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House sitting is a win/win proposition

As a homeowner, you get free (or low-cost) security and other benefits while the housesitter receives, among other things, a free or cheap place to live. But you may be asking yourself, “Can house sitters be trusted? And how can I assure I have a reliable person?” After all, our home is often the biggest investment of our lives and we wouldn’t leave it with just anyone. First of all, let’s look at what kind of people house sit. You may have wondered about this and it is certainly a primary concern. House sitters tend to fall into two main categories: people in transition and retired persons or travelers. People in Transition It is not uncommon for people moving through various changes in life to require temporary housing. This could be due to a change in schools, a period following graduating while looking for a job, a marital separation necessitating a move; a job transfer. Sometimes, people want to check out an area before deciding to relocate. Writers wanting a retreat, RV’ers needing a break from the road, vacationers, and academics on sabbatical are but a few of the many groups constantly in transition. These are usually intelligent and productive people who are simply in an “in between” time on their journey. Most are highly motivated people looking to move on in their lives in productive ways, any of whom may serve your house sitting needs well. Travelers “Travelers” is a big category, as these can range from young people back-packing around the world to retired people enjoying the “golden years.” The latter is discussed below. Here, I wanted to say something about “young” travelers. I have known many people who have traveled the world with little more than a back pack. At first glance, this may seem a bit scary to a homeowner. When looking for a stable person to watch over your possessions, a backpacker may not elicit a particularly positive response. And certainly not all back packers are appropriate. However, it’s also good to look at why these people travel and how they travel. Many back packers are people in their thirties. These are creative, independent people who have accepted the challenge to find ways to both work and play according to their own unique vision of what life should be. They often have their own businesses, which they can do several months on and several months off, or they have work they take with them wherever they go (stock traders, massage therapists, yoga teachers, etc.) They are not necessarily drop-outs, druggies, or whatever other negative label we may conjure. One of the good things about this group is that they tend to be strong and healthy and can often be contracted for heavier work while you’re away. Having said that, however, I would certainly heed a good screening system when using young travelers. Retired Persons Let’s face it: once we’ve been “chained” to a job, a desk, or other lifestyle for a few decades, we deserve some adventure. And, today, more retired people than any time in history are selling their homes and hitting the road. Among their strategies, these people are buying RV’s, taking jobs as park attendants, and house sitting to see the world and supplement income. Retired, semi-retired, and older self-employed people present many advantages to the home owner. First, they are often former home owners themselves. As such, they have a deeper appreciation of the investment involved than a younger person may. They have also seen their share of broken pipes, leaky toilets, septic tank back ups, pest incursions, bad tenants, security issues and the like. This experience, combined with their broad life experience in general, enables this group to respond to unexpected situations with a wealth of knowledge and confidence that may be lacking in someone with less experience. Just make sure, in hiring a retired person, that their health is good enough to do what is required. But this is usually the case, since unhealthy and frail people don’t ordinarily choose to galavant about. Thank you for reading my house sitting blog. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to locate and interview prospective house sitters.

House-sitting FAQ’s

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Why Use a House Sitter?

The biggest reason to use a house sitter is for peace of mind. When someone is living in your home, you know it is secure and cared for in your absence. Even if your home is in a nice neighborhood or secluded location where you think it will be safe, theft, vandalism, and unforeseen storm damage can occur. Having someone in your home greatly increases the level of security and assures that any unexpected trouble that arises is immediately addressed, before further damage can result. (I even know someone who had a tree fall on their house in their absence. If left that way, even a few days, it could have caused thousands more in water damage. Fortunately, someone was there to have the tree removed and roof patched right away, before the heavy rains could further affect the home.)

House sitting is a win/win proposition. As a homeowner, you get free security and other benefits while the housesitter receives, among other things, a cheap place to live.

What can a House Sitter do for me?

A house sitter can do anything for which you contract. One very important service is pet care. If you have to be away from home for a time and can’t take your beloved animal friend(s) along, a housesitter enables you to leave your pets comfortably in their own home while providing individualized attention to assure they remain healthy and happy. This is far better for most animals than being in a kennel, and can save you money besides. Many housesitters can also garden and do lawn and pool care. Others will do construction, painting, or other heavy work for an additional fee. A woman once hired me to do spring-cleaning while she was gone. How nice to go away for a while and come home to a sparkling house!

House sitters can be particularly important for people who have recently bought or built a new home but can not move their family there for some time. This is especially true for those owning homes in foreign places, such as Central or South America, where any empty house may be subject to theft and vandalism. There are many places that a home should not be left empty, regardless of how secluded or nice the area seems. In addition, a house sitter assures that any unforeseen incident, such as pipe breakage or storm damage, is prevented or detected and addressed immediately. Should an incident occur, having someone there can save the homeowner many thousands of dollars.

But are Housesitters Trustworthy?

My experience, as both a homeowner and a house sitter, has been that, generally speaking, house sitters are very reliable. Of course, you will want to take measures to assure you are hiring a trustworthy person. People are individuals and, they say, there’s always one bad apple in every cart, but I have yet to meet one. I have found that most people who house sit take their responsibilities very seriously and truly enjoy the pets and new surroundings they get to explore.  

My next article will further discuss this issue, looking at what kind of people house sit and why.

If you would like further information on housesitting, please feel free to visit me here.

How to Find & Interview a House-sitter

It is easy to find willing house sitters. With the mobility of our current society, house sitting is a service whose time has come and there are many reputable companies providing these services online and at the community level. If you are going to be gone a short period of a few days to a couple weeks, a local person is often your best bet. Start by telling people you know that you are looking for a house sitter. Word of mouth will often bring interested candidates forward. Even locally, however, websites can be of value. Many local people utilize these services to increase their customer base. Ads can be found or placed on sites such as Housecarers.com, Craigslist.org, Rover.com and others.

If you are considering using one of these sites, make sure you do some background research. Try to find out from other sources whether the site has a good reputation. Find out what checks the site conducts on the people their sitters. Most now have police checks and many now provide ratings and badges based on additional background checks, ID verification, how quickly and well the sitter responds, performs on the job, etc. Find out whether they have insurance in place to cover any highly unlikely but potential theft or damage caused by a sitter.

The house sitter you are considering should have excellent references. Try to get three references as a minimum. Make sure that you are able to contact these referenceseither in person or by telephone. For extra peace of mind, make sure that the house sitter is able to show proof of a clean criminal record. Reputable house sitters will not be offended by these questions.

It is important to not only to trust the references, but to trust your own instincts. If you have interviewed a prospective house sitter and you are still unsure, take time to think it over. If necessary, see a few different sitters until you are happy with your choice. The way that a house sitter dresses and conducts her/himself during an interview will play an important part in your choice. The prospective house sitter should not mind answering all of your questions, no matter how strange the questions may seem.

Most sites now offer ID verification but, if you don’t see it, ask to view the sitter’s ID. If you have a printer, make a copy of their driver’s license. Though you will probably never need it, it is a good backup precaution should you need to hunt the person down.

If you have an animal with special needs such as medications, a particularly challenging personality, behavioral issues, or elderly, ask the sitter what kind of experience s/he has with that breed, issue, etc. It’s okay if they don’t have experience. Hire the person you hit it off with and feel most comfortable with, but be prepared to explain your feelings and needs in detail.

Look at what other experience a person has in life. If an applicant has no references but you like them, take a look at what other things they’ve done in life. Has she had pets of her own? Has he had a high-responsibility job in another field? How about a job that handled stress and emergencies. Often, these folks make great house sitters. I am grateful to the people who gave me a chance when I was first starting out. Though I had no references, I had a professional background in social work (highly responsible, often handling life-threatening issues), plus some experience in property management while working my way through college.

Lastly, after taking all necessary precautions to hire a reliable and trustworthy person, be sure you are also keeping their needs in mind. Many house sitters fall into the category we would call in social work, a “vulnerable population.” They are usually low-income, they may be older or disabled in some way, and they frequently have to report to the gig without having ever seen the home or met the owners in person. Be kind and courteous. Remember that house sitters, especially those working for free, are doing a great service to you. Be sure you tell them in advance of ALL duties they are required to do, and inform them of anything about your home or property that may put them off upon arrival. This could include noise, pollution, renovation work-in-progress, and other people that may come and go from the house.

If you follow all these guidelines, check the person thoroughly, and be sure to give a correct and in-depth picture of your needs and your property, you can feel assured of a high probability of having a satisfying experience with your house sitter(s).

What Kind of People House-sit?

What kind of People House Sit?

House sitting is a win/win proposition. As a homeowner, you get free security and other benefits while the housesitter receives, among other things, a free or cheap place to live. But you may be asking yourself, “Can house sitters be trusted? And how can I assure I have a reliable person?” After all, our home is often the biggest investment of our lives and we wouldn’t leave it with just anyone.

First of all, let’s look at what kind of people house sit. You may have wondered about this and it is certainly a primary concern. House sitters tend to fall into two main categories: people in transition and retired persons or travelers.

People in Transition

It is not uncommon for people moving through various changes in life to require temporary housing. This could be due to a change in schools, a period following graduating while looking for a job, a marital separation necessitating a move; a job transfer. Sometimes, people want to check out an area before deciding to relocate. Writers wanting a retreat, RV’ers needing a break from the road, vacationers, and academics on sabbatical are but a few of the many groups constantly in transition. These are usually intelligent and productive people who are simply in an “in between” time on their journey. Most are highly motivated people looking to move on with their lives in productive ways, any of whom may serve your house sitting needs well.

Travelers

“Travelers” is a big category, as these can range from young people back-packing around the world to retired people enjoying the “golden years.” The latter is discussed below. Here, I wanted to say something about the “young” traveler

I have known many people who have traveled the world with little more than a back pack. At first glance, this may seem a bit scary to a homeowner. When looking for a stable person to watch over your possessions, a backpacker may not elicit a particularly positive response. And certainly not all back packers are appropriate. However, it’s also good to look at why these people travel and how they travel. Many back packers are people in their late-thirties or thirties. These are creative, independent people who have accepted the challenge to find ways to both work and play according to their own unique vision of what life should be. They often have their own businesses, which they can do several months on and several months off, or they have work they take with them wherever they go (stock traders, massage therapists, yoga teachers, internet marketers and the like). They are not necessarily drop-outs, druggies, or whatever other negative label we may conjure. One of the good things about this group is that they tend to be strong and healthy and can often be contracted for heavier work while you’re away. Having said that, however, I would certainly heed a good screening system when using young travelers.

Retired Persons

Let’s face it: once we’ve been “chained” to a job, a desk, or other lifestyle for a few decades, we deserve some adventure. And, today, more retired people than any time in history are selling their homes and hitting the road. Among their strategies, these people are buying RV’s, taking jobs as park attendants, and house-sitting to see the world and supplement income.

Retired, semi-retired, and older self-employed people present many advantages to the home owner. First, they are often former home owners themselves. As such, they have a deeper appreciation of the investment involved than a younger person may. They have also seen their share of broken pipes, leaky toilets, septic tank back ups, pest incursions, bad tenants, security issues and the like. This experience, combined with their broad life experience in general, enables this group to respond to unexpected situations with a wealth of knowledge and confidence that may be lacking in someone with less experience. Just make sure, in hiring a retired person, that their health is good enough to do what is required. But this is usually the case, since unhealthy and frail people don’t ordinarily choose to galavant about or take on more responsibility than necessary.

Thank you for reading my house sitting blog. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to locate and interview prospective house sitters. 

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.

PRO’S AND CON’S

PRO’s:

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.

CON’s:

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.

IF YOU DON’T PAY

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.