Police detective who quit ‘murder squad’ for full-time house sitting saves £1,500 a month travelling the world rent-free (but there is a catch… )

  • Jessica Holmes ditched her career in a local police force in September 2022 
  • She is now a professional housesitter with her husband Thomas, 29
  • The young couple, who have so far completed around 20 sits across Europe
  • READ MORE: We try out Japan Airlines’ clothes rental service

A woman who decided to quit her job as a murder investigator to become a full-time house sitter, and now travels the world rent-free taking care of people’s homes and pets, is saving around £1,500 a month – with no bills to pay as a result.

Jessica Holmes, 28, from Gloucester, decided to ditch her flourishing career in the local police force in September 2022 to become a professional housesitter with her husband Thomas, 29, an accountant who works remotely, after deciding to travel the world.

Jessica, who served as a Major Crimes Investigation Officer in the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), went from solving ‘sudden deaths and major crimes’ to hopping from country to country staying in people’s homes, from mansions to studio apartments.

The young couple, who have so far completed around 20 sits across Europe, take care of people’s homes and their pets, including cats, dogs, ferrets, parrots, sheep and ducks, in exchange for a roof over their heads – but there is no payment.

They are currently residing near Cambridge having spent the summer in southern Spain, while their one-bed terraced house in Gloucester is rented out for £875 a month.

Jessica Holmes, 28, from Gloucester, decided to ditch her flourishing career in the local police force in September 2022 to become a professional housesitter with her husband Thomas, 29. The couple are pictured above in Barcelona 

The pair, who housesit for a minimum of one month at a time via the website trustedhousesitters.com, estimate that their house-jumping lifestyle is saving them around £1,500 a month as they do not pay rent or bills, most of which they spend on more travelling.

Jessica, who has written a book on the secret to successful housesitting and sustainable travel, said she is surprised that more people are not aware of this, adding that they will continue for as long as it works… ‘which could be forever’.

‘Just over a year ago we took the plunge and rented out our house full time, so we don’t have a base to go back to, but our mortgage is being paid for by our renters,’ Jessica told PA Real Life.

‘I went from working in the office and at crime scenes and not knowing when I was coming home to having a lot more freedom because I don’t have a set time to start work… and I’ve swapped colleagues for pets.

‘We’re not paying any rent or bills – it’s a great way of saving.

The couple have completed around 20 sits across Europe including in the UK, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Albania

‘It blows my mind every time I think about it, that more people aren’t talking about it.’

Jessica, who has always been interested in crime, studied criminology at Swansea University before going backpacking with her then boyfriend, Thomas, around the world.

Their epic two-year journey started with the Tran-Siberian railway through Russia before travelling across China, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and exploring the United States.

‘We came back to the UK and did all the things that people thought we should do,’ she said.

‘We settled down, bought a house and got married, and people were saying, “Oh there will be children soon.”‘

Jessica joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary as a ‘low-level staffer’ in early 2019 before quickly climbing the ranks.

Jessica and Thomas take care of people’s homes and their pets, including cats, dogs, ferrets, parrots, sheep and ducks 

She was eventually promoted to her ‘dream job’ in 2021, joining the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), dubbed ‘the murder squad’, a unit tasked with solving the UK’s biggest murders.

‘I did a variety of roles, starting in crime prevention and made my way into investigations, which was jokingly called the murder squad,’ she said.

‘So I ended where I wanted to be, investigating sudden deaths and major crimes.’

But Jessica’s passion for travel did not diminish.

‘I always had this nagging feeling that the “conventional life” wasn’t for me,’ she said.

‘Even though I really loved my job, I wanted to go travelling again.’

Jessica loved her job in the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), but always wanted to go travelling 

During the pandemic, she and her husband would spend hours sitting in the garden making ‘grand plans’, from safaris in South Africa to walking around India.

The pair began housesitting in their local area after travel restrictions were lifted.

‘Just to get away and have free mini-breaks on the weekend basically,’ she said.

Then after Thomas qualified as an accountant and was offered a remote job, they began to think that housesitting could be more than a cheap weekend away.

‘I had this sort of “identity crisis” in the summer of last year,’ she said.

Jessica and Thomas house-sat sheep that managed to escape their paddock 

‘My career was the main thing getting in the way, so I took the plunge and quit my job.’

The couple now house sit across Europe, including the UK, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Albania and Austria after Christmas.

Each sit can last anywhere from a few days to several months and even years.

‘I’ve seen some on the website for five years,’ she said.

‘Our minimum now is a month because I don’t enjoy packing and unpacking all the time.’

Each sit can last anywhere from a few days to several months and even years 

Jessica and Thomas, who have done around 20 sits so far, promise to look after the owners’ pets and plants, as well as the house, while they are away.

‘I’ve always been an animal lover,’ she said.

‘We’ve looked after all sorts of animals, ferrets, sheep, chickens and ducks, parrots and lizards, snakes, everything you can think of really.

‘We’ve had a few hilarious times on sits where the sheep managed to escape from their paddock, and it took hours and hours for us to herd them back with the help of a neighbour.

‘The parrot was also quite difficult actually because we did not have any experience with birds and she really did not like Tom and would go for him.’

Jessica has written a book about how to become a successful and sustainable housesitter 

Jessica added: ‘We use all of the homeowners’ facilities, so heating, electric, water, wifi, so anything like that is included.’

At Christmas, the couple search for a house-sit within an hour’s drive of their home in Gloucester.

‘Last Christmas and New Year we did a month-long sit in the Cotswolds, which was lovely,’ she said.

‘We actually took the dogs and stayed at my parents-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve, which homeowners were completely happy with.’

The properties where Jessica and Thomas stay come in different shapes and sizes.

Thomas is an accountant who is able to work remotely

‘There are mansions or places with acres and acres of land, with lakes and things,’ she said.

‘Then there’s small flats, so there is a range.

‘So if you want to go to New York for a week and you don’t mind looking after a cat you can get accommodation next to Central Park for free.

‘The possibilities are amazing.’

Jessica has written a book titled The Housesitter’s Guide to The Galaxy, a guide to house sitting based on her experience over the past 18 months.

‘The amount of people who are working remotely now since Covid and would like to travel, I think is the perfect storm for house-sitting,’ she said.

Jessica said she has always been an animal lover

‘So I just thought people should know about it.

‘The book is kind of a guide on how to do house sitting successfully and how to travel in a greener and more sustainable way.

‘There’s a big chapter on how to be greener in someone else’s home.’

Jessica said communication is the key to success when it comes to house-sitting, as well as flexibility and having a back-up plan.

But taking care of other people’s pets is not always easy.

‘We did have a very, very sick chicken on our hands at one point,’ she said.

‘Luckily we managed to nurse it back to health – so that was interesting.’

Jessica said moving around every month has taken a toll on their social life 

Moving around every few weeks has also taken a toll on the couple’s social life.

‘The biggest thing for me is isolation, because it’s hard to make friends when you’re in an area for such a short amount of time,’ she said.

‘This year we really struggled when we were in Spain because we were in a tiny town in the south and nobody spoke English.

‘It was very lovely but going to a cafe and not being able to order a coffee without an issue became quite tiresome quite quickly.’

Despite the challenges, they said house-sitting is the best decision they have ever made and the couple are now looking forward to exploring parts of Africa.

Jessica’s book is available at www.amazon.co.uk/Housesitters-Guide-Galaxy-Housesittng-Eco-Friendly/dp/1914390172.

Find out more by following Jessica on Instagram @hitchedhikingandhousesitting and at www.hitchedandhiking.com.

For anyone thinking of embarking on a housesitting visit abroad it’s advisable to check what sort of visa is required, as some countries class housesitting as ‘work’.

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