Calling all home and pet owners!
Often we see homeowners on house sitting forums asking how they should prepare for my confirmed house sitters. It’s a great question and one that for people who have never used house sitters, can be a bit puzzling. Sometimes these things are obvious. Sometimes they’re not.
We thought we’d give our perspective as house sitters who have been at it since 2016. If you haven’t used house sitters before check out our articles, Thinking About Using House Sitters and 5 Steps to Using House Sitters for the First Time and then come back to this one)! Also if you decide to use house sitters, check out our comprehensive (honest and unpaid) opinion on your best tool for finding housesitters, Trustedhousesitters.com.
Providing fertile ground for your house sitter to plant seeds of success is the main idea here.
1. Provide a Detailed and Written Guide
The best way to ensure the best sit possible? Leave detailed instructions. Take the time to carefully write down sitter duties, emergency contacts, and local info.
This doesn’t necessarily mean giving yourself a hand cramp handwriting it all down. In fact, typing up a document that you can then print out and email to future sitters means less work for yourself in the future! And having a document to refer to via email is helpful for sitters to always have on hand. TrustedHousesitters.com has a tool we wholeheartedly recommend called a “Welcome Guide”. This is an online page for your house sitter to find all the possible information they may need (again, shareable for future house sitters as well).
Ultimately, do not leave your sitters without something written unless you like mistakes or don’t mind them contacting you often to ask questions.
2. Choose a Local Emergency Contact Person
Even the best-laid plans can’t account for mishaps. Things may go wrong while you’re away, and the likelihood increases the longer the house sit. It’s always good to have someone local that you trust around that could make decisions and/or help house sitters if something goes wrong.
Also, leave them an extra set of keys – apart from your house sitters. We all lock ourselves out sometimes. House sitters are no less prone to mistakes. And neither are homeowners – we once arrived at a house sit (after meeting in person a few days before) to find that the top bolt had been locked and the homeowner hadn’t left us that key.
Cue almost an entire day locked out of the apartment as we waited to hear from the homeowners and then have a locksmith come to change the locks. Of course, mistakes happen and we didn’t hold it against them. But the hassle and money (paid by the very apologetic homeowner) could have been saved if a key had been left with a friend in town.
Also, if you have a couple house sitting for you, provide them with two sets of keys if possible.
3. Stock Up On Necessary Pet and Household Items
Do not – we repeat – DO NOT let absolutely any expenses
Stock up on enough pet food and supplies (cat litter, doggie poo bags, etc) for the length of the time that you will be gone. If your pets need medication, either double-check that there is enough or leave your credit card on file with the vet so that your house sitters can replenish the supply.
If you want to make your house sitters feel extra welcome (especially for long stays), feel free to ask if they’d like any small grocery items to get them started. It helps to ask though instead of buying what is considered “the basics” by many – things like eggs, milk, bread – as these are things that people with various intolerances (gluten, lactose) or lifestyles (vegans unite!) don’t eat.
4. Prepare Your Home for Guests
Prepare for house sitters as you’d prepare for any guests staying in your home.
This doesn’t mean hiring a professional cleaner! But unfortunately, nearly every house sitter we’ve spoken to has experienced walking into an untidy, unprepared home. We’ve personally showed up to a house sit before to find every trash can overflowing. We have also heard horror stories from fellow house sitters of pet owners leaving trash all around the house and even dirty dishes in the sink!
That’s just not okay. It’s straight up disrespectful to leave your garbage around for someone else to clean up.
House sitters are not unpaid maids.
House sitters are there to take care of your pets and home. As a pet owner, you’ll expect to come back to a clean home “as you left it.” It’s not fair to expect your house sitters to clean up after a huge mess that you’ve left for them.
Again, this doesn’t mean hiring a professional cleaner. Just leave your home tidy and clean, as you would if you were having over acquaintances that you didn’t know very well. (We know some can sometimes be very untidy when it comes to having close friends and family over.)
House sitters will also appreciate if you prepare spaces for them to use (i.e. space in fridge and bedroom drawers). Clear off the kitchen and/or bedside tables if they are completely cluttered. Remember that someone will be living in your home for a time, and they’ll need to be able to make use of the space.
Making room in closets is more important for longer sits, but it’s always a nice gesture no matter what the length of stay. Even just a drawer or some empty hangers will help your house sitters feel like they don’t have to live out of their suitcase.
5. Discuss Timing and Help Them get to Your Home
Make sure to discuss what time you’ll be available and when you’d like your house sitters to arrive. Do you want them to come the day before to go over things (and if so do you have a place for them to stay)? Or do you not mind a quick handoff or even having them get the keys from a trusted neighbor or friend? It’s all personal preference and we’ve come as early as a couple days before the homeowner leaves to the morning of.
If you’d like to meet your house sitters the day you leave, don’t plan too tight of a day, as travel delays can and will happen – especially if this is the first time your sitter sets foot in your country. While Google Maps is great, it doesn’t always include things like airport-specific buses and house sitters might not always have data service in a new country. Your house sitters will appreciate a quick message with local tips and instructions on how to get to your house (or if you can pick them up – even better though not expected)!
And once they’re there…
6. Give Them the Home/Pet Tour and Spend Some Time Together
While a prospective home buyer may want to see your wood paneling, sitters really only need to see what spaces and tools they will need to care for your home and pet.
Sometimes there isn’t enough time or maybe you’re just too shy to spend a lot of time together, which is understandable. But don’t hesitate to plan a light meal (again, ask if your house sitters have any dietary restrictions though), or some tea to welcome your house sitters. We’ve made many a house sit friend via this method and it really does feel welcoming. Plus, getting to know your house sitters will make you feel even more comfortable and at ease before setting off on your trip.
In the end, think of house sitters as long-term guests. Prepare for house sitters and treat them how you’d want to feel if you’re visiting friends. In return, they’ll go above and beyond to treat your home and pets as their own. House sitting is all about connection and communication.
More in Our House Sitting for Home Owners Series:
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in April 2017 and has since been updated. This post contains affiliate links – if you purchase something through these links we will receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting AlternativeTravelers!