ocean.
It was very comfortable for Captain Jack whose main responsibility was just to be a presence at the house and property to prevent any theft or vandalism and take care of any maintenance problems. He built his own boat dock down in the lagoon for his 30-foot SeaRay powerboat. Captain Jack usually received what he needed from the supply boats that came to the island twice a month. Sometimes he would fly over to Honduras with his twin engine Cessna or he would take his powerboat across the gulf to the mainland to pick up supplies. Every August, the doctor would come down from the U.S. At that time, Captain Jack would take his vacations in his powerboat or fly his plane back to the states for some visiting.
After a more than a decade on Roatan, Captain Jack thought it was time to give up his idyllic lifestyle and start traveling again. Prior to embarking upon his latest journey, Captain Jack turned to The Caretaker Gazette (www.caretaker.org) to find his next caretaking adventure. Ever the spirited traveler, with no thoughts of slowing down, whatever Captain Jack decides to do next, he is certain to end up making an interesting and exciting adventure of it.
Closer to home, Marty and Kathie retired from their own business to caretake a resort property on Clear Lake, in northern California. Seeking what they describe as, "a definite lifestyle change," the couple responded to an ad in The Caretaker Gazette to caretake Honeymoon Cove Resort. The Resort with 500 feet of private beach frontage on Clear Lake boasts the largest private beach in Lake County, California - and the cleanest air in all of California. The resort is located on a remote peninsula, twenty minutes from town.
The property itself contains five rental units, including two very old, rustic, log cabins, and three mobile units that sleep up to ten people each. Kathy and Marty, who have been happily married for thirty years, were able to provide the owner with solid references from family, friends, and business associates. The owner is happy with what Kathie and Marty have done for the resort, and the guests have all made favorable comments about their hospitality. The couple installed a spa on a deck overlooking the lake and enjoys the ever-changing conditions of the water and the surroundings. On many moonless nights, they have enjoyed a warm soak, watching thousands of stars, in complete solitude.
They have not had time to miss being homeowners yet and note "It's kind of nice to have someone else pay for problems that need to be fixed, and the landscaping that we have put in." The couple enjoys interacting with the guests and has made many new friends who plan to return to Honeymoon Cove again this year. Kathie reports, "Our favorite part of being here is the interaction with the guests. We have been invited in for cocktails, gourmet dinners, and barbecues, helped the guests' children fish from the pier, and shared desserts on the barbecue lawn while watching the fireworks over the lake on the 4th of July. We have received hugs, bottles of wine, dinner offers, and further correspondence from many of the guests."
The couple notes that their lifestyle has definitely changed and they certainly have enough to do to keep them busy. They also have time to pursue their passions.These include singing, cooking, reading, bird watching, hiking, boating, water-skiing, fishing, and working with kids. They say, "We are happy that we made this radical and drastic choice at this time in our lives, and hope to find a way to continue caretaking in the future."
More and more retirees are discovering that property caretaking can enable them to live in a variety of locales. They have found that it is a great way to get to know an area prior to making a long-term commitment. To learn more about the property caretaking field, and all the rent-free housesitting assignments available worldwide, go to The Caretaker Gazette's website at www.caretaker.org
Image courtesy of AndrewH.uk