I’ve got my first house sit – what’s next?

First House Sit Job

Be prepared for your house sit - checklist

You may be surprised to discover there's a lot more to your first house sitting job than just a quick, "Thanks for selecting me and I'll see you next month!" So, here are our top suggestions for what to do to when you get your first house sitting job to make sure it goes to plan without any hiccups:

1.  Congratulate yourself - you got your first house sit

Woohoo! You did it! Contrary to everyone telling you how much competition there is for first house sits, you got yourself chosen. Take a moment to congratulate yourself. All that hard work, researching the best house sitting sites, writing profiles, creating appealing photos, and sending in personalized applications, has all paid off.

Your house sitting adventures have begun!

2.  Get all the contact details you can

Many house sitting platforms use secure messaging systems. These are great for keeping all your house sit correspondence in one place, but if the system is down, the home owner forgets to renew, or you have no internet for whatever reason, it's important to have another way to make contact with the home owner.

Ask for an alternative method of contact. This could be an email, telephone number, WhatsApp, or Skype address. A telephone or cell/mobile number will ensure you can call and chat, or at least leave a message when you are approaching your house sit destination.

3.  Arrange Skype chats or other interviews (if not already done)

Sometimes you'll find home owners will accept you without anything more than your initial email or message application. Whilst that's very flattering, we think it's extremely important to have some form of spoken dialogue to ensure expectations are being met, and more importantly that you have all the correct details about:

  • location
  • dates and times of home owner departure
  • expected handover arrival day / time
  • pets - names, breeds, ages and medications and exercise routines
  • summary of duties involved
  • any details you want to check about the property, living and sleeping arrangements

This is where your interview questions will come in handy. You can email us if you'd like a copy of our comprehensive list. You'll also find some useful pointers on this topic of meeting each other's expectations here.

4.  Send an email confirming all of the most important details

We always send a confirmation email and have a template that includes the following important details:

  • full post address, telephone (landline and mobile), and emails
  • date and time of our arrival
  • date and time of home owner departure and return
  • details of handover / hand-back
  • pets - breeds, names and ages
  • pet medications or ongoing medical issues that may run into the sit dates
  • Specific duties (like pool maintenance, gardening, solar, off-grid etc)
  • Car details (do you need to take them to the airport, or collect at end of sit?)
  • Staff management (housekeeper, gardener and days/times they will be present)

These are all things we will have discussed before confirming the sit.

Get the home owner to check the details and confirm back that everything is correct. A couple of times we've had small date changes as the home owner has noticed they've incorrectly listed the start date (forgetting the handover period). It's a good habit to adopt.

This confirmation also ensures that there has been no misunderstandings from the Skype or other chat.

First house sit - make travel plans

5.  Make your house sitting travel arrangements

Once everything is confirmed for your house sit job, you can start to research and organize your travel arrangements. If you are well organized, you'll already have looked into the costs of getting to your destination, as these will probably have influenced your decision of whether to take the house sit. It would be very embarrassing if you accepted a sit, and then found out the flights were prohibitively expensive. 

Start to firm up on arrangements of flights, visas, transfers etc. Remember that some smaller countries don't have such full flight schedules as others, and this could affect the date you arrive. You might need to arrange first night accommodation at your own expense, or negotiate an extra night with the home owners.

We quite like a night in an Airbnb if we are traveling long haul, as it gives us time to relax and get a good night's sleep before getting involved with the house sitting handover.

6.  Send flight confirmations (if applicable)

Sending copies of your flight confirmation will serve a couple of purposes. Firstly it reassures the home owners that you are actually going to arrive. There's sometimes concern when selecting house sitters from across the world, Aussies to the USA for example, that they will actually make the commitment.

Secondly, it shows the home owner that you've made a financial commitment to the house sitting exchange. Most home owners would feel uncomfortable about making changes or even cancelling a sit when they can see how much you've invested in flights and travel.

This works both ways too, and we've often found that sending our confirmation prompts the home owner to send us a copy of their flight details too!

7.  Does the house sit include a car?

If a car is being provided, you'll need to check in advance that your standard driving licence is sufficient. You may need an international driver's license, or you may have to register once arriving in the country.

For instance, we had to get a special temporary licence in Barbados and on our day of arrival, it was in fact a country-wide holiday. This impacted our ability to take the home owners to the airport. These are all things to be considered.

You'll also need to look into insurance - something else you'll want to organize before arrival if possible, not just as the home owners are leaving for their vacation!

8.  Ask to see a copy of the home book or welcome guide

If your sit is with TrustedHousesitters you are able to request an online "welcome guide" from the home owners. Not all members use this as some have their own version which they can send you by email, or it will be printed out for your arrival.

If you can get a copy by email in advance, it's very helpful to check through and can avoid surprises on arrival. It also helps make the handover less stressful for everyone if you've already understood much of what's involved.

If the home owner is new to house sitting and doesn't have a house sitter guide, you could suggest sending them a questionnaire of your own that they can fill in before the sit begins. This would include information about the pets' routines, emergency contacts, and so on. Again if a lot of the detail is handled before the handover, it makes the leaving time less busy for the home owner, and you have less to try and take in over a short time frame.

9.  House sitting agreements

We don't personally use a house sitting agreement, but if you want to, this is a good time to put this in place with all the agreed terms. You'll find most of the best international house sitting platforms have a downloadable agreement that you can use or adapt.

If you want to know more about house sitting agreements and whether to use them of not, click here to read our article - Do I Need a House Sitting Agreement  - it provides advice from some of the major house sitting platforms.

first house sit - research location

10.  Research the location

We always research the area, checking Google Maps and Maps.Me (for off-line maps) to see what's close by the property. Ian loves Maps.me as he finds more detail often than on Google Maps. It has the ability to update it with newly discovered walking trails, or sights not listed elsewhere. We also check maps for remoteness, access to public transport, supermarkets, local sight-seeing etc.

This is another reason why it's good to have the accurate address. You can check out options for getting to and from the airport if the home owner isn't providing, or can't provide that service.

11.  Prepare your questions for the handover

Put together a checklist for the handover so that everything you need to know is covered. Give this some thought before you arrive. Take into consideration your location and accessibility to shops and services, the  pets, your house sit duties etc.

12.  Stay in touch before the house sit starts

Maintain a dialogue with the home owners right up to the sit. If a sit is in 6 months or more, send an email every 2 months. ALWAYS make contact at least a month before to ensure everything is still on track. If you won't be booking flights or other travel until closer the date, check in first. You don't want to purchase tickets, only to find the home owner has changed the dates!

13.  Learn key phrases of local language *

If the country you are going to doesn’t speak your language, learn a few key phrases so you can make your way in shops and restaurants at the very least. This is particularly important in more rural areas where the locals are less likely to speak a foreign language.

14.   Learn about your pet breeds *

Familiarize yourself with the species and breeds of any pets you’ll be caring for. Behaviours, energy levels and care needs can vary hugely from breed to breed and make a significant difference to what you might need to do or deal with during the sit.

Keep on top of all these tips, and you will be pretty much guaranteed to have a problem free house-sit. Remember preparation is key to everything happening smoothly, but if things do go wrong, you'll find more tips here:

* A big thank-you to Michelle McDines of The Happy Housesitter, who contributed items 13 and 14 as two additional tips.

Last updated on February 3rd, 2020

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