Should I Pay a House-sitter?

To pay, or not to pay, that is the question…

I have been house sitting for 20 years and by this time, believe me, I have heard the experiences of many home owners, as well as house sitters. I’ve met pet-owners who wouldn’t have anything other than paid sitters, and home owners who vehemently prefer free sitters. What you choose is really up to you, but here’s a little food for thought.



Paid sitters are caring for people’s homes and pets as a profession. Hence, they may take courses to learn more about, for example, dog training, yard care or other things that will make them a more attractive applicant. Since they are trying to make a living, they are probably also doing more frequent gigs, thus may have more experience compared to free sitters. And, obviously, they love animals or they wouldn’t choose to do it for money. Free house sitters, by comparison, may house sit less frequently as part of their travels or other agenda. This doesn’t mean they don’t have experience, however. For one thing, they tend to be older, with more life experience in general, from which to care for pets, respond to emergencies, etc. They often have other abilities too, such as maintenance, management, or security that would work well for your situation. Some people feel they just get someone more devoted and trustworthy if they pay. I’ve known many fine free sitters so I don’t believe that is the case. A more pertinent issue, in my thinking, is the psychology of the home owner. Some people just feel more comfortable with a simple business arrangement: money for services. Others like to get to know their sitters and may become lifelong friends or associates. So personality seems to play a key role with the choice to pay or not to pay.


Needing to make money for living expenses is a two-edged sword. Yes, paid sitters may have more training (though not necessarily) and they may have more experience, but the downside is that they are also busier trying to make money. Most pet-owners I’ve met want someone who can be home most of the time with their pets. After all, companionship is one of the primary needs of pets in the home owner’s absence. This is why people who are retired or work from home make such good house sitters. They can be home with the “kids” almost 24/7. Paid sitters, on the other hand, often have other day jobs – usually dog-walking – lined up and may be gone from the house for hours each day. For people who have older animals that need to be frequently let out, newly adopted animals that haven’t had enough time to acclimate, younger animals-in-training, or pets who chew up your sofa, leaving them alone a lot may not be the best choice. This is why free, or at least retired, sitters are sometimes a better match. In the “con” column, older sitters may be less able or willing to do other jobs required, such as garden or yard upkeep. This is certainly not true of all older people, so let’s not get ageist here, but it is something that definitely needs to be discussed prior to hiring someone.


I just want to say a brief word here about tipping. In my experience, some clients have tipped very generously, while others seem not to have even though of it. (Guess which ones get preference for my time.) Please be aware that most free house-sitters are living on social security or other small pension and house sit out of need for reduced living expenses. If you choose to use free sitters – a choice many home owners have enjoyed immensely – please consider providing a tip. A reasonable tip is considered about $100 for a couple weeks, $200 or so for a month, and $300 or more for over a month. While that may sound like a lot to some, remember that a person who sits for free still has expenses, some incurred just getting there. The house/pet-sitter is caring for your most valued and loved possessions and beings. It may also help to realize that, had you hired a paid sitter, your expenses would be anywhere from $245-$700/week. (Yes, I do know people that pay $100/day to be sure their beloved pets are cared for properly.) Compared to that, a tip doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?

In Conclusion:

So that’s the low-down on Paid and Unpaid sitters. In my experience one group is not any better or worse than the other. Ultimately, your decision will be based on your individual needs and preferences. Follow your heart, your intuition, your intellect – whatever you choose – and you’ll find the way that works for you.

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