How to House Sit Properly

A house sitter is someone who stays overnight, for a predetermined amount of time, while the resident of the home is away on vacation, business or other travel.

When house sitting for a friend, family member or as part of a professional business, it’s important to be respectful of the homeowner’s personal space. Whether it’s a house sitter’s first time or they’ve done it a million times, here are important tips to keep in mind.

Many people offer to take care of someone’s home without taking into consideration what to do in case of an emergency. Read the sections below to learn more about house sitting properly.

Questions to Ask Before the Owner Leaves

It’s important to ask the owner a few basic questions in case any problems arise while he or she is gone. If a problem does come up, you should be able to troubleshoot the issue at hand without having to disturb the owner while he or she is out of town.

  • What time should you arrive at the home to house sit? Will the owner be there?
  • Will the owner leave a key?
  • When will the owners return from their trip? Would they like you to be there when they get back?
  • What is the best way to communicate with them? Text, email or phone call?
  • What is the WiFi password? Are there any data caps you should be aware of if you’re using streaming services?
  • If you can’t reach them, who can you contact in case of an emergency?
  • Do any neighbors have spare keys? If so, which ones?
  • What should you keep the thermostat set to?
  • Are there outside lights you need to turn on and off? If so, what times?
  • Do you need to take the trash and recycling out?
  • What household chores or maintenance are you responsible for?
  • Is there a security system? If so, how do you disarm it?
  • Are there any rooms you should stay out of?
  • Can you have friends over?
  • Where should you place the mail and package deliveries?

This is just a list of a few questions to keep in mind. Each situation is different, so draft your own before taking on the job.

The Do’s and Don’ts of House Sitting

When you are in someone else’s space, it is important to treat it with respect and care. There are several things you should do and not do when you are house sitting. Always remember to follow the rules put in place by the homeowner, even if the standards differ from the rules in your own home.

What Not to Do While House Sitting

  • Throw a house party or invite unapproved guests over.
  • Redecorate the home.
  • Make a mess.
  • Discard mail or other items.
  • Leave the lights on all day long.
  • Change the temperature on the thermostat without approval.
  • Leave the home with the doors and windows unlocked.
  • Go through personal belongings.
  • Eat all of the homeowner’s food.
  • Exceed WiFi data caps or make long-distance calls on the owner’s landline.

Related Article: How to Find a Good House Sitter

What You Should Do While House Sitting

  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Check the mail.
  • Lock the doors and windows when you are away.
  • Make the bed.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Restock the pantry or refrigerator if you have eaten an item.
  • Water the plants.
  • Complete all tasks assigned by the homeowner.
  • Keep in touch with the homeowner, unless otherwise specified.
  • Leave a card or flowers as a surprise when the homeowner returns.

Security and Emergency Situations

While it is unlikely that an emergency situation will arise while you are house sitting, it’s important to prepare just in case. Here are a few steps to take to keep yourself and the home secure during an unexpected situation:

  • Know your emergency contacts. Get a detailed list of who to reach out to in case of a crisis. This should be three trusted friends or family members provided by the homeowner. Review the list and ask who is who, and make sure you have their home phone numbers, cell phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Get familiar with your surroundings. If you need to contact the authorities, know the home address, including the Zip code where you are house sitting. Take note of any obvious landmarks and familiar crossroads that can help the police, fire or medical professional team get to you quickly.
  • Call the authorities. If an emergency arises, ensure the homeowner that you will dial 9-1-1. Examples of emergencies include but are not limited to a home break-in, a fire or other situation.
  • Alarm systems. If the place you are staying at has a home security system, find out how to use it. Ask the homeowner for the codes to turn the alarm system on and off, as well as the contact information for the devices’ customer service department.

Pet Sitting

You may often house sit for a home that has a pet. Here are a few tips to help you watch the homeowner’s pet while he or she is away:

  • Extra cost. Your house-sitting rate is separate from what you would charge to pet sit. On top of the rate you provided to stay overnight at the home, follow up with a separate or increased rate that accounts for caring for the pet.
  • Determine responsibilities. Generally, when house sitting involves watching the homeowner’s pet, you are responsible for caring for the animal as if it’s your own. This includes feeding it, providing fresh water, cleaning the litter box or taking the animal outside to use the bathroom. Other responsibilities include playing with the pet, taking the animal on a walk or other form of exercise, administering medications and spending time with the pet.
  • Determine the scope of services. If pet sitting is out of your scope of services, be upfront with the homeowner. Do not feel obligated to take on the responsibility of caring for a homeowner’s pet if you are not up for the task at hand. Be honest with yourself and your client.

Related Article: Using Your Home as an Airbnb

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