My theory has been that there are three main reasons for someone to seek a house sitter, someone who stays in your home for free for a pre-arranged period of time. They are: 1) watch the pet(s), 2) take care of the plants/gardens, and/or 3) make the place look lived-in, primarily as a deterrent to robbery. It turns out that all three reasons come into play in Steve and Jane's experience.
Steve and Jane are the mostly full-time house sitters for a home on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. It is one of two homes that were built in an up-scale planned development that went belly-up after the home was built. The jungle has since reclaimed most of the unbuilt development. The home is owned by a man from Chicago who has Steve and Jane live there most of the year to keep an eye on the gardeners and maintenance personnel who do the day-to-day care of the property and to deter thieves from stripping the home of it's contents and mechanical systems. The home is only accessible from the water, so a boat (and gas) is provided by the owner, as is a 4x4 Chevy Blazer which is kept in Bocas Town.
I said they are mostly full-time in this home because the owner uses it several times a year and because Steve and Jane make their services available to other people as well. We met Steve and Jane because the owner was using the house during Easter week, so they needed to evacuate. What happens then? They use their network of acquaintances to see if they can find another house sitting gig, stay with friends, or if necessary rent a place short term. It happened that Steve and Jane were staying in the same condo building as us because the condo owners were gone for a month. After four days they were moving to watch the Fincas Del Mono Botanical Gardens for three days so Lin and her husband could take a short break. In May Steve and Jane will house-sit a couple of weeks at a beautiful home near Bluff Beach. I asked what happens with the home they primarily house sit during these other gig's. They said the owner is informed in advance and frequently he or someone from his family will fly down for part of the time they are gone.
Full-time house sitting really helps to stretch the retirement dollars. In addition, they sometimes do projects for the owners and pick up some extra cash - Jane just finished painting some interior rooms.
William and I are intrigued by the house sitting idea, but it's doubtful it will work for us. There are three reasons: 1) we generally don't like pets and I am allergic to dogs and cats, 2) we do not have green thumbs - we generally kill off plants, and 3) we're not very fond of the idea of being the second line of defense (after locked doors) in areas where crime is a concern.