Get a Great Review! Top Tips for Housesitters
This whole housesitting thing is proving to be a perfect mix for us. I use the word "mix" because it not only gives us a means of travel without having to pay for lodging but also satisfies our need for spending time with animals. Most all housesitting jobs are primarily petsitting jobs. Your purpose in being there is to take care of the animals while the humans are away for an extended period of time. So you being a house/petsitter could also be saving the homeowner a LOT of money in kennel/boarding costs while keeping their pets comfortable since they get to stay in their own home.
But housesitting is more than just hanging out with the pets. You are living in this home for days, weeks or maybe months so we've put together a list of things that you will want to do to ensure the home and the pets stay safe, your stay doesn't get stressful and the homeowner is delighted with your stay and will happily provide a great review for you and be a reference for you when you apply for future jobs.
Start a list of food items and other consumables that you use
One of the first things I do when I get to a new housesit is place a sheet of paper on the kitchen counter or on the front of the refrigerator. Ideally you will visit a nearby grocery store to purchase food for yourself but it's very likely that during your stay you will use some of the homeowners food items (butter, milk, eggs, boxed meals, olive oil, coffee, etc) or other consumables (paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc). So as you use up items that were in the home when you arrived, make a list so on your final day, you can go to the store and easily replace the items for the homeowner. Try to get exactly what they had. You don't want to buy them a gallon of skim milk if you used up their 2%, right?
Don't let your stuff spread all over the house
It's very easy after your first few days to get comfortable and start setting your things down in all areas of the home. But your not going to want to spend a ton of time trying to find all of your stuff to pack up before you leave. Or leave a bunch of random things behind that now you have to get back from the homeowner. So as soon as you arrive, find and designate areas for you to keep your items in at all times. I'm not saying you won't spread out a bit during the day but get into a habit of making sure your personal items area always back in those designates areas or rooms each night. For us, we try to keep all of our items contained to the bedroom, bathroom and either a section of the kitchen counter or dining room table. Out of reach of any resident animals of course! :)
Close doors to any unused rooms
If there is no reason for you to enter a room during your stay, just close the door. This keeps the room clean and gives you one less place you need to search when you are packing up your stuff to leave at the end of our housesit.
Always keep the doors and windows locked
Even if you are in the most remote corner of the world where your closest neighbor is miles away, this is a simple thing to get in the habit of doing to ensure the safety of the home and the pets. Remember, the homeowner didn't choose you to simply be a playmate for the animals. You are there to watch over their home as your own. So keep it safe :)
Ask the homeowners to give you two ways to access the house
This might seem like overkill but I kid you not...at our first housesit, the deadbolt on the front door got jammed and had I not also had the keycode to the garage, I would have been locked out! Maybe the home only has one key for the front and back door but if you can get two door keys or a key and a garage code, it will ensure you can always get into the home.
Send the homeowner photos of their animals
Many homeowners that have pets they are leaving at home with you are going to feel more at ease if you send them periodic updates either through text or email. Be sure to discuss this with your homeowner ahead of time. Some may want updates every day while others may just want something once a week. It's so easy these days with smartphones to simply snap a fun picture of their animals having fun and let the homeowner know that their furry kids are also having a good time. I like to personalize my photos with a short message:
But if they are on vacation, they may not want to be contacted at all. We all know how nice it feels to completely unplug these days!
Plan for your last day to be a day of cleaning
Leave behind a thank you and a special treat
I like to say we are housesitters and also housekeepers. I think it is so refreshing to come home from a long work trip or vacation to a clean home so we dedicate time to clean up the house before the homeowner returns. Wipe down the kitchen and bathrooms. Launder anything you've used. Towels, bed sheets, blankets ,etc. Make sure any pet beds or blankets are clean. Sweep/vacuum the floors. I like to see if the homeowner has any air freshener sprays and will use those in the main rooms of the house too.
I know many housesitters post that they will cook a meal for the family upon their return. I am not nearly that confident in my cooking abilities so I think it's a nice gesture to leave behind some kind of treat for the homeowners. We're currently in a housesit right now for a family of 6; two adults and four kids and since it's the month of October we thought it would be fun to back some Halloween themed cupcakes. I did check their pantry and found chocolate baking mix so knowing this is something they typically purchase, I figured picking up chocolate cupcake mix and some fun frosting would be ok :)
Also, during this housesit the family was actually "unplugged" so we didn't have any contact with them during the week. We are also leaving the home prior to their return, so we thought it would be fun to leave them a small book of photos telling a story of how the week went for the dogs during our stay with them and say thank you for them giving us the opportunity to help them out during their vacation.
If you are a housesitter, what other tips/tricks can you share with us? Post them in the comments!
Geocachers, foodies, photogs, DogVacay hosts and aspiring digital nomads. We are Mark and Kris Kuhn. Wanderlusters and a fun-loving couple continually looking for new adventures and striving for a life without regrets. Years from now, we don't want to look back on a life missed opportunities.