In the Right Destination You Can Get Paid to Housesit
When Jack Crook and his wife, Jodie Cook, retired and moved to Costa Rica in 2013, they knew they wanted to find something to keep them busy, since neither liked “just sitting around,” as they put it.
What they didn’t expect, only three years later, is to be working nearly full-time running a housesitting and petsitting service in the Central Valley town of Atenas.
Unlike regular housesitting, which involves staying in a house anywhere in the world for free in exchange for taking care of it while the owners are away, Jack and Jodie get paid for their service.
In destinations like Costa Rica, where there are a lot of expats and people with vacation homes, there is always a high demand for trusted local housesitters. So much so, that many people look beyond housesitting platforms like HousesCarers or MindMyHouse—where they could find people who would do it for free in order to have an affordable vacation in Costa Rica. Instead, they turn to services like that which Jack and Jodie provide.
As local residents, they already have an established reputation and get many word-of-mouth recommendations. Through housesitting they bring in $400 to $600 per month, giving the couple a supplementary income to their pension and Social Security.
“People can’t travel if they don’t have someone to watch their pets and their houses. We see it as a service, and we love animals, so to us it’s not hard work. And we always try to go the extra mile for people,” says Jodie.
Housesitting also allows them to meet a lot of people and be involved in the community. “It was the people, and the temperature and the climate that led us to move to Atenas,” says Jodie. “We met people in some of the expat Facebook forums before we came and everyone is so friendly. It’s a nice town, and it’s little. We like that. We like that it’s cool. I don’t want air-conditioning or heat. I want to breathe fresh air all of the time.”
Located in the far western corner of the Central Valley, where the mountains give way to the long Pacific Coast, Atenas owes its temperate climate to an elevation range of 2,200 to 4,000 feet. The traditional coffee farming and ranching town promotes itself with the slogan, “The Best Climate in the World.” An estimated 1,500 expats—most of whom are retired—live in Atenas full-time.
Jack and Jodie had some prior experience housesitting in Tennessee where they were living on a small farm near Nashville. “We did housesitting for our neighbors so they could travel,” says Jodie. “We had no plans to do this in Costa Rica, but I knew we’d do something to earn a little extra income because we like to be active.”
It all started soon after moving to Atenas, when a friend asked Jodie to help him care for his sick dog while he was away. Then another friend who was doing housesitting had too many clients and needed help.
“And then the word just got out,” says Jodie. “It has been all word of mouth for our referrals. We were both housesitting for a while, but now we have our own two dogs and two cats, so it’s just Jack who does the housesitting now.”
The couple said they housesit about 20 days a month, and have more or less a dozen regular clients. “We even have to sometimes turn people down because we’re booked a year in advance,” says Jodie.
Jodie takes care of the business side of things: scheduling, logistics, and payment; while Jack handles the actual housesitting. Since his time is flexible, Jack says he still spends time at home even on days that he’s housesitting for a neighbor.
“We don’t have a set schedule because everyone has a different routine with their dogs and cats,” explains Jack.
He says when he is housesitting he lives at the client’s home. However, some homeowners just have him come in twice daily to feed their pets (in the case of cats) and check the house but not stay there. In that case, he might be housesitting at one place and taking care of another house somewhere else at the same time. Otherwise, Jodie will take care of the extra duties.
Besides looking after the pets and anything else the homeowner wants, Jack spends his free time playing his guitar and practicing songs for his part in the local expat rock band “Flashback,” for which he is musical director, vocalist, and guitarist.
“We love it here,” says Jodie. “Stress level is a life changer here because it’s much less stressful in Atenas. Everything is laidback in Costa Rica. The great weather and climate are also a big plus.
“Another great thing is that people don’t expect anything of you here. You can live your life how you like,” she adds.
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Written by Shannon Farley