Successful young professionals are driving a house sitting trend in Islington, where more residents than in any other London borough have signed up to let strangers look after their house while they are away.
House Sit Match is a social network that connects home owners with home sitters, and two years after its launch there are more than 20 Islington-based users signed up.
There are 125 users dotted across London, but founder Lamia Walker believes Islington’s forward thinking, young professionals are driving the site’s popularity in the borough.
“The income bracket and the open-mindedness of people living in the area are drawing people to the site,” said Ms Walker. Only Wimbledon gave Islington a run for its money for concentration of users.
Users tended to travel a lot but have been looking for a cheaper way to do so. “I’m sure the global recession has had something to do with it,” she said, talking of the site’s success.
In fact, the concept is doing so well that after two years running it is already breaking even. “We’re hiring more staff,” said Ms Walker.
The former marketing-exec added that Islington residents not only travel a lot, but seemed to have a lot of pets. The network was proving to be an alternative to putting animals in kennels.
“We have one house registered which comes with five small dogs,” said Ms Walker. “When you walk around the borough it’s obvious that there are a lot of cats and dogs everywhere,” she added.
Islington’s location also played a role in House Sit Match’s success there. “It’s right next to Shoreditch and Tech City, where the idea of a sharing economy is emerging,” she said.
Indeed, when the site launched two years ago the first two users both happened to live in Islington, said Ms Walker. “It was two young professional women who both travelled for work and had cats and flats that they wanted looking after.”
The difference between Ms Walker’s network and other travel sites like Airbnb, which enables people to rent our their flat or a room through the site, is that sitting is free.
Users pay to advertise on the site and the cheapest option is £35 for a year. “This is the most popular right now,” said Ms Walker. She added that as the site grows, their £90 premium advertising spot is becoming increasingly popular.
“People like to forward plan and get people lined up to look after their house across the year,” she said. “It’s really just one less thing to worry about.”
Outside of Islington, House Sit Match has rambling French estates, Spanish villas and Parisian apartments up for people to tend while they travel.
As it stands the site is just one of a few operating on a international scale.
“House sitting is already a well-established idea in Australia,” said Ms Walker, adding that with the number of empty properties in the UK, there was no reason why it couldn’t be there too.