House Sitting Etiquette – What Do House Sitters Do (And Don’t Do +BONUS House Sitting Guidelines)??

When everything goes to plan it is house sitting of the most rewarding and exciting experiences for travelers.

Some things don’t always go to plan.

In this post, we are going to look into what the do’s and don’t of house sitting are as well as some hosue sitting guidelines. What you should expect on a house sit, what you need to ask and discuss with the homeowner. Plus finally how to avoid any mishaps or misunderstandings while house sitting. 

House Sitting Etiquette

What is House Sitting?

To start with let’s get a clear idea of what house sitting is. Wikipedia defines house sitting as:

“House sitting is the practice whereby a person leaving their house for a period of time entrusts it to one or more “house sitters”, who by a mutual agreement are permitted to live or stay in the property temporarily, in exchange for assuming any combination of responsibilities.”

Usually, house sitters do not get paid for house sitting. Instead, they swap their time for free accommodation. Usually, house sitting is a simple task of keeping the day to day running of the home, keep the home tidy & safe and tending to the needs of the pet/s. 

However, that is not always the case. Every home and homeowner is different and will expect different things from their house sitter.

Before locking into a house sit you must be on the same page with the homeowner and know exactly what they expect, and they must know exactly what to expect from you. 

So, what should you expect when house sitting?

What Should You Expect When House Sitting?

Each house sit is unique and different. However, each house sit will have similarities. When talking to a homeowner about the house sit, you should at the very least expect:

  • A clean, safe home at handover.
  • Set dates of the house sit.
  • Set pets and duties for the pets.
  • An update/communication schedule.
  • Set duties for around the home. 
  • A clear understanding of the pets, their medical history, any quirks or issues they may have.

What Shouldn’t You Expect When House Sitting?

Again, every house sit is different but here are some red flags, or things that you should watch out for and discuss with the homeowner before accepting the house sit.

  • A dirty or unsafe home.
  • The home not as pictured or described (if you never had the chance to visit the home first).
  • Suprise animals or tasks for the animals. 
  • Homeowners friends or family checking up on you.
  • Suprise tasks or duties around the home. 
  • To pay for any bills/services while staying at the home (unless previously agreed upon).

House Sitters Duties

Each house sit is different, however, at a base level there are set out responsibilities and duties you must follow. 

  • Be responsible, trustworthy and safe. This includes being punctual 
  • To feed, exercise and take care of the animals agreed on.
  • Ensure the home is safe and well looked after while the homeowner is gone. This includes any cleaning and home or garden maintenance that was agreed upon before the house sit.
  • Communicating with the homeowner to the agreed communication schedule. 
  • To hand over the home in the same condition (if not better) than when you arrived and to notify the homeowner of anything broken or changed.

Home Owners Duties

Just like your responsibilities, the homeowner has their own set of responsibilities they must adhere to. 

  • Provide a safe and clean home as described or as seen by the house sitter pre house sit.
  • To provide the house sitter with accurate information about the pets and to disclose any behavioural or medical issues.  
  • To disclose to the house sitter if there are any monitoring devices in the home or for the animals. 
  • To provide food, medication and anything else the pets need for the duration of their absence. 
  • To provide the house sitter with adequate living and sleeping arrangements. This counts everything from running water and power to wifi and a safe, clean bed/room.

What Are Some Unrealistic Expectations From the Homeowner?

Every now and then we stumble upon an advertised house sit, or speak to a homeowner who has unrealistic expectations on a house sit. These expectations can vary a lot and can be from cultural differences, age differences, or just homeowners hoping to get a little more out of their house sitters. 

Some homeowners try to take advantage of house sitters and get free labour. As a house sitter, it is not uncommon to be asked to keep on top of swimming pool/ hot tub maintenance and cleaning, general lawn mowing or gardening. This is absolutely fine and something that you should take pride in doing. 

Some unrealistic expectations can be:

  • To work around the home. This can include building, moving, cleaning or anything above keeping the home clean, tidy and on top of basic maintenance. We have seen some house sits advertised where the homeowner expects the house sitter to scrub walls, remove trees and even build a deck! 
  • For the house sitter to stay with them before they go away. Sure, you can go over and meet the homeowner and the pets (this is encouraged) but the homeowner expects you to stay with them for days before they depart is not always acceptable. There are certain situations where this is necessary (like when we looked after a yacht on a remote island in the Caribbean) but generally, we will see this as a red flag.
  • The house sitter paying for bills. This is something we always ensure we have sorted out with the homeowner before accepting the sit. 
  • Having the house sitter pay a bond. House sitting is all about trust. There should never be any money changing hands either way – even if it is just as s bond. 
  • Leaving or returning on different days with no notice. Sometimes there are emergency situations where this can’t be avoided but as a general rule of thumb, the homeowner must stick to the agreed dates! 
  • To look after animals that have not been agreed upon before the sit. 
  • Having friends or family come to check on the home or stay over. 
  • The house sitter to bring their own bedding and place to sleep. Or not providing the house sitter with clean bedding and living space. 

How to Ensure Your House Sit Runs Smoothly (Make Sure You get the House Sitting Guidelines)

Now knowing what you should be providing and what you should expect from each homeowner, how do you ensure that each house sit runs smoothly? You need house sitting guidelines!

The key here is to be organised and get all the information. When you are first starting out house sitting this can be a little difficult. You never know exactly what you need to discuss with the homeowner or know about the home and pets. 

Over the past 5 years, we have figured out absolutely everything you need to know before starting a house sitting assignment. In our house sitting course, we have detailed guides on what information you need to get before the house sit, a handover checklist and a moving out checklist to ensure that you never get caught out.

What Information to Get Before the House Sit

When applying for a house sit the homeowner should have a detailed listing with all the information about the home, pets and what they expect. They should also have images of the home, pets and any other significant parts of the house sit. 

Once you have applied for the house sit and the homeowner is interested, it is highly recommended that you have a skype chat (if you can’t meet in person) and get a feel for the homeowner, pets and home. 

While talking to the homeowner it is essential that you get a thorough rundown of the house pets and exactly what the homeowner expects you do to while they are away. 

We highly recommend having a checklist and pen and paper while discussing the sit with the homeowner. Some things to think about and ask are:

  • Do they expect you to pay or chip in for bills? 
  • The behaviour of the animals. This is really important when looking after dogs. How they act at the park, at the beach, around others, off the lead, on the lead, at home, etc…
  • The medical history of the animals and any ongoing medical care or symptoms. 
  • What housework or general maintenance needs to be done while they are away. This can include gardens, yards, pools, BBQs, or hot tubs.
  • Quirks of the house or possible issues that could arise. 
  • What food you can and can not eat/need to replace. 
  • If there are any off-limits areas of the property or home. 
  • Are you allowed to leave the pets while on sit? 
  • If the pets are allowed inside, on furniture, allowed human food, and what they are allergic to.
  • Are you allowed guests over?
  • If it is a remote location and you do not have your own transport will you be using their car and do they expect you to pay for petrol, insurance and on-road costs.
  • What happens in a pet emergency.
  • If the area is prone to natural disasters and what their evacuations plans are and how you should handle those situations. 

Key Takeaways

House sitting is a fantastic way of life and an amazing experience. Most of the time house sitting runs smoothly and that all comes down to preparation. 

  • Get all the information.
  • Communicate with the homeowner and be transparent. 
  • Meet the homeowner, pets and see the home before locking in the sit if possible. 
  • Have a backup plan for any situation.

Looking for more information on how you can become a house sitter or elevate your house sitting status to an in-demand professional house sitter? 

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