For those that have been reading our site for a while, you’ll know we’re slightly obsessed with in-home pet sitting, also known as house sitting. We write a lot of posts (and a whole book!) on how to start house sitting as a house sitter. But just as important is how to find the perfect in-home pet sitter as a home and pet owner.
If you’re a home/pet owner who has considered using a house sitter and now is ready to try – this article is for you!
Still on the fence? Check out our post and podcast episode: Can You Trust Free House Sitters?
Last but not least, if you’re not a member of TrustedHousesitters (our fav site) and want to join, click here to sign up with a 10% discount just for our readers.
And now, onto the blog post!
Once you’ve committed to the idea and feel ready to use house sitters, the question arises: where to start?
We often get a lot of questions about the normal process for house sitting, especially from home and pet owners using in-home pet sitters for the first time.
We picked the brain of every person we have house sat for and aggregated our own personal experiences to create this guide. These are the steps that homeowners should use to find the perfect in-home pet sitter every time.
1. Sign up for a House Sitting Website
House sitting websites (sometimes called “platforms”) act as points of connection and meeting places for in-home pet sitters and pet owners to connect. It’s important to note that the website does not personally find a pet sitter for you! Instead, it’s more like a dating website where each individual has their own profiles, and the website acts as an intermediary.
Often when people think of going with the exchange-based (“free”) house sitting model, they wonder if they can get away with not joining a house sitting website and instead find someone through word of mouth or Facebook groups. We strongly recommend using a paid subscription based house sitting website for many reasons.
First, having an annual membership fee is a barrier to entry that weeds out the insincere and less serious pet sitters. Someone who is flippant and flaky about the whole thing will not put down any amount of money, so you’re already narrowing the pool of potentially great pet sitters by joining a website.
Second, using a house sitting website makes the entire process so much easier. They’ve streamlined every step of the way so that all you need to do is focus on finding the best in-home pet sitter for your needs.
Third, you’ll have the backup and support of the house sitting website in the unlikely event of any mishaps that occur during the house sitting experience. For example, the website that we use, TrustedHousesitters, has a veterinary hot line that sitters can call at any time, as well as an insurance guarantee for anything that might be accidentally broken (after all, accidents happen to the best of us).
We recommend TrustedHousesitters.com, the biggest – and our opinion, best – house sitting website worldwide. We have been using TrustedHousesitters since 2016, and it’s still the only house sitting website that we use as full-time in-home pet sitters. Every professional level house sitter that we know uses TrustedHousesitters, so you can be assured that you will find absolute top quality sitters on the platform.
We’ve partnered with TrustedHousesitters to bring you an ongoing discount, so just click here to get 10% off when you sign up.
Are they perfect? No. We have some criticisms (they’re minor). For more, check out our comprehensive and honest review.
2. Create a Listing
This is your chance to describe your needs and wants in detail. House sitting platforms make this easy for you with designated sections for all the important points to cover.
First and foremost, you’ll want to describe the home and pet care responsibilities. This doesn’t need to be to the letter, as this will come in your welcome manual (more on that below). But generally, what do you need your house sitter to do? Take the dog on three walks a day, water the garden, feed the cat twice a day, that kind of stuff. Include photos of your pets and the interior of your home so that your in-home pet sitters know where they would be staying.
Be upfront and honest in your listing description, even if it seems trivial. Chances are someone out there understands what you want and will be a great house sitter for you.
If you’re not sure what to put, think this way: How do I want to attract the best match to take care of my home and pets?
If you try to embellish, you will likely attract the wrong people. For example, don’t say you live near New York City when you actually live in upstate New York. You’ll spend more time messaging back and forth trying to explain that to each prospective applicant. Misleading information also raises serious red flags that will put off experienced house sitters.
Try to put up your listing when you know that you’ll be able to respond to applicants in a timely manner. That means don’t put up your listing before you check out to go spend two weeks in an off-grid cabin, or when you know you have a super busy week at work and won’t be able to get around to applications for that long.
For one, the longer you take to get back to sitters, the less likely it will be that they will still be available – especially the in-demand, top-notch ones. Just as pet owners like you are evaluating many sitters at once, pet sitters themselves may be considering more than one pet sit at a time. This is because many pet owners don’t respond to pet sitters at all, so pet sitters have learned to keep their options open.
This brings us to our next point!
3. Respond to ALL Applicants
House sitting platforms make this super easy for you, so never fear if you anticipate a lot of applications. Some house sitting platforms offer the option to turn off applications while you review the ones that you already have.
You’ll want to reach out to your top choice(s) and set up a video chat. Think of an in-home pet sitter’s application message as expressions of interest. It doesn’t mean that they are signing on to house sit. A video chat lets everyone connect and get questions answered to make sure everyone is on the same page before an agreement is made.
For sitters that you don’t think would be a good fit, you’ll want to let them know that they were unsuccessful. Go with your gut on this, if you feel that something is off about a potential sitter, chances are you’re probably right (and vice versa for sitters about pet owner).
Read more in our post: How to Avoid Bad House Sitters
A great function that TrustedHousesitters has is the ability to send one message to a group of applicants. You can use it to send out a message to all applicants once you’ve made your choice.
To those very close runner-ups, you might want to send personalized messages and let them know if you’d like to consider them for the future.
We’ve actually ended up with a few sit offers this way. Several homeowners have contacted us later asking if we could sit for them, and we have. It’s a win-win for both sides since homeowners don’t have to put up a new listing and house sitters already know that they are interested if they’ve applied in the past.
4. Have a Conversation and Decide on Your In-Home Pet Sitter
Communication is the most important part of house sitting since everyone needs and expects different things. A direct conversation is a great way to further intuit and sense if you made the right decision. This gives a chance for both sides to ask questions and set out expectations and requirements.
Especially for pet owners that are using house sitters for the first time, a simple conversation can do wonders to ease worries. Make sure that you’re excited about and comfortable having this house sitter in your home.
At this point, if you haven’t already, make sure you confirm the sit officially via the website. This allows both sides to leave a review once the sit is over! This is crucial for the house sitting community, as reviews help both sides build trust in the other.
5. Keep Communicating with Your In-Home Pet Sitter
The initial video chat should just be the start of your communication. Hammer out details, solidify dates, send each trip info such as flight itineraries, and keep each other posted about any other relevant updates.
Now that you’ve got the nitty-gritty details of using house sitters for the first time down, it’s time to start planning your trip. Part of that includes preparing your home for house sitter to arrive.
For more on that, check out our post: How to Prepare for House Sitters
What else did we miss? What other questions do you have about using in-home pet sitters for the first time or house sitting in general?
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in February 2017 and has since been updated. Last update: March 2023.