July 18, 2014
I had been stalking house sitting websites for about a year. I thought house sitting sounded like a good way to travel without the expense of a hotel. When we knew we would be tying up Stormy Monday in a marina for hurricane season, we decided to give it a try.
There are quite a few websites that list house sitting opportunities. The ones I am signed up on include www.mindmyhouse.com, www.housecarers.com and www.luxuryhousesitting.com. The home owners provide listings for house sitting opportunities all over the world. The duration of the stay may range in duration from 1 week up to a year. There may be pets (dogs, cats, goats, chickens, etc.), gardens, boats, yards, etc. to take care of. The sitters provide a profile that describes a little about themselves, when they are available, what their skills are, and why they want to house sit. Once the profiles are setup, the sitters and home owners may contact each other. Generally no money exchanges hands. Here is an example of one of our profiles: http://www.mindmyhouse.com/owners/sitter_listing/17233. Many of the sites offer email alerts and or RSS feeds so you can be notified of new house sitting opportunities.
We had the pleasure of house sitting for Katy & Kenny in Louisiana and Barbara & John in New Jersey this summer. We thoroughly enjoyed both experiences and believe that house sitting can be a “win win” situation for both the house sitter and the home owner. The key, I believe, is in clear communication of the expectations of both parties.
The website www.mindmyhouse.com offers a house sitting agreement template that may be used to document expectations, such as what is expected of the house sitter with regard to care of the home, care of pets, reimbursement of utilities or security deposit (if applicable). The agreement also includes sections for the home owner to fill in to describe what areas of the home are out of bounds, how they wish you to handle unexpected maintenance or repairs, vet visits, etc. and emergency contact information (how to contact the home owner, local family or friends), a visitor policy, rules & regulations (i.e. Condominium CC&Rs).
The same website also provides checklists for the home owner as a reminder to create a information packet for the house sitter, inform others that they will be having house sitters, preparing their homes, vehicles, and documenting information on services (garbage collection, etc.) There is also a checklist for pet owners to help ensure that pet’s special needs are taken care of by the house sitter. These agreements and checklists really go a long way to managing expectations and assuring that both parties understand what they are getting themselves into.
I found this excellent list of Dos and Don’t list for house sitters. The list is good advice and includes items you might not have thought of, like not taking on an assignment beyond your confidence level. It wouldn’t seem like a good idea to offer to take care of a horse, goat or chickens if you haven’t done it before. On our house sitting stay in New Jersey was on an island in the middle of a lake. The only transportation to the island was by personal pontoon boat, so this required knowledge of boating and comfort with living detached from land and services (i.e. hauling garbage to the mainland, running a generator during power loss, etc.) Fortunately we live on a boat and have lived at anchor for months at a time, therefore island living was within our comfort zone.
I have created my own list for house sitters to consider when taking on a house sitting assignment:
- Be proactive and do as much research as you can before you go. Try to get to know your hosts, the area you will be visiting and information on the pets or other things you might be asked to take care of. Social media can help in the process of getting to know each other. Katy read our blog, we shared multiple emails, we friended each other on Facebook and talked on the phone a couple of times. I requested pictures of the home and specifically the areas of the house we would be occupying. We were going to be taking care of a Maltese Poodle named Charlie, so I did some research on the bred. By the time we drove to her home in Louisiana I felt like I had made a new friend and we had no surprises. Try to arrive a day, before your hosts leave so that you can get to know each other and review the information and instructions regarding the home and pets.
- What happens if a emergency arises and one of the parties must end the agreement? While we were on our first house sitting vacation, our host’s father passed away, so they needed to return home. They offered to let us stay, but we knew the last thing they needed were strangers in their home during such a difficult time, so we drove into New Orleans and stayed in a hotel and then headed home. Emergencies happen, but we were glad we had not flown, and had our car. It would be a good idea to include a “Plan B” in your agreement. What happens if the hosts need to come home early? What happens if the house sitters must leave early?
- We found that our attention span seems to be 1-2 weeks, after that, we were ready to return to our lives at home. What do you think yours would be? Think about it before you make a long commitment.
- I am from the South and was taught never to enter a home empty handed, consider bringing a hostess gift or treat for the pet. But be sure to ask the host for permission before giving the treat to the pet.
- When you are leaving your host’s home, try to leave a small token of your appreciation. A thank you card and/or flowers, or wine, would probably be very appreciated by your hosts.
- When you get home, evaluate what you liked about your stay and what you didn’t like. Make a note of it and be sure to include it in your due diligence next time!
If you decide to try house sitting, let us know how it goes! Do you have any more advice for someone else that might be thinking about trying house sitting?
Grateful for it all…