We are on our 30th housesit and knock on wood we have only had one that we will always remember as our “nightmare” housesit. How many things can go wrong? Never ask that as the list can get quite long!

The sit was confirmed several months in advance, so we had plenty of time to plan on how to get there, things to do in the area…. The home was located near Blackpool along the western coast of England. In the pictures, it looked like a really wonderful home and Randy kept saying, “you are going to love it!”

He, the homeowner – let’s call him Randy, was in the process of buying a house and was supposed to move about two months before we got there. No one was sure how long it would take, but let me tell you from what we have learned, buying and selling a house in England is much more complicated than in the United States. Anyway, Randy was not able to move till two weeks before we got there.

We were coming from Manchester, which is about an hour from the house, and we were planning to take a train to get there. Talking with Randy he said he had to come into Manchester anyway so he offered to pick us up. Challenge number 1.

Aside from one taxi driver in Beijing, he was the worst driver we have ever ridden with. To help you get a feel for this, imagine someone that uses turn lanes and intersections at high speed to pass other cars – very scary. He often made two lanes out of ONE by squeezing into the left or right of the car ahead. His belief about roundabouts or any intersection was that he would wait for up to three cars to pass through, then it was his turn – regardless. OMG. We have never come so close to multiple accidents in a row and this was a short trip. It was one of those white-knuckle experiences when you get out of the car and feel like kissing the ground. You are so thankful that you made it in one piece.

The House

Yes, the house could have been awesome and actually it was comfortable enough. BUT it had sat unoccupied for two years before he moved in. When we arrived there was no heat, a broken refrigerator, the washing machine was on the blink and packed full of wet clothes, the bathroom doors did not close, no TV access and there was NO INTERNET. The internet was the killer, as our work depends on having internet access so this was an immediate problem!

Typically we arrive a day or two early to get to know the house and the pets we will be taking care of. In most cases, the host will make us dinner the first night, which he sort of did. Since the refrigerator was not working and everything in the freezer was thawing out we were told we were going to have steak for dinner – yummy. Well when dinner arrived, we were given a “burnt” piece of steak and a glass of water. Yep, that was it!

It was technically spring, but it was still cold out. The boiler needed to be replaced so there was no heat the entire time we were there. Can you say layers? We also could not use the fireplace so there was zero heating available. We drank lots of hot chocolate, coffee and tea to help stay warm.

The house had been sitting empty for several years and no one was taking care of the yard. Randy expected us to “fix” his lawn mower and mow the HUGE yard when we arrived. He ended up buying a used lawn mower, so we didn’t have to fix the existing one but he still “expected” us to mow the lawn immediately. Because of the dogs., we did mow the lawn which took a long time to do; of course, it looked so much better when we were done.

At this house, there was a detached three car garage across a small parking area, with an apartment above it. Fortunately, there was another refrigerator there so we were able to use it. It made for a lot of extra hassle, but at least we did have one. Cooking meals was a logistic chore. Do you cook in the apartment and carry it back to the house or just bring the cold things to the house to cook or…? Randy was also trying to rent out the apartment, so people, usually in two cars would randomly show up. This is a very secluded location, so when someone came down the long driveway the dogs would raise a ruckus so you had to check it out.

The Dogs

The dogs were the very best part of this housesit. There were three large long haired German Shepherds, a mom, a dad and their very large all white coated son. The son was still a puppy but almost as big as his dad and he still had a lot of growing to do.

Randy told us the dogs were very well behaved and did not chew on things. Of course, the chewing part was wrong. The good part is they only ate Cindy’s flip-flops (not her good shoes) which were sitting next to the flip-flops. The bad part was they chewed on the very expensive custom insoles that Tom has in his shoes. Tom could still use them, barely, but they have bite marks all around them; just a little bit more and they would have been ruined.

The dogs had a very strict feeding ritual. The two adult dogs had to eat outside and the younger dog had to eat inside. They were to have no exercise one hour before or two hours after eating. Of course, they wanted to play after eating…. We were told if we did not follow the routine exactly the dogs could die. Yikes. We always want to feed all pets using the same routine their owners do. Another good reason to come the day before to see how things are done in person. They were very loveable and we did enjoy them.

The primary reason people use housesitters is to take care of their pets. In this case, these three dogs were used to going for an off-leash walk twice a day, which we were expected to also do. We were expected to take them by car to one of two locations that they were familiar with where they could run freely. They provided us the use of their car, to drive them there and back but there was a hitch.

The Car

The problem was, Randy was supposed to get car insurance. Guess what? The day we arrived he found out that his insurance company would not cover us because there was some unique equipment added to the car and they would not do it. Randy’s response, “just be very careful.” What? You want us to take on all the responsibility and liabilities of driving uninsured? And can you guess what Randy’s profession is? He is a barrister (lawyer)! He should know better than to even suggest such a thing – ever!

When Randy and Cindy were out driving to see where to take the dogs, Randy abruptly pulled over and told Cindy to drive. This was on a very narrow, very busy road. It felt like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. Remember this is in England where they drive on the left side. The car also was a manual with the stick shift to the left of the driver. Very different from the US. Cindy started to refuse but just gave up and went for it. No problems thankfully but urgh.

We did drive to a McDonalds that was somewhat close by, that had free wifi. We got online and were able to buy our own car insurance at our own cost. There was no way we were going to drive the car without insurance.

The beach we took the dogs to run was amazing. The sand went on and on. There was so much room that the dogs could run to their heart’s content. They loved to chase tennis balls, so we used one of those tennis ball launchers over and over again. The dogs just loved it! The beach was the perfect place to take them as there was unlimited space and only a handful of people.

 

 

Other Things

Taking the trash out. Since they had just moved there, there were about six over full, very heavy trash bins that needed to be hauled out to a busy street that was about two football fields away. As they were heavy and the driveway was gravel – it was difficult to drag them all the way out. That was all bad enough, but then they did not get picked up, so all the full bins had to be dragged back to the house.

When Randy left, the washing machine was full of wet clothes and both the washer and dry were way over packed. With some fiddling, we were able to run a load of clothes. We discovered if you run them through the spin cycle twice, the clothes were no longer sopping wet. Luckily we only needed to do one load of our own clothes while we were there, but we had to deal with all their clothes first. There is something about doing someone else’s laundry that seems just a bit too personal. He had another washing machine sitting in the middle of the kitchen that he had planned to install, but only having two weeks since they moved in, he had not gotten it done.  We were glad we were able to make the old machine work.

The floors; the closer you got to the doors the dirtier they were. The three dogs had very large paws and naturally tracked in tons of dirt. This looked like it would be a constant battle to keep the floors looking good. Tom put a couple of large towels on the floor where the dogs came in and out and locked them in for a few minutes, which helped a lot. When he suggested the method to Randy, he loved the idea, so that is what we did. Problem solved.

Randy had a window washer come one day we were there. We sent a message to Randy to alert him that washer had arrived. That afternoon we were interrogated constantly about the guy. Things like how long was he there, did he have anyone with him, did he come into the house and did he finish. We believe the bottom line is, Randy doesn’t trust anyone and is always looking for evidence that everyone else is to blame.

Randy was working on a new refrigerator from the insurance company as he left the house to leave on his trip. This meant we had to convey to the company what Randy insisted on, and get them all the info they needed, and prep for the replacement. We ended up having to measure the space for the appliance company, empty the old refrigerator and move it out of the way so the new one could be moved in. Apparently, the delivery men can’t move the old one. Plus of course, we had to be there when the new one showed up The new refrigerator was delivered just before our time there was up.

This home was surrounded by pastures and open fields which was great. One field had a herd of cows. Fortunately, the wind normally blew the other way or it would have been unpleasant. The good part about the cows was they were really friendly. When we came outside they would lean and push against the rickety fence to say hello. They were quite large and it was a little worrisome they could break the fence. They seemed to really want human interaction and they enjoyed being petted.

Getting Ready to Leave

Oh and one more BIG thing, Randy listed the wrong return date in the information. We, of course, had another housesit we needed to be at, but the dogs could not be left alone for that extra length of time. So we ended up splitting up. Cindy went on to Scotland and Tom stayed behind an extra day so someone would be there to take care of the dogs.

Our next housesit location took two trains and a 45-minute car ride to get there. On the day Cindy was leaving she was taking a taxi to the train station. We called the taxi service the day before to arrange the pickup and then called again the next morning to confirm. When the taxi didn’t arrive we called and called and called. When we finally got to talk to the dispatcher, we were told, the house was outside the primary service area of the taxi service, and the taxi driver could not find the house. Why didn’t they tell us when we called them in the first place?

Finally, a supervisor asked if we had the app called WhatsApp. It was only because of this app that he was able to find our location. The app has a feature that allows you to share your location with anyone else that has that app. Thank goodness. The driver was close to 45 minutes late and very apologetic. Cindy got to the train station with only a couple of minutes to spare.

The only redeeming thing that Randy did was to take Tom to the train station and helped make sure that Tom got all his things all the way to the train platform to save the repeat performance with a taxi. But because we came on separate days Cindy had to drive our new host’s car from their remote location in Scotland to go pick Tom up from the Ayr train station. It all worked out but boy it made things so much more complicated.

After we left, about a week later, we got a message saying “he (Randy) didn’t mind sharing his wine, but drinking a whole case of red wine was wrong.” Well first off Cindy’s doesn’t drink alcohol ever and Tom rarely does. There is no way we had anything to do with the missing red wine. He then drilled us about people that had had access to the inside of the house while Randy was gone – no one of course except for the refrigerator delivery guys. We hope he found the missing case, but if he did he never let us know the good news, to say nothing of apologizing for accusing us of stealing his wine.

Then about another two weeks later we got a text about something he said we had broken. We don’t even know what it was now, but we never hide anything. If we had broken something we would have told him. That kind of thing will come back to haunt you. After this round of back and forth, we finally blocked his number on our phones. If there was anything else he wanted to blame on us we didn’t want to know about it.

In Review

Bad Things
  • No heat
  • No refrigerator in the house
  • No car insurance
  • No cable
  • No Internet
  • No dinner (unless burnt steak qualifies)
  • Could not close bathroom doors
  • Crazy driver
  • Secluded location (hard to find)
  • Chewed on shoes
  • Heavy trash bins had to be hauled out and back
  • Washer over full of sopping wet clothes
  • Blamed for things we had nothing to do with
  • Had to deal with delivery men, window washer and several real estate agents – (normally not a problem but with all the questions about each one from Randy and expectations…)
  • Demanded we mow a very large yard – front and back
  • Accused of drinking his wine
  • Accused of breaking something
  • Wrong return date, causing us to split up involving two foreign countries
  • There is more but this is getting too LONG
Good things
  • Three beautiful dogs – fun to play with, fun to love, and fun to be around.

We have surely left somethings out, but we have moved on and smile when we think about our “crazy nightmare” of a housesit.

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