Okay, so, you’ve run an ad, you’ve interviewed people, and you’ve chosen what you hope will be a good, reliable pet/house sitter. Whew! Now you can put up your feet, rest and relax, knowing your work is done. Right? Well… not quite. Now’s it’s time to think about how to prepare for the house sitter. After all, one of the reasons we hire house sitters is because we know that, in our absence, it’s possible things can go wrong and we want someone there to respond in our stead. And setting it up for the house sitter’s success is the best way to assure that, in that event, things will have the best outcome possible.
A good place to start is with a list of all the things a house sitter may need to know while you’re away. How much information and autonomy the house sitter is given will depend on various factors such as how well you know the sitter (are they new, or are they your regular?), how far away your travels take you, and how long the house sitting assignment is for. I’ve done house sits for a year and more, with owners overseas and not easily reachable, so I have had to deal with many things myself. In this case, it is good to equip the sitter as fully as possible for emergencies. This list should include:
- The phone number for the local police department, fire department, veterinarian, water department, and utility companies. If in a planned community with its own security, include the number for security and an office/admin number for HOA in case they have any questions related to the rules or upkeep of the property.
- The names and ages of all your pets, what they eat, any medications or supplements they need and how often. List how often they need walks, any favorite toys or games they like, and any interesting or unusual habits they may have so the sitter can understand them as much as possible. If you have special words or hand signals you use, be sure to list them and demonstrate for the sitter. Everyone trains their animals differently, so it’s helpful to have an idea as to the owner’s approach with the pets.
- The login information for wifi in the home. Staying connected is crucial these days, especially for sitters who work online or are isolated on a country estate. Don’t leave the house sitter without internet, and don’t charge them for it unless you absolutely must. Connecting via email is also often the best way to stay in touch with the sitter.
- Key codes for entry gate or other areas s/he may want or need to access.
- Login information for Roku, Chromecast, or other TV services linked to devices. In the event of a power outage, these will sometimes logout and require reboot. Although this is not a crucial thing, it’s nice if you can leave your house sitter with uninterrupted entertainment.
- The name and phone number of someone close by who can come over and assist, if necessary. This could be a relative, a friend or trusted neighbor. In my own experience as a house sitter, I’ve found it’s always nice to have the name and number of a neighbor, regardless of what other names you may provide. For example, if house sitting in the country where the neighbors are not within visual range when the power goes out, it’s nice to have a number to call to see if others have lost power or if the problem is within the home.
- The name and number of someone who can makes decisions if you are not within easy reach by phone. I have house sat through several environmental calamities, and have witnessed major damage to home and/or property. If part of the roof is blown off your home, or a tree falls on it, the sitter will need to either be empowered to contact the homeowner’s insurance and get repairs started, or someone else close by needs to be.
THINGS TO LEAVE FOR THE HOUSE SITTER
- Petty cash. This depends on how long you will be gone and how you work things, but a good amount is usually $100-200. This can be used for an emergency plumber, pet food, etc. If you are going for gone for an extended period, having a Paypal account can come in handy and I strongly recommend you set one up beforehand. This way funds can be transferred rapidly if necessary, requiring less cash be left with sitter. And it’s totally free to transfer money to “friends”. If the sitter is trusted, then no worries either way.
- Keys for house, mail box, swimming pool or other amenities the sitter may enjoy while there. Hide a spare key somewhere in case of lockout. Some people prefer to leave it with a neighbor but then the house sitter may find herself in the awkward position of having to disturb someone very late or early, or the neighbor may not be home when a key is needed, leaving the sitter locked out in extreme heat, rain, or cold. It’s best to hide a key and show the sitter where it is. You can remove it as soon as you get home.
- Leave your credit card on file with your veterinarian with a letter authorizing the name of your house sitter to bring your pet in, in case of emergency. If you are reachable, the sitter will no doubt call first for your approval but, if you can’t be reached, you may not want your pet suffering because of it. Due to financial constraints, some people utilize vets less than others, so be clear with your sitter what constitutes an emergency in your judgement or how you would like her/him to respond should your animal get sick or injured.
- With the advent of increased wild fires, superstorms, etc., it is important for the sitter to have as much of a backup plan developed by you as possible. Be sure to leave pet carrying cases where they can be easily reached if sitter is forced to evacuate and be sure s/he knows where they are. If possible, also provide an alternate place to go with the pets, such as parents, etc., where s/he can either stay with the pets or leave them safely with others.
- Leave several flashlights and unscented candles in case of extended blackout. Include spare batteries (for flashlights, as well as remote controls, etc.). I once house sat through a black out a week long and found the stores were quickly out of everything emergency-related, including – you guessed it – candles and flashlights.
- Location of major shut off valves for water, fuse box for house (be sure to label all the switches, if you haven’t done so), timer switches for sprinkling systems if they need monitoring, etc.
- If doing work, such as gardening, is part of your “contract” with the sitter, make sure s/he is shown where all necessary tools are located, as well as shovels for cleaning up behind pets and anything else that is needed.
- Emergency food. In case of blackout, being snowed in, downed trees blocking roads or driveways, etc., it’s nice to have some dried fruit, an assortment of nuts to eat, crackers, nut butter, and other easily consumable foods on hand. If you have a wood stove or tea warmer with tea lights (tiny candles), some canned soup is also good to have around. Not everyone eats meat, so best to keep it to vegetarian options such as tomato soup, vegetable soup, etc.
- Regular food. Leaving food in general is a nice thing to do for your sitter. Rather than try to empty the frig and cupboards before you leave, I recommend you let the sitter know they’re free to eat anything in the house. (If you have a $50 steak in the freezer or something like that, be sure to let them know that’s not included! LOL) This is especially helpful for sitters hired for short gigs, like weekend trips. Providing a little pasta and marinara, some frozen fish and potatoes, or other fruits and veggies helps the weekend sitter avoid a lot of unnecessary shopping and lugging of foods in and out in such a short time. (Personally, I find short house sits almost too much trouble for that very reason and is why I charge the most for the short sits.)
THINGS TO SHOW/TELL THE HOUSE SITTER
- Be sure to give your house sitter a tour of the house, garage, shed, or any other place they may need to access in your absence. Show him/her where shut off valves are located, where needed tools can be found, where the above items like flashlights, batteries and other emergency implements are kept.
- Show house sitter where the pet carriers are located, hoses for water, etc.
- Give sitter a tour of the kitchen and bath. It is not unusual for a sitter to have trouble locating a pot they need, where the spices are hidden, where the pet towels/rags are if they have wet paws to wipe, etc. These are all things someone staying in your home will want to know.
- Be sure to let any concerned neighbors know you will have a house sitter there and, if you have it, show them a picture of the person. You can also take the house sitter to meet neighbors, so they can see the person and be at ease. Often, well-meaning neighbors can be quite nosy, causing discomfort for house sitters. Sometimes they even call the owners, worrying them needlessly. I recently had a neighbor worried about how close I had parked my van to the garage door to shade it with the house. Although there was a whole foot between the garage door and my van, the woman looked suspicious of me and didn’t believe I was the house sitter because she didn’t like the way I parked! There are so many weird things that can happen when people are paranoid, especially in today’s climate of distrust. Pave the way for smooth sitting by assuring neighbors that you have a trustworthy person who has passed a background check to house sit for you.
- If your absence will be lengthy, consider setting up an account with Chewy.com or other place you like and have pet food, cat litter, etc., sent on auto-ship. This frees the sitter from trips to the store and lugging heavy bags or boxes of litter. DO ask the sitter about allergens. Many people (as well as pets) don’t do well with fragranced litter. It’s always good to err on the side of caution and use non-fragranced products as they can be quite harmful to both pets and humans.
Following these suggestions will help insure you home and beloved fur-babies have the best possible chance of having a safe and fun time with a relaxed and prepared house-sitter.
Any questions? Feel free to contact me with questions or any house sitting needs!