Preparing for house sitters in your home

If you are reading this article, you are probably a conscientious home-owner, getting ready to leave your home and pets in the care of a house-sitter. You have vetted the sitters thoroughly, had Skype calls and lots of emails, confirmed the dates, determined the pay (if any) and security deposits (usually not), and now it is time to prepare for their arrival. The handover can be seamless if you are thoughtful, prepared and organized!

Great house and pet sitters are, by their very nature, flexible, resourceful, and respectful. They must be able to spot a problem (leaking roof, unwell dog) and know how to respond or know whom to ask for help. But you can support them by putting essential information in one place, like a checklist or notebook.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

PET CARE: If you have pets, they will be the first priority for the sitters, and rightly so. Please put all the pet care information in writing; it is too important to leave to memory. Tell sitters:

  • Any health issues and medications
  • What and when they eat (and cannot eat)
  • Bathing or brushing needs
  • Walking routes and whether off or on leash
  • Where they can sit and sleep
  • Where to buy more pet food and other pet needs, and leave some funds for this
  • Name of the vet and how to contact her/him. All being well, the pets will not need to go to the vet, but be prepared.

HOUSE PREPARATION: Is the house clean, including the fridge? Is everything in good working order? Put the appliance manuals where they can be easily found. Is there space for the sitters to put their clothing and toiletries? Are there clean linens, towels, and blankets for the sitter? Most sitters do not expect luxurious surroundings, but tidy, relatively bug-free, and functional are expected.

TRANSPORTATION: If the sitters can use your car, be sure your insurance will cover them. If sitters will be bringing their own vehicle, where can it be safely parked? If no car is going to be used, depending on what’s available in your area, it would be a good idea to leave local bus information and/or one or two telephone numbers for local taxi drivers.

UTILITIES: Show the sitters where the gas, water, and electrical boxes are. It is a good idea to read the meters together before you leave and tell sitters what typical usage should be for that time of year. If there is an emergency, such as a water leak or power outage, be sure sitters know what to do and whom to contact.

HOUSE CLEANING, POOL and GARDEN CARE: if you have a garden or pool, you are probably as invested in it as your house. So be sure to leave detailed instructions about watering and any regular care or harvesting. If you have a gardener or pool worker, explain their schedule, any supervision required, and who pays. If you have a housecleaner, explain the schedule, expected tasks, any supervision required, and how to pay the cleaner.

LOCAL CONTACTS, NEIGHBORS AND FAMILY: Tell your neighbors and family that a friend will be staying in your house. This will avoid any misunderstandings about the “strangers” coming and going from your house, answering your phone and walking your dog! In fact, it’s a good idea to take the sitters to meet one or two of the neighbors, or anyone you choose to be a contact for your house sitter while you are away.

COMMUNICATIONS: Be sure the sitters know how to reach you. And tell the sitters how often you want to hear from them, if at all. Also, leave names and phone numbers for plumbers, handymen, mechanics, and doctors.

LOCAL AREA: If the sitter arrives a day or two before you leave (highly recommended), show them around the area, pointing out the best shops and restaurants, the vet’s clinic, and local sights.

PLAN B: Hope for the best, plan for the worst. What will you do if the sitter is delayed in arriving at your home, or must leave before you return? It’s wise to have an emergency back-up plan.

Every home and all pets have their own needs and quirks. And only you, the home and pet owner, can relay this information to the sitter. Spend some time to think it through, write it down and make the handover smooth and your trip worry-free. I hope this article helps. Do you have other suggestions for homeowners? Add your comments!

One thought on “Preparing for house sitters in your home

  1. Profile photo of David
    David on

    As a house-sitter, I can vouch for all of these tips. We’ve had a 6-page handwritten booklet left for us. And we arrived for three assignments when the homeowners weren’t there and had left very few instructions. I’d prefer to have detailed information, and if it could be organized in the way Deborah and Jerry have organized these tips…perfect!

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