When we made the decision to buy the Oregon place (we really must come up with a property title for the new ‘ranch), the first concern since we are not relocating was to figure out how to make sure that we can handle the maintenance for what already exists in terms of infrastructure and access, as well as occupied to avoid trespassing, theft, or any other type of illegal use of the assets (for example there is a very remote greenhouse that could be used for nefarious purposes by the wrong kind of miscreants.)
I stumbled upon an entire world of caretakers, workampers, and housesitters. With a bit of research, it was easy to determine that a typical housesitter arrangement would not work for our situation. What we needed was a caretaker. We aren’t really attractive enough to find a renter and a caretaker is there to support your objectives, while a renter pays you to pursue their own objectives.
A couple of good resources include the Caretaker Gazette (which charges a small annual subscription fee both for caretakers and caretaker seekers) and Caretaker Jobs (which is free.) I also posted an ad at Rodale Institute (which has classifieds from sustainable farming enterprises) and Craigslist. I had a few responses to my posting at Rodale. Most of the craigslist responses were really weird. But I received over 50 responses from such a varied group of people via the caretaker specific websites.
Caretaking can be a barter arrangement (which is the direction I chose) where the caretaker is offered a place to live in exchange for occupying the place and maybe basic chores/upkeep. But there are many guesthouses or estates or vacation properties that utilize caretakers for most of the year, or the off-season, or for extra maintenance help. Often these arrangements include a stipend or salary above a certain basic input of hours per week. In recent years with the housing market problems, real estate investors who ended up with properties that linger on the market have taken on caretakers to occupy condos and other properties that would be targets for vandals or break-ins otherwise.
Many caretakers are retired professionals who take on 6 month to 1 year positions to see another part of the country and experience a more varied life at little cost. Some may have real estate at ‘home’ that they are renting out. Others have downsized to the point where they have nothing beyond what they come with. Often they have some type of retirement income that they live off of and are more likely to accept barter arrangements. Many of the people who responded to my advertisement were interested in homesteading and off-grid living. They hoped at some point to be able to either try out the lifestyle or were actively working to save to invest in their own property in the future. They hoped that caretaking would give them experience as well as some of the lifestyle benefits (gardening, poultry, water system development, etc..)
Barter arrangements are best if you don’t have significant assets that need managed. A multi-million dollar vacation home outside of Jackson Hole really should have a paid caretaker for the off-season, while a basic condo in an urban area may be more attractive to a barter caretaker who can pursue full-time or part-time employment (or retirement.)
It was really interesting to speak so some 20 individuals or couples whose expertise and interest seemed to best match our Oregon properties rustic situation and needs. In the end, I decided upon a gentleman with a wealth of varied experience which includes forestry management, handyman and carpentry work, and previous caretaking of ranches. He will be moving to Oregon from an Arizona ranch where he is currently caretaking sometime in July.