Flights are booked and you’re looking forward to your holiday with great anticipation. But wait a minute! What about those you are leaving behind?
You love your pets and don’t want them to suffer miserably in a kennel while you enjoy your vacation. So, perhaps you’re considering using house sitters for the first time.
You may be overwhelmed by all the information available. To help we’ve put together a home owners guide to house sitting to answer some of your questions.
Can I really trust a stranger with my home and pets?
Of course it’s normal to have some concerns – you will, after all, be letting strangers into your house. What about the security of your home and possessions? How will your beloved pets cope with new people looking after them?
Don’t worry – thousands and thousands of people around the world now use verified house sitters to look after their homes and pets.
If you Follow the steps in this handy guide, your first experience with house sitters should be positive and rewarding for all concerned.
Your first experience using house sitters
We have house sat several times for home owners using sitters for the first time, and in every case the owners have enjoyed a positive experience. They have returned home to happy and well cared for pets, and a clean and tidy home.
Each of our first-time home owners has said that they would be confident to use house sitters again in the future.
First, be assured that the vast majority house sit assignments are smooth and trouble-free. Yes, you may hear the occasional horror story of a house sit gone wrong, but these are few and far between. In almost all cases these could have been avoided by better communication between the home owners and the house sitters.
In a nutshell, communication is the key to a successful and rewarding experience.
There are several steps in the process of securing the right sitter and at every stage good communication will help avert any unwanted surprises.
Where can you list your assignment?
The first step is to list your assignment with one of the many house sitting websites.
To start we suggest listing in just one place. You’re practically guaranteed to get a flood of interest and listing on multiple sites will take more time, create more enquiries, and require a good understanding of the different messaging system used by each site.
Both of these are international websites, so one disadvantage is that there may be no opportunity to meet the sitters in advance of the assignment. If this is important you’ll need to select house sitters currently living (or house sitting) close to your local area.
Depending on your location, you will probably receive many expressions of interest from all over the world, and from a wide diversity of people. A lot of these people will be highly regarded and very trustworthy sitters who have been helping home owners for a long time.
A couple of other international house sitting sites where many people express satisfaction are HouseCarers.com and MindMyHouse.com. The websites are both nicely laid out, simple to navigate and have easy-to-use messaging systems.
For great service with a personal touch you can’t do better than HouseSitMatch.com, which offers a truly personalized matching system that assures first timers they have made the right decision.
Country-specific house sitting websites
Another alternative is to use a more local service. For example, if you are in Australia you can use AussieHouseSitter.com.au
In the UK you might try HouseSittersUK.co.uk
Regardless of the platform you choose the same advice applies to all house sitting websites.
Creating your listing
Do a little advance preparation before settling down to create your assignment listing.
- Gather several photos of your pets and your property.
- Include a photo of yourselves too.
- Decide which image you will use as your primary picture – the one that house sitters see first.
- Spend a little time deciding exactly what you require from your house sitters.
- Look at several other listings that appeal to you and observe what others ask for from their potential sitters.
When outlining your requirements be as thorough and specific as possible. Describe your pets honestly, making sure you detail any possible challenges a sitter might have:
- Do your pets need special attention?
- Is administering medication necessary?
- Are there any behavioural issues? Are your dogs socialized for instance?
- Are your pets shy or timid?
- Can they be stubborn or occasionally aggressive?
- Do your animals sleep on the bed with you?
Be completely honest and transparent to make sure you get the people best suited to care for your pets.
Show your home in your listing too. After all, this is where your sitters will be living. While the pets are probably the most important aspect of the sit for all concerned, the property is important too. Again, be open and honest to avoid misunderstandings.
Many house sit disasters occur when the sitter turns up to find the house is nothing like they imagined, or as the owner described it. Sometimes the pets have issues that were never mentioned when the assignment was arranged.
Full and honest disclosure in your listing will prevent misunderstandings and possible disputes or issues later down the line.
As the familiar saying goes, “A picture paints a thousand words.” The more photos you can add to your listing the better.
Be very clear in your listing about what you expect from your sitters. If your pets can’t be left alone for long periods or overnight, then make this clear.
Most professional sitters make a very clear distinction between travelling and house sitting, and take their responsibilities seriously.
Give plenty of information about the surrounding area and the facilities nearby. If it is a long way to the nearest supermarket, make sure you mention this, and suggest that a potential sitter will need their own transport.
Again, you don’t want any surprises. A sitter who turns up at a property without transport, only to find the closest shops are 20km away, has a right to be a little surprised and upset.
Make sure you pre-warn your sitters if you live in a remote location. Let them know too if you will be leaving a vehicle for their use, or bikes to get around the local area.
Your listing is your responsibility and by being thorough, honest and open, you are already well on the way to a very successful experience.
You may find it useful to read the House Sitting Magazine article:
If you use the larger house sitting websites, don’t be surprised if applications come rolling in quickly. A desirable assignment will prompt replies within minutes of posting your advert.
- Assign a few hours to deal with the first influx of enquiries.
- Keep on top of them as they arrive.
- Don’t wait a couple of days before checking responses. There’s a good chance by then you’ll be inundated.
- Weed out all applicants who don’t fit your ideal sitter profile.
- Think like an employer and see house sitter profiles as CVs.
- Keep only those you wish to consider further.
- Weigh up all the information provided and check out links given to websites or social media pages.
If you receive a lot of enquiries, quickly select 10 candidates who meet most, or all of your requirements.
Now is a good time to change your listing to “Reviewing Applicants” to stem the incoming flood. You can always re-open it if you don’t find the right sitter from your first batch.
Narrow down your applications and make a shortlist of 3 or 4 candidates. At this point you should write to these applicants asking for clarification on any points that arise. Remember again, you are the “employer” with a goal to make sure the sitters fit closely fit your needs.
A house sitter should be telling you why they are the right applicant for your particular assignment. A degree of personalisation shows that they have given thought to their response. They aren’t just churning out standard cut and paste emails to a large number of adverts.
Next we would suggest a video chat via Skype to get a better feel for anyone you are seriously considering. If the potential sitter happens to be in your local area it might be possible to get together in person.
Go with your instincts. Pick someone you feel good about and whose profile fills you with confidence. If there’s anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or simply “not quite right”, set that application aside.
Check references, but don’t be put off if there aren’t any shown on the platform you’re using. Many sitters use a number of different house sitting websites, so references could be listed elsewhere. Always ask for references if they aren’t readily accessible.
Your shortlist should provide you with the opportunity to select your preferred sitter pretty quickly. Some sitters apply for multiple assignments as they have no guarantee of being offered the post. It would be disappointing to deliberate for days, only to find that your sitter has accepted an assignment elsewhere.
The best sitters with great profiles and extensive experience do tend to get snapped up quickly.
Confirm all the details
Once agreed verbally, always reconfirm all the details by email. This avoids any misunderstanding over dates, handovers, expectations, etc. It’s important that both parties confirm back to each other in writing. This way there is no possibility of a misunderstanding.
Some home owners and house sitters like the added feeling of security that a house sitting contract provides.
See what the platforms have to say in this House Sitting Magazine article on the topic:
Don’t avoid notifying the unsuccessful applicants
Once everything is confirmed, notify all unsuccessful applicants. So many home owners avoid this as they hate to relay bad news, but it is an important part of the process.
Please don’t shirk this responsibility. Applying for assignments is time-consuming and house sitters who have expressed interest deserve the respect of a timely response. There’s nothing worse, as a sitter, than to wait days hoping for a positive reply, only to hear nothing back.
A simple copy and paste “sorry, but no” message, is so much better than nothing at all.
As your trip approaches
Send an occasional email to confirm that everything is still on track.
In our initial agreement with owners we always promise to keep in touch in the run-up to the house sit. We also offer a personal guarantee that once we have confirmed, barring any major catastrophe, we will never EVER let our home owners down.
As the home owner you should have the same degree of integrity. Don’t ditch the sitters just because a neighbour, friend or family member offers to do the job instead.
We don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for proof of travel arrangements, when available, from sitters if they are travelling internationally – it shows their commitment.
The house sitting handover
Consider how long you’ll need for the handover and what information you’ll need to pass on before you depart.
For a remote property with a complicated off-grid system this might involve a day or more, whereas a couple of hours for might suffice for a modern suburban property.
If you have one or more dogs it’s always a good idea to schedule enough time to all go for a walk together with the sitters so that familiar routines can be explained and demonstrated. This will help put everyone, including the pets, at ease.
If your pets suffer from separation anxiety or need complicated medication you might want an extra day so they become more familiar with your sitters, while you are still there.
Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. A good sitter will understand your worries and concerns, particularly if this is your first experience. Don’t dodge the difficult topics.
All arrangements for the term of the house sit should be open to discussion between owner and sitter.
- Are you leaving them a car?
- Do they need to be added to your vehicle insurance?
- Would you like or need a lift to the airport?
- What about a return pick-up?
- How long can the pets be left with no-one in attendance?
- Are there are parts of the house that are off-limits?
One topic that appears over and over in Facebook discussion groups, is the question of food.
- Is it OK to eat food left in the fridge?
- Do you want your house sitters to replace what they use?
- Can they use up perishables?
- Is food stored in the freezer off limits?
- Can they use condiments, herbs and spices?
Decide all this in advance and make sure there are no last minute changes that could surprise or upset the sitters.
Get clear at the outset and you’ll avoid any difficult situations on your return.
House sitter handbook
It is a very good idea to write or type out a “house sitter handbook”. This should include all the important information about your home and pets.
This is very personal to the assignment, but there are many useful details that should always be included, some of which might be so obvious to you as the home owner, that you don’t think to include them.
We will cover this in much more detail in a future issue, and we will help you compile your own personalized house sitter handbook.
Do you want regular updates? Daily? Weekly? Or just occasionally? Do you want pictures?
Good sitters might send you a photo every now-and-then to reassure you that all pets are happy and well cared for. Again, this is up to you. Be clear about your needs and make sure that the sitter understands.
While you’re away the number 1 rule is “Don’t worry!”
If there is an unforeseen issue while you’re away you can be confident in the knowledge that you have responsible and reliable people caring for your pets, who will do their best to solve any problems that arise.
If you have followed the advice in this guide, your return home should be happy and easy. Your sitters will have made sure your house is at least as clean and tidy as when you left.
In many cases home owners express their delight at the way their home has been looked after. After all, the sitter wants to secure a glowing reference from you, so will do their utmost to ensure you are satisfied with the service they have provided.
Leave a reference for your house sitters
If you have received great service from a sitter please be prompt about leaving a review. Not only do you help the sitters, but you also provide valuable feedback for future house owners considering the same sitter.
In the unlikely event that there’s something you aren’t so happy about, talk first or email your house sitters to discuss your concerns. Sometimes there may be a simple misunderstanding that can be easily resolved. Give your sitters an opportunity to respond before posting a negative review.
Stay in touch
Many home owners and house sitters become good friends, and often agree to repeat sits. Stay in touch. You never know when you or a friend or neighbour will need a great house sitter.
Are you ready to use house sitters?
So that’s it. Here are three simple things you need to use to ensure that your first house sit assignment as a home owner results in a great experience all round:
- Common sense
- Good communication
- Mutual respect
Create your listing, book your flights, and relax, confident that your pets, property and possessions will be in safe and trustworthy hands.
We hope this home owners guide will help your get started. Is there anything you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.
This article appeared in Issue 1 of House Sitting Magazine. Read more great content by downloading the FREE app for Apple or Android, or in FlipBook format for your laptop.
Laptop users can read the magazine online by visiting our “bookshelf” here: