Does Sitting Beat Renting?

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, August 10, 2008; Page P03

Q. We want to travel to Maine this summer or early fall. Are there any listings for housesitters there?

Joanne Odle, Alexandria

A. It sounds great in theory: Housesitters get free digs in exchange for taking care of vacationers' homes, gardens and pets; homeowners get peace of mind. And indeed, many Internet sites have sprung up purporting to put prospective housesitters in touch with vacationing homeowners. In most cases, would-be sitters pay an annual fee to advertise their availability.

But -- and you knew this was coming -- the old caveat of "no free lunch" applies to vacation houses, too. Sitters generally pay utility bills and, in some cases, must provide security deposits and pay reduced rents. Credit checks and police background checks might be required. And the online listings usually have many more prospective sitters than homeowners.

In addition, there aren't a lot of Maine residents looking to get away in summer or early fall, says Charlene Williams, spokeswoman for the Maine Office of Tourism. "Most of the people get away in the winter." Furthermore, "usually things happen by word of mouth in Maine: Somebody knows somebody."

You might get lucky. Here are some Web sites to try:

· HouseCarers, Housesitters pay $45 a year to be listed.

· House Sitters America, $30 a year.

· MindMyHouse, $20 a year.

You might also want to check a house-swapping site such as Intervac ( or (, where you and the vacationing homeowner stay in each other's homes.

My business partner and I will be traveling to Manila in the Philippines. Can you suggest some weekend jaunts in other parts of the country? We are considering a trip to Corregidor but might also like to spend time relaxing on a beach and enjoying Philippine culture. Please provide information on guide services that might handle transportation, lodging and interpretation.

Nancy R. Mitchell, Bethesda

Corregidor Island, the Spanish fortress that became a symbol of Filipino and American courage in World War II, would make an excellent day trip. Scenic Tagaytay, 37 miles south of Manila, is another good option; it's known for its views of Taal Lake and what's said to be the smallest volcano in the world.

Other options: Puerto Galera or Nasugbu beaches; Subic Bay, the former U.S. naval base; a trek up Mount Pinatubo, which erupted in 1991; and Pagsanjan Falls and Rapids, where you can take a canoe ride through a lush gorge.

The Philippine Department of Tourism said the following travel agencies can help set up guides, transportation and lodging: Southeast Travel,; Rajah Tours,; CCT.168 Travel and Tours,; and Trips Travel, For more info: Philippine Tourism Authority,

Send queries to or Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name and town.

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