Calling all home and pet owners! Often we see homeowners on house sitting forums asking how to prepare for house sitters. It’s a great question and one that can be a bit puzzling, especially if you’ve never used live-in house sitters before.
If you haven’t used house sitters before, check out our articles:
- Can I Trust Free House Sitters?
- 5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Live In Pet Sitter
- TrustedHousesitters Review (and Tips for Using It)
When preparing for your house sitter’s arrival, providing fertile ground for them to plant seeds of success is the main idea.
1. Provide a Detailed and Written Guide
The best way to ensure the best house sitting experience possible? Leave detailed instructions. Take the time to carefully write down house sitter duties, emergency contacts, and local info. Be very clear about what needs to be taken care of (pet feeding amounts and schedules, walk times and durations, plant watering needs, garbage collection, etc.).
This doesn’t 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 overall! Having a document to refer to via email is helpful for sitters to always have on hand.
Ultimately, do not leave your sitters without something written unless you like misunderstandings or don’t mind them contacting you often to ask questions.
TrustedHousesitters 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).
Psst: if you decide to join TrustedHousesitters, we’ve got a discount just for you! Click here to get 10% off your TrustedHousesitters membership.
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 a local trusted contact that could make decisions and/or help house sitters if something goes wrong.
We also recommend leaving an extra set of keys with your emergency contact person. We all lock ourselves out sometimes. House sitters and homeowners alike are prone to mistakes. 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. This further prevents accidental lockouts.
3. Prepare for House Sitters by Stocking Up On Necessary Pet and Household Items
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 will be enough or leave your credit card on file with the vet so that your house sitters can replenish the supply.
And while house sitters should replenish any household supplies that they use, don’t leave them with an empty house either. We once arrived to a house sit where there were absolutely no trash bags, vacuum bags, laundry detergent, and other household basics. While it was surely forgetfulness and we didn’t hold it against them, it isn’t too considerate to expect house sitters to restock your house with necessities.
If you want to make your house sitters feel extra welcome (especially for long stays and/or if they are coming from far away), feel free to ask if they’d like any small grocery items to get them started. It helps to ask instead of buying what is considered “the basics” by many (e.g. eggs, milk, bread) are things that people with various intolerances (gluten, lactose) or lifestyles (vegans unite!) don’t eat.
4. Prepare Your Home as You Would for Guests
Along the above line of thinking, you want to 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 at least once. 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 Arrival/Departure Times and Help Them Get to Your Home
Make sure to discuss 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 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. This is especially true if this is the first time your sitter sets foot in your country.
While Google Maps is great, it doesn’t always include things that a local knows at the back of their hands, such as airport-specific buses. Your house sitters will appreciate a quick message with local tips and instructions on how to get to your house. If you can pick them up, that’s even better!
And once they’re there…
6. Give Them the Grand 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. Be sure to go over where key items are located, walk them through pet feeding routines, show them anything quirky about your house, etc.
Sometimes there isn’t enough time or maybe you’re just too shy to spend a lot of time together. But don’t hesitate to plan a light meal or some tea/coffee to welcome your house sitters (again, ask if your house sitters have any dietary restrictions).
We’ve made many friends with many pet owners this way 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.
And if you haven’t signed up for TrustedHousesitters yet, it’s the only website that we use and recommend as full-time house sitters. Every single professional level house sitter that we know is on there, so you can be assured that you will be having your pick of the litter when you join. Click here to get 10% off your annual TrustedHousesitters membership.
More Resources for Home and Pet Owners:
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in April 2017 and has since been updated. Last Update: November 2020.