There’s so much information out there for people planning a move to Spain, it can be difficult to know what to believe.
Some expats reckon Spain is the land of milk and honey.
They move out there, fall in love with the lifestyle, and never look back. But there are others who spend just a few short years living in Spain before packing their cases.
The problem is it’s hard to know which camp you’re going to fall into until you give it a bash yourself.
You wouldn’t buy an expensive new car without taking it for a spin first, so why not give the expat lifestyle a test drive before selling up and committing?
What is House Sitting?
House sitting abroad is a fairly new concept. It involves looking after the pets and properties of home owners while they go on holiday, or back to the UK.
House sits can last anything from a long weekend to a few years, but most tend to last roughly two weeks.
The majority of people house sit for free, offering pet and home care services in exchange for accommodation.
House sitting has more benefits than a regular research trip, when you stay in a B&B or hotel.
There are lots of house sitting opportunities in Spain, and I’ve been doing it for years.
Here’s why I think house sitting is the ultimate research tool for a budding expat.
You find out what you want from life
When I started house sitting, my dreams of living abroad were fairly generic.
I wanted to buy a big dilapidated farmhouse in the French countryside, do it up myself, and spend relaxing evenings sipping wine in the garden.
It sounds idyllic, but after nine months of looking after houses that fall into that category, I knew it wasn’t for me.
I’ve learned that for me, location is everything. I’d like to live within walking distance of a decent restaurant or bar (not drive for 20 minutes).
I found that I much prefer the culture and lifestyle in Spain, so I scored France off my ‘places to live’ list.
I would also prefer to live in a small house. Big houses may impress your friends back home, but they won’t have to spend their weekends cleaning them!
You can find the right environment for you
Different regions of Spain feel different.
Everyone knows that, but it’s much easier to get a feel for an area by living there for a little while (rather than reading about the differences in a guide book).
If you can, try a few house sits all over Spain; you’ll soon realise what you’re after.
Whether you prefer village life to the hustle and bustle of cities, or the peaceful countryside to the chaos of the coast, a few weeks of living real life in a proper house in the area will help you to understand what exactly it is that you’re looking for.
You pick up insider information about the expat life
Most of the people in Spain who are looking for house sitters are expats themselves. In most cases they will want to have dinner with you and get to know you as people; they are about to trust you with their house after all.
Often they’ll give you insider information about the area, some of the weird laws they’ve stumbled across, and other interesting quirks unique to Spain.
Over the course of a bottle of wine, you can pick up information it has taken other expats years to find out on their own.
You can find a network of ready-made friends
Chances are your clients will also introduce you to their friends so that you have someone to speak to if things go pear shaped.
This usually results in being invited out to events, meet-up groups, or just round for dinner.
If you’re house sitting in an area that you’re planning on moving to, this is ideal.
If you do choose to buy, you’ll know a few people in the area. Depending on how friendly you get with them, you’ll already have a ready-made group of friends and a support network to help you through those difficult first few months when you’re starting to miss home.
Thanks to James Cave for writing this article about housesitting: James has been house-sitting for other people while they’re away on holiday and has taken on several housesits in Spain, France and Portugal so he can get an idea of where he wanted to live and what life in Spain would be like.