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5 Tips For Avoiding Bad Housesitters

written by Veren Ferrera January 25, 2018
5 Tips For Avoiding Bad Housesitters

Are you ready to have house sitters but not confident about who to choose?

If you’re not sure if you’re ready yet, make sure you’ve considered these five key essentials because house sitting is not for everyone – a love of saving money isn’t enough.

But wait.

Why should you listen to us?

Since 2016, we’ve been house sitting through the worldwide house sitting membership site, TrustedHousesitters – all with 5-star reviews and happy pet owners. We’ve house sat both full-time and part-time, and in various countries in Europe as well as the United States. Before that, we house sat for family and friends.

(If you haven’t signed up for TrustedHousesitters yet, our readers can get 10% off – just click here to sign up with the discount already applied.)

We’ve clocked in a lot of house sitting experience in the past few years, and we always pick the brains of pet owners to learn where they are coming from so that we can become even better house sitters – and to share that knowledge with others who are interested in house sitting.

We have said again and again – communication is key in house sitting. It is important that you connect with people who see house sitting as an exchange – first and foremost. How else could the online community continue to thrive with happy folks on both sides (pets included!).

Despite this apparent reality, we keep hearing stories – you may have heard some too. Stories about inadequate house sitters and how things did not go according to plan. As long as there are homeowners using house sitters, we will all probably continue to hear more discouraging stories.

But don’t fret yet!

House sitting is all about strategy, communication, and a healthy dose of intuition. Finding the best sitter will be much easier if you weed out the following variables.

Avoid Bad Housesitters - AlternativeTravelers.com

1. Don’t leave it until the last minute!

This is imperative – how far in advance you post your sit matters. The further in advance the better, though the exact timeline depends on the length of the housesit. We recommend at least a month in advance no matter what. For longer sits lasting 3-6 months, several months or more in advance will give you a wider pool of candidates to choose from.  

Experienced house sitters set up their calendars months in advance, so leaving posting to the last minute takes these more experienced candidates out of the running as they’re likely already booked.

For example – we had to decline several sits offered to us just two weeks before Christmas. We had already arranged for our Christmas sit in October. Consider that housesitters pay for airfare in exchange-based house sitting, so last-minute sits might not be worth it for someone who has to travel due to the expense. (Tip: if you do find yourself needing a sitter last minute, consider sweetening the deal with an offer of covering transport costs – it’ll likely still be cheaper than paying for home pet visits or kennel care).

That’s not to say you cannot find a great house sitter on short notice. Yet whenever homeowners tell us that they took a sitter they weren’t too excited about, it was because it was a choice between that sitter or no sitter at all.

Vetting sitters takes time. Initially, it may take a while if you’re new to using housesitters. Expect to sit down and take a long look at profiles, weighing the pros and cons, etc.

If you don’t get enough applicants, you can leave the post up and sitters will know it is still open to applicants.

For more guidelines on setting up your listing, read our post: 5 Steps to Using House Sitters for the First Time.

2 . Be very discerning

Just as we virtually vet online any possible romantic partner, we must personally vet every prospective house sitter. This is a time to be particular, critical, and observant.

Spend time reading their profiles. Anyone can say they love animals, but do they mention actual prior experience? Sam and I already had been house sitting for friends and family before we even met. Once we got together, we did even more house sitting together for friends and family. So when we applied for our first sit online, the homeowner had legitimate references to consider.

Take a hard look at their references. Do these sound like actual people they sat for? These are especially important for new sitters without reviews – we were there once, and those reviews are crucial.

Do they mention skill sets? Veren has experience with birds, so we have been contacted based on that. We’ve mostly sat for cats and dogs, but we’re also comfortable and have experience with caring for small pets like rodents, lizards and fish. We also have experience with young and older pets with medical needs.

What sort of vibe does their profile give you? Do these seem like fun loving people? Or someone doing the bare minimum while expecting luxury accommodations. There’s a lot that can be given away by their tone. This leads to the next point.

3. Avoid entitled and self-centered sitters

This is a big no-no. Sometimes this comes across in their profile or initial message. We are always floored to hear that pet owners regularly get messages talking about how great the prospective sit would be for the sitter, with no mention of the pets to be cared for. You may get some of these – our recommendation is to steer clear.

Sometimes you may get to the conversation stage and sense that the sitter seems more concerned with your Netflix account than your dog’s feeding schedule, or a has really long list of requests or concerns. These are red flags.

This is not to say that you should discredit every house sitter that asks questions – experienced house sitters will undoubtedly have them. House sitters have their own concerns that will need to be addressed. We covered these in our companion post 5 Tips for Avoiding Bad House Sits

Of course, asking about heat is understandable if it’s winter. As a homeowner, be very thorough about what is available for accommodations so that the sitter doesn’t need to ask. The more thorough you are, the better you can gauge if their questions are warranted.

We have concerns, but almost always they are all addressed by the homeowners before we can even ask. In the end, we have maybe one or two questions on average at the end of Skype session. Even these questions are based on the details of what they’ve given us. Which leads to our next point:

4. Have a conversation

After you have narrowed down several candidates, you may have one house sitter or house sitting couple that you think would be a great fit. Just don’t go confirming them yet – you still need to talk further.

Once a pet owner in a Facebook group was complaining about how terrible TrustedHousesitters was. They exclaimed that THS did nothing about their sitters leaving early and that her sitters did not even know when to walk their dogs. When Sam asked how the initial “interview” conversation between the house sitters and pet owner went, the owner stated that “dog care had been stated in the listing.”

No direct conversation had ever taken place between the two parties, leaving frustration on both sides. 

TrustedHousesitters isn’t a perfect sitter finder agency. They´re like a dating website – both parties pay for access to a database of people and tools to find the perfect match.

Getting annoyed at TrustedHousesitters for having a bad experience with a sitter is like getting mad at Match.com for having a bad date.

Both websites do not vet every member – that is the job of both parties, through careful communication.

You need to talk directly with your prospective sitters, whether it is via video call or a simple phone call. No if ands or buts. And when you do so…

5. Go with your Gut

This is a recurring theme here and for good reason – following our intuition has led us to have great experiences every time we house sit. It’s important that you feel safe, but also excited at the prospect of having this person sit at your home.

Maybe you´re not the most social of people, so you´re not about meeting them and spending time together before going your separate ways. That’s totally fair.

Either way, you should feel safe and confident in your choice. The homeowner of our first house sit through TrustedHousesitters said we would be perfect – before even meeting us – and everything went great. It’s completely possible to find great house sitters online.

Yet we’ve had homeowners whom we spoke with after (we’ve befriended a few!) who expressed concern with other sitters they were considering. Even though everything worked out, they may have preferred others. (Again, this happened in cases where they had left things to the last minute). Don’t be afraid to trust your intuition! And if you’re not confident in your intuition, or your ability to perform the other 4 points, you may have to consider that using housesitters isn’t for you.

Intuition is key. Set up your house sit listing with ample time to attract experienced sitters. Allow yourself the proper conditions to reflect and select the best house sitter possible. This is extremely important and we can’t emphasize enough. Both of these work in tandem to maximize your chances of a getting a good sitter. It shouldn’t feel like you´re making a gamble.

And now that you’ve gotten a great house sitter, it’s time to prepare for their arrival – read How to Prepare for House Sitters as a Home Owner.

Happy House Sitting!

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