Are you a homeowner thinking of using house sitters?
Not sure how this all works or what to think about the process?
Not even sure what house sitting is?
In short: a homeowner gets a house sitter to stay and care for for their home and pets, while the homeowner is away. Usually there is no payment involved – the homeowner has their home and pets cared for free while a house sitter has free accomodations.
We’ve been house sitting for over 2 years, with more than 15 sits, with the vast majority of them done through trustedhousesitters.com.
With every house sit, we talk at length with the homeowners about what’s important to them in finding a house sitter. So we’ve learned a thing or two or several about getting started as a house sitter.
However, we’ve noticed a real lack of helpful information on how to start using house sitters, especially for homeowners looking for their first house sitter. Sure, the house sitting platforms may offer some advice, but often it’s arbitrary and not based on actual experience. Homeowners are mostly concerned with trust (as well as their fur babies), so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
Most of our house sits have been for “first timers”. While trust is the key between house owners and house sitters, we’ve noticed that overall everyone is looking for that extra confirmation of security. Here are some things for y’all to keep in mind if you’re thinking of using house sitters for your home and pets while you go away.
1. The Leap of Faith
First off, when thinking of using house sitters from an online platform (we use TrustedHousesitters), both parties need to take a leap of faith. Both homeowners and house sitters need to accept the possibility that something can go wrong (i.e. a sick pet, lockout, etc).
If things do go wrong, both sides need to do everything in their power to handle the situation and trust that the other side would do the same. This isn’t just talking about things that could go wrong at a house sit, but even before. Both parties are vulnerable, and in this way the footing is more equal than at first glance. Homeowners have their pets and property. House sitters could be left high and dry in an unknown country if the house sit is canceled last minute.
As a homeowner, if you still don’t feel comfortable with a previously unknown person caring for your home and pets, then you may need to accept that having house sitters isn’t for you. Saving money cannot be the only motivation for both you and them.
However, there is one great way feel more secure…
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we hear about both parties being disappointed and it almost always comes down to miscommunication.
As a homeowner, all your concerns should be communicated immediately and clearly. Include as much as you can in your posting (see more in our trustedhousesitters review) so that it can attract the right house sitters for you. Include whether you will be requiring any official documentation from your prospective sitter (though consider our opinion on those below). Just as all home or pet owners will have different needs, so do house sitters. It’s about finding the right match and connection for what both parties need and want.
Once you connect with a sitter, have a video chat or a phone call. Talk about your needs and expectations. Once you’ve confirmed a house sitter, keep in touch until the trip by providing updates, confirming tickets and times, etc.
3. Reviews Mean Everything
Read people’s reviews. We can’t stress this enough. And don’t just take our word for it. Every pet owner that we have house sat for has said that they picked us based on the glowing reviews other homeowners had left.
If a prospective house sitter is new, ask about their outside references and if you can contact them in case you want that extra security. (Side note: make sure to review your sitters when you return! The sites don’t have built in reminders and house sitters don`t want to keep pestering. Sitters rely on reviews and we believe that owners should get reviewed too.)
We’ve asked a couple of homeowners we’ve house sat for (through TrustedHousesitters) if they’d mind being contacted as references. We’ve only been asked once for their contacts though. Virtually all our house sits have been confirmed after a Skype chat that left everyone feeling good about the situation.
Keep in mind that like Airbnb, all it takes is one bad review to taint a profile. Anyone who wants to continue house sitting will do their utmost best to please. Doing otherwise will hurt their ability to do so in the future.
We think this should suffice for verifying the reliability of your housesitter, but some may still want to take every possible course of action.
We understand that it’s your home and that your pets mean everything to you. House sitters are here to help!
But a background check isn’t going to affirm if a house sitter can take care of your home and pets while you’re away. Sure, maybe some people do have a criminal record and you’re uncomfortable with that. Yet, who’s to says someone who has a clean record can take care of your home and pet? These documents don’t verify any of that.
Also, they contain very personal information. It’s a very awkward thing to ask and makes the house sitter feel guilty until proven innocent.
Arguably house sitters could request your background check – how do we know we can trust you? Don’t have it? Don’t think you should have to? Brings us back full circle – why should the house sitter then?
Trust goes both ways. Just as homeowners may do their “due diligence” on house sitters, house sitters also have their own methods of feeling out if a house sit is right for them. House sitters need to be extra careful as house sitting websites tend to favor owners. Should something go wrong we don’t fully trust that a house sitting platform will take our side.
This is why one piece of documentation that we’ll always agree to is a contract, agreed to and signed by both parties. A contract protects both sides and should something go wrong, everything is in writing. Generally, contracts include the length of sit, duties for the house sitter, and duties for the homeowner (payment of utilities, credit card left with vet, etc). Homeowners and house sitters can work together to agree on contract specifics.
5. Reasonable Expectations – It’s an Exchange
House sitting is not a chance to hire unpaid labor to manage a business (like an Airbnb) while taking a vacation. Or to landscape your massive estate’s lawn. Sure, watering plants is reasonable, but if you pay for someone to mow your lawn, you might want to offer something comparable to your house sitters too. Again this goes both ways. House sitters should not have parties or uninvited guests and leave the house as clean (or cleaner!) than they found it.
House sitting is an exchange. It´s an idea that we will keep reiterating. This is the community we want to encourage. If you´re looking for a win-win (meaning a win for both sides), then house sitting can work for you!
Ultimately, you need to go with your intuition. Even if somethings appears okay but intuitively feels off, go with your gut. We were taken aback by our first house sit – our homeowner was ready to confirm before we were. He was very confident in his choice (we think it was a good one). He said in the end, with 30 plus years working in the service industry, he knows how to read people.
If you are thinking of using house sitters but are skeptical of your intuition, ask a friend! A reasonable one – not the one who thinks you’re letting an ax murderer into your home (we have friends who always joke that the homeowners are going to murder us – again it goes both ways).
We love house sitting because it has connected us to wonderful people around the world who are willing to trust and take that leap of faith. Like many house sitters, we’ve become friends with several homeowners for whom we have sat and welcome the chance to cross paths or even house sit for them again.
Curious as to what website will give you the best tools for finding those perfect sitters? Check out our comprehensive and honest (meaning we didn’t get paid to write it) review on TrustedHousesitters.
Further Resources if You are Thinking of Using House Sitters:
House Sitting Magazine: House Sitting Expectations
House Sitting World: What Do House Sitters Expect From Homeowners?
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in March 2017 and has since been updated.