You, Too, Can Get Paid to Live Here

  |  January 20, 2012

A couple of weeks back we got an email from a professional property caretaker, asking us to spread the word about his services. And we got curious… just how does one become a caretaker, someone who gets to hole up in the guest house of a grand mansion while the owners are away (which they mostly are)?

Pat Linnan tells us all about it. He’s cared for great estates but also, you know, kept the pipes from freezing on some more modest second homes, as well — something many of you ask us about. Read on if you want to know what Pat does, and how he does it! If you’re interested in hiring him to check up on your pad, send him an email.

UPSTATER: Tell me how you came to live upstate. Are you a native, or did you relocate from elsewhere? Where upstate have you lived?

PAT LINNAN: I’m originally from Western Pennsylvania.  A small town called Clarion out towards Pittsburgh.  I was living in Atlanta and was looking to find a caretaking position slightly closer to home – my cousin told me to look in the Catskills.  He lives in Philly and has a lot of friends with properties around Hunter. I’d never been to the area before but moved to the Hudson Valley four years ago and have settled right in.
U: How did you start being a caretaker? What kinds of properties have you cared for?
PL: The first few positions were tied in with renting or working a regular job.  I exchanged property maintenance for housing, or kept an eye on the place if the homeowners had to be out of town for an extended period of time.  My cousins also have a property management company in Vail, CO, so I was always aware of the market while I was growing up.

I’ve been a property caretaker for quite a few different types of properties.  The first place I was a caretaker for here in New York was a rather manicured historic estate on the Hudson River.  Currently I’m caretaking a non-working farm estate.  In Charlottesville, VA I was caretaker for a bed and breakfast property north of town and in Breckenridge, CO,  I was supervising operations for a snowmobile company set on an old mining claim in the mountains above town – I lived with a few friends in a cabin there so the owners could have a presence on the property during off hours.

U: What duties does it entail? What services do you offer?

PL: Each property is different depending on what the owners need/are looking for.  Sometimes it’s very minimal – stop at the house once a week to make sure the heat is on and there’s no water in the basement and do a quick walk-through.  Other properties require you to work 50 hours Monday through Friday and be on call on the weekends for snowplowing, etc.

U: When you’re taking care of an estate, does it leave you time for smaller jobs?

PL: The property I’m currently caretaking does.  It is fairly low maintenance  and the lawn care, housekeeping, and pool are all outsourced.  I live here and manage things but have a flexible schedule otherwise.

U: What do you charge for your services, especially for weekend homeowners?

PL: For weekend homeowners looking for a regular property caretaker,  I would charge a monthly management fee which would vary depending how often they would like me at the property.  If there were special projects going on, a new roof being put on or renovations within the house, I would charge an hourly rate if time spent there exceeded our monthly agreement.

U: What do weekend homeowners most commonly need in terms of services? What should they expect to have to do, or hire someone to do, and what should they expect to pay? How would they find someone to handle those tasks, on the off chance you’re booked?

PL: Depending on how often homeowners are using their property, or how involved they are with maintenance/renovations when they are there, it again varies.  I think homeowners who have been there for at least a good year or so start to see what they need help with and what they can or want to handle themselves. It can sometimes to be tough to find someone you feel comfortable with taking care of these things for you.  If you are unable to find property management in your area, I think the best thing is to find a contractor you have used that you feel has been honest and reliable.  Whether it is your landscape company or a carpenter, finding someone with hands-on experience and reliability is key.

U: Do you have advice for others who want to escape city life and become caretakers?

PL: I think a great way to transition and get your feet wet is through housesitting.  Although it’s usually unpaid, a great way to look at it is that it’s free rent, which can be huge when you are making a move.  If you’re able to find a professor or professional who has to go off to Europe for a 2 week conference, or a 4 month sabbatical, that’s a great way to get to know a new community and see if the area and caretaking are right for you.  The majority of these positions are found word of mouth and through networking so just start talking to folks. Searching around on the internet in areas of interest can also bring great results.

U: Anything else you want to tell folks about you, your business, life upstate, etc? Do you have a website or other ways you advertise yourself?

PL: I have done very little advertising and stick mostly to word of mouth.  I find the best way to find homeowners in need of caretaking is through people I am already caretaking for or through conversation with friends and acquaintances.

Read On, Reader...