If you’ve got plans to go away, whether for the holidays or any other time of the year, you might be wondering what to do with your pets. In a previous post I talked about hiring a dog sitter as an option, where you send your pets to someone else’s home and pay them per night. In that same post I briefly touched on hosting a house sitter, but in this post I will specifically explain what housesitting is and how it may be a better option for you.
As a former TrustedHousesitters member and Rover.com pet sitter myself, I have personally housesat at 10 different homes in three countries, and have watched 35 dogs (and cats) while their parents were happily away on vacation. So from the perspective of a seasoned pet sitter, I would like to give you some tips on how you can choose the best, most trustworthy house sitter for YOUR pets!
What is House Sitting?
Simply put, a house sitter is someone who tends to a home while the owners are away. It is also known as in-home pet sitting. Typical house sitting gigs involve caring for family pets and houseplants/gardens, and collecting mail.
If you don’t have any neighbors, friends, or family in your area who are willing to stay at or visit your house while you’re away, there are a lot of great websites out there where you can find house sitters. The biggest one out there is TrustedHousesitters.
TrustedHousesitters has thousands of registered (and verified) sitters who love animals and love to travel. The idea is that they will trade the responsibilities of caring for your pets and home, for free room and board. A housesitting gig may receive applicants from all over the world who are eager to travel to new places.
7 Benefits of Hosting a Trusted House Sitter
1. Your Pets Won’t be Anxious in a New Environment
Probably the biggest of pros of hosting a house sitter is that your pets will not experience the anxiety of being in unfamiliar territory. They get to stay the master of their domain and keep their routines.
2. Your Home Will be Looked After
Another pro for house sitters is that your house will be looked after and secure while you’re away. Any risk of break-ins go way down. Any chores that need to be done frequently can be done by your house sitter, such as collecting mail, accepting packages, putting out the trash, and watering houseplants or gardens.
3. Your Pets will be Saved from Natural Disasters
God forbid anything happens while you’re away, but natural disasters can happen at any time. If someone is at your home during a natural disaster, they will be able to grab your beloved pets or other important belongings and get out immediately.
Story time! My husband and I once went to housesit for a lady in Canmore, Alberta. Canmore is literally nestled in the Canadian Rockies, and although a very beautiful place, at the time it was ridden with summer wildfires. When we first arrived, the homeowner let us know that there could be evacuations and that she already had a box of stuff ready for us to grab in the case of an evacuation. Luckily, we never had to evacuate, but we were very prepared to do so.
4. You can Choose a Verified Sitter
Sitters through TrustedHousesitters may go through verification processes which offer more peace of mind. Sitters go through several stages of checks to become verified, including:
- Email address checked
- Phone number checked
- Reference received
- Basic verification
- Identity confirmed
- Documents checked
5. You Get $1m Insurance Coverage
As a member of TrustedHousesitters, you’re covered for every house sit confirmed through the site. This is at no extra cost to you. It offers property damage, theft, and public liability protection up to $1,000,000 USD.
6. You Help Promote Tourism to Your Town and Support Your Local Economy
As mentioned somewhere above, a house sitting gig may receive applicants from all over the world who are eager to travel to new places. By hosting someone who is not from your area, you are promoting tourism and helping to support your local economy.
7. It Won’t Cost You Much Money
If you hire a house sitter specifically through TrustedHousesitters, it will only cost you as much as an annual membership fee. At the time of this writing, the annual Owner membership costs $89.25/year. This means you can hire as many house sitters as you need in a whole year for that one price.
The Downside to Hosting a House Sitter
Depending on the person, the idea of letting somebody you don’t know stay in your home alone may be difficult to wrap your head around.
I totally get it.
(But if the following tips for choosing the most trustworthy house sitter can’t change your mind, then this probably isn’t the best option for you.)
9 Tips for Choosing the Most Trusted of House Sitters
1. Post Your Listing in Advance
It’s always a good idea to post a listing as soon as you know about your travel plans. Months in advance is usually best to ensure that you’re getting a larger pool of applicants to house sit for you. You will also have plenty of time to weed people out and choose the perfect sitter. It also helps the sitter to make travel arrangements with plenty of time to spare.
Story time! I once applied to house sit in the UK about 6 months in advance. This allowed me plenty of time to book my plane tickets and hotel rooms (for days I wasn’t house sitting) and solidify my travel plans to get there on time.
2. Read the Applicants’ Profiles and Reviews
You wouldn’t buy something online without first checking the reviews of the product, so you also should filter sitters based on their reviews. With TrustedHousesitters, you can also check their level of verification. Many will have had references submit statements, and some will have had verified identity checks and background checks through the site.
3. Do a Meet and Greet
Schedule a time to speak with potential house sitters over the phone or via video call. You can ask them questions and get a feel for the kind of person they are. Meet and greets are very important for sensing whether someone can be trusted with your beloved pets.
4. Ask the Right Questions
Here are a few good questions to ask a potential sitter:
- How will you be getting here?
- How many house sits have you done?
- What experience do you have with ___ (administering medication, caring for blind/deaf pets, etc.)?
- Are you comfortable with houseplants?
Story time! I had a couple from Tennessee disclose that they had guns in the home, and asked if I was okay with that. It caught me off guard but I appreciated that they told me about that in advance.
5. Be Upfront About Your Pets’ Quirks and Flaws
When speaking with potential sitters, be sure to disclose the funny and not-so-funny things about your dog. Let them know if your dog is a counter surfer, likes to go through the trash, or chew on shoes, for example. That way the sitter can take extra safety measures so that your dog cannot get into mischief and be kept as safe as possible.
6. Tell them About Your Pets’ Routines
Briefly discuss with any potential sitters about your pets’ daily routines. Tell them about their daily walks, how much food is given and at what times, etc.
7. Disclose any Health Problems or Medications
You don’t want to surprise the sitter on the day of with a bunch of extra health-related responsibilities. The sitter might not be comfortable taking on those kinds of responsibilities, especially if they don’t have any experience with that kind of stuff.
8. Request the Sitter not Leave Your Home for Too Long
If you’re hosting someone who isn’t from your area, more than likely they will be interested in playing tourist in your town while they are there. In most cases this should be fine, but you can always request that the sitter not leave the house for more than a few hours per day. This helps remind the sitter that they have an actual job to do (which is to care for your home and pets) and that they can’t just use your home as a hotel.
9. Be Honest About the Condition of Your Home
If you will be having somebody stay in your home as a house sitter, tell them if your home is older or has certain quirks. You do not want somebody to travel from really far away only to find that they are staying in a…not-so-great house.
Story time! My husband and I once got accepted to housesit for three dogs. The gig was very last-minute, so we drove hours and hundreds of miles in order to arrive on time. When we arrived, to our dismay the house was totally run down. The yard was completely overtaken by weeds. When the home owner gave us a tour of the house, the mudroom reeked of dog urine, the corners of the rooms were draped in spider webs (she called it a “healthy ecosystem”), and she explained that we had to use buckets to bathe in the tub. If that doesn’t paint a good enough picture, her dogs were infested with fleas, as well. Obviously, all of this was totally uncalled for, as she never disclosed any of this beforehand. It really put a damper on the whole experience.
DON’T BE THAT GUY!
4 Tips for After You’ve Found the Perfect Sitter
Once you’ve found the perfect sitter for your dog, here are another few tips to ensure the sit goes well:
1. Hide or Secure Away Your Valuables
Before the sitter arrives, make sure to secure away all your valuables. Perhaps you have a room that can be locked, or a safe where you can lock things inside. (I mean, yes – you should trust the person you are hosting, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stupid about it 😉 )
2. Request Daily Updates
(Preferably in the form of pictures.) No one wants to leave their beloved pets behind when they go on vacation, and usually us pet parents worry if they are doing okay. A good sitter will send you pictures and messages daily without you having to ask, but you can always just mention it to be sure that they remember to do it.
3. Remember that Your Pets’ Safety Takes Precedence
Let’s say your pets’ daily routines include being active outdoors – a two-mile hike each day. Even if the sitter is physically capable of maintaining such a daily routine, note that your pets’ safety takes precedence while you’re away. It’s simply safer for your pets to have limitations when they’re without you.
4. Remember that Reviews Go Both Ways
As somebody who hires a house sitter online, YOU can also be reviewed by the sitter. Be reasonable with your requests, and treat the sitter with respect, kindness, and understanding if anything goes wrong that is outside of their control.
I hope those tips help you in finding the perfect sitter for your doodle! Do you have experience with house sitters? What tips would you add?