Housesitting has been a game-changer for us.
It has allowed us the freedom to travel the world (it’s good for you, you know), experience places like locals, get loads of dog and kitty cuddles, as well as saving a boatload of cash.
This lifestyle feels like it is made for us. We have been housesitting for 18 months now, in three countries and five States, looking after dogs, cats, chickens, hamsters and rabbits.
We have stayed in luxury mountain cabins with jacuzzis and saunas, in houses with extensive vegetable gardens and mountain views, in big houses in suburban neighborhoods, and small apartments in hipster neighborhoods.
It’s been a wild ride. We love housesitting!
But back when we were first getting started with housesitting, I really didn’t know what to expect. I set up a great profile thanks to the tips from my friend Dani, and I started applying for sits that looked good. And hoped for the best.
Now that we have completed 20+ housesits and have received five star reviews for each and every one, as well as being asked back to past housesits numerous times, I think we have a pretty good idea of what makes a great housesitter.
Here are my ten commandments of housesitting to help you be the best housesitter you can be.
The Ten Commandments of Housesitting
1) Thou Shalt Have Great Communication
Great Communication is the first step to becoming an excellent house sitter. It all starts with sending a detailed and thoughtful message to apply for the sit, mentioning details that pertain to that particular sit so the homeowner knows it isn’t just a cut and paste message – for example, the pets names.
Once you have secured the sit, make sure to answer any messages from the homeowner promptly, and send regular updates – usually every few days is fine.
When you finish the sit, leave a note for the home owners detailing any problems you had or anything they need to know, a quick run down about the pets behaviour and make sure to thank them for the opportunity to sit for them.
2) Thou Shalt Only Commit If Thou Art Sure
It is important to only commit to housesits that you are 99% sure you can do – nobody likes a flaky housesitter. I say 99% instead of 100% because there is always a chance that a family emergency or a serious illness might pop up that would render you unable to do your housesit.
It is not OK to just pull out a week before the sit is meant to start because you got a better offer.
If the housesit it abroad, make sure to check into flight prices and visa requirements before committing.
3) Thou Shalt Ask A Lot of Questions
If at any time there is something you aren’t sure about – always ask for clarification. This is especially important at the beginning stages of securing your sit. We have had sits that we have initially expressed interest in but once we asked more questions we quickly realised that the sit was not for us.
It’s also about knowing the right questions to ask – the home owner may have forgotten to cover certain topics so it is helpful if you prompt them. Common questions include, are there any plants to water? Are we able to use your vehicle? Do you need the lawn mowed? Where are the cleaning products? What day do I need to put out the trash and recycling? Is it OK to have guests over? Do you need me to collect the mail?
4) Thou Shalt Follow Instructions to a Tee
It is important that you follow the instructions of the pet owner, whether you agree with the way they do things or not – you aren’t there to judge them on their pet-parenting skills.
If they want you to cook, blend and feed their cats green beans mashed up with a little cat food – do it. If they want you to take their dog on an hour walk every morning – do it. If they want you to water their hundreds of plants every day despite it taking an hour each time – do it.
This is also why number three is important – maybe you aren’t prepared to put in the amount of work that is expected of you by the home owner because you don’t think it is a fair trade. It’s good to find that out before committing to a sit because once you have started the sit – you need to do what they expect you to do.
Make sure to triple check the instructions to make sure you don’t miss anything – some home owners are very detailed in their instructions and it can be easy to miss something if you only read the instructions once.
5) Thou Shalt Leave the House Cleaner Than Thou Found It
This is one commandment that I know not every house sitter bothers with, but I have always received such great praise for it – cleaning the house so it is in even better condition that when you arrived.
I am a pretty damn good cleaner if I do say so myself, mostly because I have great attention to detail. When leaving a house I always spend at least a couple of hours doing a deep clean including vacuuming floors, scrubbing the shower/bath, cleaning out the microwave, fridge and all appliances, mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors, doing all the laundry and remaking the bed, taking out all the trash and recycling, sweeping the porch and outside areas, and dusting the whole house.
Believe me, the homeowners will LOVE you for it.
6) Thou Shalt Respect the Property
You should always treat the home you are looking after as if it was your own, this means making sure all the doors are locked whenever you leave the house, taking your dirty shoes off when entering, taking care of any items that you use such as pots, pans and dishes, not leaving lights on that you aren’t using, and not leaving the heating on all day just to name a few.
Just common sense stuff really.
Ask yourself Would I do this at home? – if not, then don’t do it at someone else’s home either.
7) Thou Shalt Give the Pets Lots of Love
If you are looking after pets as part of your housesit, which you most likely will be, they will probably be missing their owners a lot, so you want to make sure to give the pets lots of love.
Talk to them, reassure them with lots of cuddles and pats, tell them they are good and give them treats for good behaviour, and let them cuddle up to you on the bed or couch (if they are allowed that is).
They don’t understand why their owner has left them so you want to make them feel loved and comfortable with you. It is your job.
8) Thou Shalt Be Honest
It is important to be honest and open from the beginning and throughout the housesit, even if you think it might mean you are not chosen to be the housesitter.
If the home owner want someone to be at the house for most of the day but you know you want to be spending 6+ hours sightseeing, then maybe this housesit isn’t for you. If you know you have a friend that wants to come and stay with you while you are housesitting, make sure to check that is OK with the homeowner.
If you aren’t 100% sure yet that you will be able to do the housesit – let the homeowner know rather than just saying yes. If they ask if you have given an animal injections before and you haven’t – let them know but say you are wiling to learn.
Most home owners will respect your honesty and it will save you getting in trouble for not being upfront.
9) Thou Shalt Send Pictures of Treasured Pets to Owners
Pet owners love this one. Along with giving regular updates on the house and pets, send pictures of the pets to the owners every few days too. Take pictures when you are out walking the dogs, or when the cat is curled up on the bed next to you. You want the home owners to relax and enjoy their trip, knowing that their animals are happy and healthy with you.
This goes a long way to convince them that their fur babies are in safe hands.
10) Thou Shalt Go Above and Beyond
Along with doing everything I detailed above, you should strive to do even more to be the best housesitter you can be. Leave a small present for the home owners on their return like a bottle of wine or freshly baked cookies. If you notice something is broken in the house and you can fix it, fix it. Anything to make their lives easier.
These people trusted their homes and pets to you and you want them to feel that they made the right decision in choosing you.
And that’s it folks, my guide to becoming the best housesitter you can be!
If you want to start housesitting, I highly recommend Trusted Housesitters, and you can join for 20% off the regular price through this link
Also make sure you have travel insurance if you are doing international sits – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
Have you tried housesitting? Have you got any other housesitting tips to add to my list?
If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other travel tips: