House sitting guide for home and pet owners 2021
Find the best house sitters for your home and pets
The flights are booked and you're looking forward to your holiday with great anticipation. But wait a minute! What about those you will be 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.
This comprehensive home owners guide to house sitting will make sure you find the very best house sitters to look after your home and pets.
Why do I need a house sitter?
There are very definite benefits to having a house sitter stay in your property to look after your pets and home while you're away. The pets keep to their existing routines, the dogs go on the same walks, and the property maintains a lived in feel, making it less vulnerable to break-ins and theft.
Everything gets taken care of just as if you were home!
Using house sitters can save you money too. Quality boarding kennels are expensive and international house sitters generally offer their services for free, in exchange for accommodation. But it has to be a fair exchange of value. they are giving their time to follow your routines, and care for the property and pets.
If all you need is someone to water your plants or make sure a water pipe hasn't burst, then you might be better looking for a neighbour, family member or friend to pop in occasionally. But if you have one or more pets, and want a worry free vacation where everything is taken care of, house sitters will be your best choice.
Can I 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. Most of the reputable house sitting sites now ID check and verify their members and you'll find references and reviews for the house sitters you select. This is why we don't recommend using Facebook groups to find house sitters when starting out, it's much harder to do the due diligence needed to find credible, trusted house sitters.
If you follow the steps in this home and pet owner guide, your first experience with house sitters should be positive and rewarding for all concerned.
If you are still a little unsure, take a read of this article: Can I trust house sitters
Using house sitters for the first time
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. The vast majority of house sit assignments are smooth and trouble-free. You may hear the occasional 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. They are also often sits arranged through "friends of friends" or passing acquaintances on social media.
In a nutshell, communication is the key to a successful and rewarding house sitting experience.
Where can I find house sitters for my pets?
There are several steps in the process of securing the right sitter and at every stage good communication will help avert any unwanted surprises. The first thing is to list your house sitting job with one of the many house and pet sitting websites.
To start we suggest listing in just one place. You could quite possibly get a flood of initial interest and listing on multiple house sit sites will take more time, create more enquiries, and require a good understanding of the different messaging system used by each website. If for some reason you do get less pet sitters applying than you hoped for, then consider adding your advert on other platforms once you've tested the waters.
If you want to advertise to the biggest international market of house sitters then TrustedHouseSitters, Nomador or HouseCarers should be at the top of your list.
These are all 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 may 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 house sitters who have been helping home owners for a long time.
Country-specific house sitting websites
Another alternative is to use a more local service. For example, if you are in Australia you can use the website: AussieHouseSitters, or in the UK you might try HouseSittersUK
For more information on some of the best house sitting websites, take a look at our popular article House Sitting Websites Reviewed and Compared
Regardless of the platform you choose the same advice applies to all house sitting websites.
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How to create your home owner listing
Don't just rush into putting your house sit advert on without giving it some thought. Instead, do some advance preparation before uploading your house sit assignment to your chosen site.
- Gather several photos of your pets and your property.
- Include a photo of yourselves too.
- Decide which image to use as your primary picture - the first one seen.
- Outline exactly what you need your house sitters to do.
- Make sure you give as much detail about the pets as you can
- Look at other listings to see what others put in their advertisements.
When defining 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?
- How long can they be left in the house alone?
Be completely honest and transparent to make sure you get the house sitters best suited to caring for your pets.
Show your home in the 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. If you really have concerns about showing your property or pets on online, make this known in your listing and offer to send pictures to interested sitters.
Many house sit disasters occur when the sitter turns up to find the house is nothing like they imagined, or it's not as the owner described. Undisclosed security systems and cameras are something that come up time and time again. Occasionally 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 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. Take a look at them on a different browser once they are loaded to make sure you have no issues with automatic resizing. It's worth asking customer services to advsie the best size and orientation for uploaded images - it's likely to be different on each platform you use.
Define your expectations
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. If you don't want them to have visitors or guests, again let them know. Most professional sitters make a very clear distinction between traveling and house sitting, and take their responsibilities seriously, but some expect to have time to sightsee or meet up with family in the local area.
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 warn your sitters if you live in a remote location.
Single sitters, couples, or a family?
You'll need to decide whether you want a single sitter or a couple, or even a family to look after your home and pets. If your pets are used to have kids around, then a family might be the perfect solution for you.
If you've got a lot of pets, land management, a big house etc., then you may feel happier with a couple to take care of the home and garden, and share the house sitting duties. Some homeowners like the reassurance of having a couple, in that if one person is sick or falls ill, there is a second person to take over the daily responsibilities.
On the other hand if you've got a small apartment and a cat or two, or a small dog, you might prefer a single person.
Let them know too if you will be leaving a vehicle for their use, or bikes to get around the local area. If you have a car that can be used, make sure your insurance covers occasional users, and indicate its availability in the ad.
By being thorough, honest and open, your approach will set you up for having the best house sitting experience you can. You can read more on expectations here.
Replying to house sit applications
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. For those applicants that don't fit the bill, let them know quickly so that they can move on to other opportunities.
One of the biggest complaints among house sitters is the amount of time taken for homeowners to respond to messages.
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.
Look for personalisation
House sitters should be telling you why they are the right applicant for your house sit 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.
We would expect a sitter to make reference to particular points in the advert, and mention the pets by name. To show an interest in your needs and not make their application all about what they want from the exchange. Balance is what you are looking for.
Get to know your sitters with a video chat
Next we would suggest a video chat to get a better feel for anyone you are seriously considering. Use a platform like Zoom, Skype, Facetime or Whatsapp. If the potential sitter happens to be in your local area it might be possible to get together in person. At the moment this will depend very much on Covid-19 regulations.
There's no need to make this too formal. Have a few questions to ask, but you'll find more is discovered by having a friendly chat.
Picking your house sitter
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 the details of your house sit
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.
We always suggest this is done via email and away from the house sit platform's messaging system. Mainly because if anything happens with your membership, or at the house sitting company, you have another method of getting in touch with each other.
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:
Rejecting unsuccessful house sitters
Once everything is confirmed, notify all unsuccessful house sit applicants. So many home owners put this off 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 absolutely nothing back.
A simple copy and paste "sorry, but no" message, is so much better than nothing at all.
Contact on the run-up to your trip
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 traveling internationally - it shows their commitment.
What about Covid-19?
It goes without saying that house sits are currently restricted by whatever Covid-19 regulations are in place in a particular location. It may be throughout 2021 that testing procedures will need to be accounted for, both for sitters arriving in your country and for you leaving the country.
It's important to have that conversation with your selected house sitters if there's any possibility that the sit might not go ahead. Do they have a Plan B in place? Are they financially able to pay for alternative accommodation if necessary. If you have separate accommodation or an annex it might be possible that you could help out - all things to consider.
The house sit handover
Have a think about 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 and multiple pets, this might involve a day or more, whereas a couple of hours for might suffice for a modern suburban property with a single cat.
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 any 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 if they replace them?
Do you want them to contact you before taking pets to vets. In an emergency should they simply get to the vet regardless? Have you got an account or will you leave an emergency fund? What if the unthinkable happens? Don't avoid the difficult questions about your pets.
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 during the house sit or on your return.
Create a house sitter home-book
It's a very good idea to create a “house sitter home-book”. This should include all the important information about your home and pets. If you have listed your assignment on TrustedHouseSitters, they have a useful template to guide you through this process online - look for the "Welcome Guide".
Your home-book will be 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.
It should include information about your pets, their feeding and exercise routines, emergency contacts, vet information, medications, home details, shopping, local facilities, hospitals and doctors etc.
Reporting back with updates
Do you want regular updates from your house sitters? 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 one 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. But if something were to happen to one of your pets, have you been clear about the procedure to follow.
Returning home: the "handback"
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.
One of the loveliest things about returning from a vacation after using house sitters, is that the house is warm, clean and tidy, the pets are happy and waiting excitedly to see you, the post has been sorted and you might even find a welcome meal or stocked up fridge to welcome you back!
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 they will do their utmost to ensure you are satisfied with the service they have provided.
Leave a review 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.
If they did something that exceeded your expectations be sure to mention it.
Stay in touch for repeat sits
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.
Some sitters are members of referral groups. If they can't sit for you they will have other sitters they know personally who they can vouch for, and who might be able to help instead. Building your house sitting network will keep you covered for all your vacations and any last minute trips.
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.
Last updated on March 16th, 2021