Can I trust house sitters with my home and pets?
What does a home owner need to know?
If you have just come across house sitting as an alternative to boarding your pets when you are away from home, I bet you'll have a burning question... "Can I trust house sitters with my home and pets?"
Think about it. You've never met me before. I've contacted you online, and I'm offering to come and look after your home, all your worldly possessions, and your precious pets, while you go away on vacation.
I'm asking you to trust me - to have a firm belief in my reliability, honesty and integrity and to have faith that when you return, everything will be just as you left it.
"Yeah right!" I hear you saying incredulously, "sorry, but that's just not going to happen!"
Yet, that's exactly what thousands of home owners do every year when they entrust pretty much everything they own to house and pet sitters.
I have to admit, it does sound a little crazy. But… doesn't it also sound appealing to have someone look after your home and care for your pets, giving you the opportunity to go away on a well earned vacation?
I understand, it's a dilemma. It's something we also debated long and hard before first using house sitters to look after our island home in Panama. Our rescue dog, Campesino, was "Head of Island Security". Sadly it was in name only, and he didn't really have the stamina to see off the local indigenous Indians, who were keen on "active recycling" whenever we left the property for a visa run or to visit friends and family.
Our recommended house sitting site for home owners
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What is trust and is it the stuff of good house sitting relationships?
Trust is a synthesis of attributes and for some, difficult to come to terms with. We're told (and I believe it to be true), that good relationships are built on the trust. But, this takes time to develop, and let's face it, you are usually only around for a quick handover when the house sitters arrive at the beginning of the sit.
You can extend your initial contact beyond messaging and emails by organizing free video Skype calls or if you are in the same region, by paying a visit to meet each other. But often it's hardly enough time to create a first impression, let alone build a lasting relationship founded on trust!
What I'm going to tell you now might sound shocking, but it's undeniably true…
Despite all this, house sitting works.
It's safe; it's an awesome exchange of trust; and it invariably results in a win-win-win outcome - delighted home owners, joyful house sitters and contented pets!
Do house sits sometimes go wrong?
OK I know what's coming next. We hear this all the time, "but what about the house sits that go wrong?"
Well, compared to the number that go right, the bad sits are minuscule in number. As is generally the case with anything these days, it's the negative that gets highlighted and there's usually a quantifiable reason why something went awry.
You see, international house sitters take their work... yes they see it as work... very seriously. There are unspoken rules of house sitting, and ways to minimize any potential problems, but you have to follow professional advice for securing your sitter too. By this I mean, it isn't enough to pop into a Facebook group and ask for a house sitter, as if you are advertising an old car on Craigslist or eBay!
I'm serious, we see ads like this all the time:
"I need a house sitter in June, for 3 weeks to look after my remote property in Costa Rica, with 4 dogs, 3 cats and a pool."
And that's it.
You might just as well say:
"I'm off on holiday for 3 weeks. Really don't care who comes to look after my beautiful home and pets, as long as someone comes! Oh and bring your friends, there's a great pool for partying."
Approach house sitting professionally
Now obviously, I'm exaggerating. But, if you want things to go well from the start, then do things professionally. That means do the same as 95% of other home owners, and select your sitter from a reputable, professional house sitting platform!
As house sitters we pay to subscribe to a house sitting platform and personally we prefer to use sites where the home owner has to pay as well - sites like TrustedHouseSitters, HouseSitMatch, and Nomador. This is because we believe there's a certain level of commitment involved when someone has to hand over money.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that when we started out in the world of house sitting, we did it wrong. Unaware that there was even a house sitting community online to approach, we accepted an offer to look after our home from a young traveler who had made his home temporarily in Panama. Unimpressed by the remoteness of our small island, and the lack of entertainment, he made his own, usually somewhere else far from our property, left unoccupied and vulnerable to theft! And our dog, Campesino, was left to fend for himself.
How to overcome house sitting trust issues
So if house sitting works (and it really does if you do it correctly), how do people overcome their trust issues?
Well, as I said, you must approach this professionally. Follow a series of proven procedures so you can confidently select house sitters who'll do all that they can to ensure you have a stress-free time away.
We learned our lesson quickly and learned to trust again by doing things the right way - by researching the options, checking reviews, talking to people, and joining a number of reputable house sitting websites.
Most importantly, for you and your sitters, carefully address the issue of expectations. You both need to know each other's expectations and be able to meet them. If you are new to house sitting, here's a great article that highlights what some of those expectations might include.
Checklist - make sure you have a successful house sit
When we used house sitters, before taking to the lifestyle ourselves, there were a few checks we put in place, after learning the hard way.
- Always use a professional, reputable house sitting platform
- Make a list of all the essential skills needed to look after your home and pets
- Be honest about your own expectations
- Think about what you are offering the house sitter - would you be happy in their shoes?
- Be totally upfront when you create your listing
- Always discuss your pet's temperament and behaviour - be honest about any aggression, anxiety or medical issues they have had in the past, or currently.
- Provide plenty of photographs of the pets and the property
- Discuss your needs around cleanliness - some people are laid-back about this, others fastidious in their requirements - find the right match by talking about this.
- Select your sitters based on relevant skills, experience and verifiable references
- ALWAYS have a video chat (at the least a phone call), or meet with house sitters before accepting
- Trust your gut and be mindful of any red flag moments
- Allow enough time for a thorough personal handover
- Take time to create an information pack or home book for your sitters
Check out independent online reviews
A number of the reputable sites we've used in the past, and now, are registered with independent review companies, like TrustPilot. These are reviews that can't be "influenced" by the house sitting platform and they are a good way to assess the general public experience of the company of your choice.
And what do we define as a "reputable" house sitting site? Well for us, it's a well established website, with a good choice of both house sits and sitters, a secure messaging system, a two-way reference option so that you can check previous experiences from both the sitter and the home owner, a support network and a company that is well respected by it's users.
If you want to see which are our recommended sites take a read of our popular house sit site comparison guide.
If you follow our advice, and use the services of a professional house sitting platform, you really are minimizing any possible problems. It will be much easier to trust house sitters who come to look after your home and pets. Please think twice about reaching out to a Facebook group or forum for someone to take care of your most precious possessions. Or if you do make sure you do a ton of checks first and follow all the best practices for selecting house sitters.
Please think professionally - risk assessment and due diligence are two processes that could make a huge different to your house experience.
We've been part of the house sitting community now for almost 10 years, first as owners, now as sitters. We've seen so many people's lives transformed by the selfless exchange between home owners and sitters, that we can say with certainty it's a highly valued service all over the world.
Trust me, I know!
But don't just take our word for it. Take a little more time to read about the experiences of home owners and sitters, Louise and Martin Vachon, as they explain how the techniques they've used to find reliable, trusted house sitters.
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Last updated on March 9th, 2021