There are so many blog posts telling you how to be a great housesitter or informing you of the best things to do when housesitting. We don’t claim to be experts at all but we do have a bit of experience now so thought we would share a few thoughts with you. This is not an ‘Ultimate Guide‘, it’s just how we go about things.
We use the TrustedHouseSitters website to apply for and get all of our sits as it seems to be the world’s biggest and there are so many new housesits appearing on an almost hourly basis that we really haven’t considered using any other site.
So assuming we’ve applied and been offered a sit there are four main areas that are crucial.
Arrivals and departures
It seems obvious but this is an area that we have had so many issues with. People advertise a housesit between two dates but we have learnt that it’s vital to check WHEN they want you to arrive and WHEN you can leave. They generally just think of their holiday dates but not the fact that they could be flying at 6am or returning late at night. So we always ask when they want us there and when we should plan to leave.
We travel everywhere by train and always book our tickets months in advance so need to get these times agreed well in advance. We always arrive and meet the pets whilst their owners are around and try to share a walk with them if possible. We have had a few sits where we have had to leave before the hosts return and it never feels 100% comfortable although it’s always at their suggestion.
Pets – Always a priority
The website may be called HouseSitters and we may be there to look after the hosts homes but in 99% of cases their main focus is the care of their pets. The property is a secondary concern after looking after the dogs, cats, ducks and rabbits. So the most important points to cover as soon as we arrive and meet our hosts are those covering the care of their pets.
Mealtimes and snacks
A thorough run-thru of meal-times and exactly what food is given is the first thing to sort out. A hungry dog is not a happy dog! Also, one of the most important questions that we always ask now is whether the pets have treats. We often have to ask twice just to confirm as some hosts tend to say No initially when in fact they do actually give a lot of treats. We’re not judging, we just want the pets to be happy.
Walks and daily exercise
The number of walks required and a couple of regular routes is always necessary along with what time the dogs like to be walked. We find that a lot of looking after dogs especially is keeping to their routine and they always feel comfortable on a walk that they know.
It’s usually obvious where the pets beds are but which doors get shut, do they have lights left on, are they allowed upstairs etc are all questions needing answers. Bedtime routine is important too as we need to know approximately when they go and what time they’ll be up at.
Our Housesitting Rules
We are fairly flexible and always happy to do whatever the hosts require but we do have one rule that we cover right at the beginning of the application. It’s a deal-breaker too. No pets on the bed or in the bedroom that we’ll be sleeping in. We won’t take a housesit if the pets expect to join us in our bed. Not for us I’m afraid.
It’s funny that the number of times I have tried to get information on security or safety around the house and all the hosts want to tell you is about ‘Rover’s dinner time‘ or ‘Fluffy really likes a cuddle in the evenings‘. Obviously important information but there are certain things we need to know about the property as we are responsible for it whilst the hosts are away.
Security and locking up
Always ask for a full set of keys and check those keys actually work, can you imagine what would happen if they didn’t? Also any instructions on house alarms and alarm-codes is essential along with confirming which doors/windows to lock when we go out and go to bed. All important stuff.
Safety and home maintenance
Boring things like where is the fuse board and the stop cock. Hopefully never needed but vitally important just in case. We’ve had power-cuts and lights throwing fuses a few times which would be difficult if we hadn’t previously checked. Also we always make sure we know where the bins are and what days they need to be put out and where.
Every house has a different washing machine, cooker, dishwasher so it’s important to run-thru how all of these work and if there are any features or issues we need to know about. Every kitchen is so different so just knowing what appliances there are and where everything lives is a major help.
Keeping in touch
Just before our hosts leave we check how they would like us to contact them whilst they are away and how often they wish to be in touch. Some people really don’t want to know much because as far as they are concerned they’re on holiday and out-of-sight is out-of-mind. Others however want daily updates and photos of their pets. Either way is perfectly alright but it’s important to check and then double-check and confirm whether it will be text, WhatsApp, email, or whatever.
If you can cover all of these areas then you won’t have too many problems and will be almost certainly be a decent housesitter. It’s obviously not a definitive list of rules but a good guide.
We always like to arrive early enough to spend some time with our hosts and get to know them a little. It’s great for us to get so many of thee questions answered and also puts their minds at rest that we can be trusted with their pets and property. The difference in attitudes is vast though with some hosts extremely relaxed about everything and not really telling us much and others unbelievably nervous walking us through every single thing. Whatever makes them comfortable is good for us of course.
The best hosts by far are the ones who have prepared a list of contact numbers, written instructions on pet care, and have detailed absolutely everything that we may need. in fact, they can prepare a TrustedHouseSitters Welcome Pack on the website if they wish which is always great. Much better to have too much information than too little. Not so good are the ones that say ‘you’ll figure it out, just message us if you want to know anything‘. Not so good.
It may sound like we have a thousand questions to ask when we arrive but we try to do a lot of it by just chatting and in conversation rather than the Spanish Inquisition format.
The bottom line is that we treat the house with care and respect and look after the pets as if they are part of our family. Seems to work okay for us.
Is there anything that we have left out or any other points that you think are important?