As professional sitters, we have learned and discovered some useful points in the process.
Here are 12 top tips we share with all house sitters.
1. Ensure your lines of communication are in place before, during and even after the house sit. Make certain you touch base before the assignment, establish a good relationship-connection early, then work on maintaining this throughout your sit. Be open and honest about your plans. Good conversation points are to check on the nearest supermarkets, pharmacy, and perhaps local attractions. Questions regarding the latter shouldn’t sound as if you intend getting out and about as much as possible, but asking should give you a good perspective on the client’s views about you going out during the assignment. Some clients are very happy about this; some are concerned about their home security, which might be their primary objective in your being there.
2. Check if the homeowner client would like regular updates during the assignment. Occasionally, clients will say they do not wish to be disturbed while holidaying, but most will be thrilled with your (preferably) daily updates, particularly if their pets are in your care. WhatsApp is the easiest (and free) way to send pics and videos of their furry, feathered or scaly friends. Keeping them updated shows firstly, that you are actively taking care of everything, and secondly, that you care. Updates also keep the lines of communication open.
3. Be certain to properly read the written Homeowner Checklist instructions, together with email communications, perhaps a couple of times, so the routines and rules of the client are followed by you during the assignment.
4. If you meet the client(s) in person when they “hand over” their home and pets to you, a good tip is to video any detailed instructions, such as how the alarm system, microwave, washing machine or dishwasher work. Ask questions, what rules apply to pets (if any; and don’t just assume, for example, that the dogs are allowed to sleep on the bed with you), when the bins go out, recycling and food disposal, the position of the electrical board and trip switches, where you can locate a spare key in need, and so on. It’s a nightmare if the wind should suddenly blow the front door shut and you find yourself locked outside.
5. It’s also a good opportunity to remind the client you will ask for their kind review of your services at the end of the assignment.
Make sure the client has provided emergency numbers for the various problems which can arise, such as their plumber, electrician, the veterinarian.
6. Have a contingency plan if say, you lose your mobile phone with all your contact data. Do you have a backup on your laptop, or have you saved this info in a Folder on Dropbox? If so, you can then access this at the local library or someone else’s PC.
7. Remember you are a house sitter, not a home cleaner. You are only expected to leave the home as neat and tidy as you find it. Rather than being pleased about your “spring cleaning” her kitchen and repacking all her cupboards nicely, the lady of the manor is likely to feel you’ve invaded her privacy and that she’s being shown up as someone not able to keep house properly. Not everyone will interpret your best intentions as you meant them.
8. Respect the privacy of your client. No social media pics of their home, gossiping or prying into their affairs. Don’t invite your friends or family without the consent of the client. If you do, and the old busybody across the way tells the client, this will not go down well for you.
9. Their alcohol is absolutely off-limits. You’re expected to feed yourself during the assignment so, unless the client has invited you to “help yourself”, respect this too when it comes to food provisions.
10. If you break or damage something, replace or repair it, which should go without saying. For a significant item, bearing in mind the usual insurance excess (or first amount payable on any claim) of around £150, you will need to report this to the client and the insurer(s). As Forrest Gump said, sh*t happens, a simple fact of life. Don’t needlessly ruin the holiday of the client, unless it’s really important. (Keep in mind notification and time limits for lodging claims with insurers though).
11. Before leaving their home, make sure:
• The loo is flushed and the seat is down;
• The bath, handbasin and shower are meticulously cleaned, including the shower glass and taps;
• Bed linen and towels used are washed and if possible, left neat and folded. We advise not making up the bed again, so the client can see this has been stripped. Our more seasoned sitters often take their own bedding, pillows and towels with them – not a bad idea;
• All crockery and cutlery have been cleaned and put away; and,
• That you have set the alarm (if required) and locked the house, plus left the house keys wherever arranged.
These are all so obvious, yet surprisingly each one represents an actual situation complained about by clients down the years; with apologies, we are at pains to now mention these to all our sitters before any assignment is undertaken by them.
12. Finally, leave a note of thanks and again, your request for their kind review. It’s a nice touch to leave some flowers in a vase, perhaps some replacement yoghurt and milk in the fridge awaiting their return. In the end, life all comes down to communication and consideration, doesn’t it? Plus punctuality, friendliness, politeness (even, or perhaps particularly, in the face of rudeness, perceived or otherwise), reliability and a genuine caring attitude.
As someone aptly commented, “You’re going into someone else’s home. You’re looking after their animals, you’re keeping it clean and tidy; you don’t pay rent, you don’t pay electricity or gas, or anything like that. It’s basically free. And you get to experience the local culture and sights.”
Most importantly, have fun – and know that at least 99.9% of house sitting assignments end with all parties happy, as long as these basic rules followed. In our 8th year of business, you need only look at our reviews on Trustpilot and Google to see this is true.
Written by David Price for House and Home Sitters Ltd, the professionals at your service across the UK.