A Question of Trust

You are most likely reading this because you’ve heard about the growing community of house sitters and you’d like to learn more. You might even know someone who’s used sitters to look after their home, possessions and pets while they went on vacation.

You quite like the idea too, it seems like a great concept, but there’s a niggle in your mind about how you can possibly trust a stranger to come and live in your home.

I get it, I really do. It’s no easy thing to hand over your keys, your home and everything you’ve worked so hard to create in life… to someone you’ve never met before.

To trust a house sitter is to have a firm belief in their reliability, honesty and integrity and to have faith that when you return, everything will be just as you left it.

Umm. That’s a tough call, I know. But the fact is that every year, thousands and thousands of homeowners all over the world, entrust pretty much everything they own to house or pet sitters.

I have to admit, it does sound a little crazy. But… doesn’t it also sound appealing to have someone look after your home, care for your pets, and deal with any problems that might occur? You know, the usual things that can go wrong when you leave a property empty for any length of time – leaking pipes, security issues, theft, extreme weather events, mold growth, bug infestations, and general dirt, dust and grime.

Wouldn’t it be nice for once, to come back to a sparkling clean, well looked after home, with happy pets that have been cared for and loved by people, just like you, who adore having pets around them?

Couldn’t you relax all the more on your vacation if you weren’t seeing the sad faces of your pets in boarding as you left them behind in an unfamiliar place, with unknown people?

Of course you’d prefer this, but back to the question of trust. How do you find it in yourself to believe that your house sitters have you and your pets’ best interests at heart?

I understand – it’s a bit of a predicament.

But the fact is, house sitting works. It’s safe, it’s an awesome exchange of trust, and it invariably results in a win-win-win outcome – delighted homeowners, joyful house sitters and contented pets!

So let’s look at some of the ways that you can make sure that house sitting works for you and some procedures that will help you have more confidence that your sitters will do a great job for you.

Always use a professional house sitting platform

Of course, you might get started by using friends of family to look after your home and pets for short periods of time – the odd night away or a long weekend. But longer-term sits require more commitment and it often feels like an imposition.

At this point you might be told that you can advertise your property on Craig’s List or a similar advertising platform, in a forum, or perhaps on a Facebook group. I’m always a little bemused about why anyone would do this, and shortcut all of the identity checks and references that help you to place your trust in a stranger.

You wouldn’t advertise for a baby sitter on Facebook, yet many people think it’s a good way to advertise for someone to look after everything they own, along with their beloved pets. If anything’s going to go wrong, then believe me, this is the ideal scenario.

OK, house sitting websites may charge you for your membership, but really, what price would you put on your worldly possessions? It’s just not worth the risk. If you want professional house sitters, or house sitters dedicated specifically to house sitting in Mexico, you can find them at HouseSitMexico.

What does a professional house sitting platform offer the homeowner?

You’ll get reassurances about the identity, trustworthiness and integrity of the sitters that apply to your posting. These manifest in the form of:

  • Comprehensive sitter profiles with photographs
  • References from other home owners
  • Character references
  • A history of the house sitters’ experience
  • A secure messaging system
  • Resources, including house sitting agreements, checklists and guidelines

Outline your expectations right from the start

Our experience is that most misunderstandings come about because of a mismatch of expectations between the homeowner and the house sitter. When a transaction is entered into without payment, the parties involved often find it harder to lay down firm expectations.

A contract of trust is something we are less likely to be assertive about. If we aren’t honest about what we expect, it can lead to assumptions, and assumptions lead to decisions that might not be in line with your needs or requirements. And this can work both ways.

We suggest before posting your house sitting assignment, everyone at the home should be involved in identifying the essential skills that you want from your sitters, and your expectations should be clearly defined. See also: House Sitting Expectations

Think about what you are offering the house sitter

When a house sitter comes to look after your home and pets, they are giving up some of their time each day to carry out the tasks you’ve defined. They are not free labor. As we said this is an exchange – for the house sitters’ services you are providing a safe, secure, and clean home for the sitters to enjoy their vacation or living time too. So you need to think about where they will sleep, what space they will have for their clothes and personal possessions, how much free time they’ll have between duties to enjoy the location, etc. If you show respect for the sitters and the service they are providing, you will ensure that this is reciprocated.

If house sitters feel put upon, or worse, like unpaid employees, then the potential to build trust will be lost.

Check references and online transparency

Read the references attached to the applicant’s profile. One thing to remember is that many long-term house sitters use a variety of house sitting platforms to look for assignments. This means their references could be scattered across a number of websites. So don’t discount someone for having only a couple of references – delve deeper if you are drawn to a profile with only a few testimonials.

Ask if the sitters have their own personal house sitting website. Many now do, and they keep all their references and house sitting experiences listed in one place for the homeowner to view.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference that you can contact via email or telephone. Ask for more than one, if it makes you feel more reassured.

If identity and police checks are provided, that’s great. However, some full-time house sitters are constantly on the road and have sold their homes. So it’s difficult to get police checks in such cases. So again, don’t discount someone on this basis without doing some further research.

You could search online, check Facebook or other social platforms – whatever you need to do to initiate that feeling of trust that is so necessary before allowing a stranger into your home.

Prepare for a Skype Interview

Once you’ve picked a shortlist of applicants, arrange to chat on Skype or via some other online video software. Create a list of questions that are linked to those essential skills and expectations we spoke about earlier.

Have a few general questions prepared about their lifestyle, their work, and previous house sitting experiences.

Think of this like a job interview – just because money isn’t changing hands doesn’t mean that you should take this any less seriously. Don’t dodge the difficult questions.

If you can, introduce the house sitters to your pets, and take them on a quick video tour of the property. Skype is a terrific tool to communicate these things.

If you are interviewing 2 or 3 people, let the applicant know at the end of the interview that you have others to talk to, but that you’ll get back to them quickly with a decision. Don’t just leave an interview “hanging” where the house sitters don’t know if they’ve succeeded in their application.

All these small respectful actions will help build that trust right from the start.

Watch for red light moments

If there’s anything that causes you to doubt the sitters applying for your assignment, listen to your gut and trust your instinct. Don’t override these signals. That’s when things are more likely to go wrong.

The handover

Once you’ve picked your sitters, stay in touch periodically until the date of the sit arrives. Make sure you leave enough time for the handover. This will depend on the number of pets, any property or pool maintenance systems you need to show, and the complexity of the tasks designated to the sitters.

A rushed handover can lead to problems later. It’s hard for anyone to take in your complete pet and home routine in just an hour. We prefer an overnight handover, where we can spend time with the pets around their owners, learning about behaviours and routines in a more relaxed way. This is better for everyone, but especially the pets.

Prepare a “home-book” of relevant information and emergency contacts. You can never provide too much information, and the more prepared you are, the better the house sitters will be able to do their job.

If you follow this advice, and use the services of a professional house sitting platform, like HouseSitMexico, you really can’t go wrong.

We’ve been house sitting continuously now for 4 years. We’ve seen so many people’s lives transformed by the selfless exchange between homeowners and sitters that we can say with certainty, it’s a highly valued service all over the world, including Mexico.