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Homesitters reports increased demand for live-in guardians to keep empty homes secure

The latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that the number of long-term vacant properties – those empty for at least six months – rose by 5.3% to 216,186 in the 12 months to October 2018, the highest level since 2012.

According to Alan Irvine, Managing Director of Homesitters Ltd, a growing area of their business is now providing live-guardians or caretakers for Britain’s increasing number of empty residential and commercial properties.

Alan explains, “There are many reasons why properties are empty. They may be awaiting a sale, going through probate or repossession, or undergoing major renovations or refurbishment. Empty properties are vulnerable to vandalism, damage and theft. Squatters can also still legally occupy commercial premises, despite it being illegal for residential properties.”

“We’re increasingly working with home owners, estate agents, solicitors and banks to provide live in care-takers for a wide variety of empty properties. A live-in guardian is a cost-effective way to keep the property secure, protecting the property value and reducing insurance premiums and maintenance costs.”

“We provide live-in guardians for any length of time, from a couple of days to a few years, giving property owners or other interested parties, peace of mind that the property is being looked after and kept in good order for any viewers, visitors, contractors, future owners or occupiers,” adds Mr Irvine.

One couple that have been working as live-in guardians for empty properties, and as homesitters looking after people’s homes and pets when they go away, are Yolande (67) and Clive Noble (72), from Telford in Shropshire.

The Nobles have done a wide variety of domestic and commercial sits over the past 16 years and are usually away from home for many months of the year, especially if it’s a commercial assignment.

They have done several commercial sits including looking after a building that was waiting to be renovated into luxury flats in Nottingham and a probate sit in a large private house that was eventually bought by a charity.

They usually find the accommodation is fine. When they did the Nottingham assignment, they were able to live in one of the flats and the probate house was also still furnished.

They find the role very rewarding and the commercial sits now keep them busy for much of the year. Yolande says, “Many of the commercial buildings and houses going through probate are quite large, so every day our routine is to check everywhere, inside and out and make sure everything is secure and ok.

“Sometimes we deal with tradesmen coming in to do work or fix things. Outside of our caretaking duties, we have time to relax and enjoy a game of scrabble or two over a cup of coffee. We may then pop out to do some shopping or have a wander for an hour or so – and that’s the day gone!”

Yolande believes having caretakers in like themselves for commercial and probate sits is hugely beneficial in preventing break-ins, vandalism, fly tippers and squatters.

She says, “These properties are vulnerable to all sorts of damage if left unoccupied, so employing a live-in caretaker is invaluable. Too many things can go wrong in terms of vandals and squatters, but also general maintenance issues.

“On our most recent sit we saved the client around £300 a month because of a plumbing problem and water being continually heated, wasting a lot of calor gas. We monitored this and recommended a plumber was brought in to fix it. This saved the client a lot of money as it probably wouldn’t have been spotted for months otherwise.”