House sitting might sound like a dream job — but it’s a real arrangement that allows people to live around the world at little or no cost at all.

House sitting is when a home invites someone to live in their home while they are travelling; in exchange, the house sitter agrees to look after their home and any pets staying behind.

The exciting thing about house sitting is that each one is unique. Each location offers something different, whether a change of scene, new furry friends, or a new local language and culture.

Luckily for us, technology has made it is easier than ever to find a house sitting opportunity. The service is taking off, offering another way for backpackers and nomads to travel longer on a shoestring.

While house sitting might sounds like a dreamy gig, it’s still a serious responsibility. As a house sitter, you will be taking on the responsibility of keeping an eye on someone else’s home and animals. Unexpected things can happen under your watch.

If you’re embarking on a house sit, chances are you have all the skills and knowledge to do a good job. But why not do a great job? It’s a great way to show your appreciation for being welcomed into someone else’s home. A strong review is also a great way to boost your chances of a follow up house sit.

Here are some things you can do to be an amazing house sitter…

Treat the house sit like a job

Though unconventional, it is essentially a job and treating it as such goes a long way towards a successful house sit.

  • Take your responsibilities seriously and handle them as you would handle any other job.

  • Arrange for an orientation. In addition to discussing expectations and responsibilities, get a tour of the property. Get familiar with your new home and new set of keys.

  • Take notes of pet feeding schedule, when the trash comes, pin codes and passwords, emergency numbers. Better safe than sorry!

Get a clear picture of what the house sit entails

Having a clear understanding of everything prior to taking over is the best path to a successful house sit.

  • Talk to the homeowners and get a clear picture of the job at hand.

  • Get a to do list from the homeowners and ask for it in an e-mail, message, or writing.

  • Ask the homeowner if there are any quirks with the home or their pets that you should know about. Find out if they have any preferences, rules, or off limit areas that you should steer clear of.

Have a contingency plan

Anticipate what could go wrong long and be prepared before it does — just in case.

  • Have emergency contact numbers handy (the vet, the local emergency number, a neighbour, and the homeowners themselves).

  • Know where the closest vet and hospital are located.

  • Try to meet or connect with a neighbour or locals who can help in the case of an emergency.

  • Learn the local language or have google translate downloaded for emergency situations.

Do as the owners would do

You may have your own ideas about how things should be done but at the end of the day, it’s a good practice to maintain the routines the owners have established. Your job is to keep things in working order as if the home owners themselves were there, and not to reinvent the wheel. If you notice things that could be improved, discuss them before you make any changes - especially when it comes to animal care.

There is one area where this may not apply: bonding deeply with the animal(s) under your care. Your stay is temporary, meaning you’ll eventually be saying goodbye to your new furry friends. While most owners will want you to get along with their pets and take great care of them, they may have varying opinions on how closely they want you to bond with their pets. Keep this in mind and find a balance.

Open the lines of communication

Sending updates and being as communicative as the owner wishes can go a long way. They will likely appreciate getting photos of their pets and home, not to mention reminders that everything is going smoothly. It’s even more important to communicate quickly in the event that anything goes wrong. Of course, each home owner has different preferences and expectations so find out how often they want to hear from you and what method is best.

Go above and beyond

If you want to go above and beyond, doing anything thoughtful beyond your list of responsibilities can make a great impact. Warm gestures include:

  • Arriving with a bottle of wine or small souvenir from your previous destination

  • Showing extra attention and care to their pets and property

  • Getting toys and, if allowed, treats for their pets

  • Sitting down for a cup of coffee/tea or inviting them to sit down for a meal

  • Doing some extra tidying or gardening (without going overboard)

End on a strong note

Finally, the owners likely gave you a warm welcome when you arrived. Why not give them a warm welcome in return?

Before they get back, get everything in tip top shape. That means animals washed and brushed, litter boxes freshened up, house sparkling clean, and laundry/bedding done (or at least started). Whether a scuff on the wall or a dropped plate, be sure to fix what you can and report what you can’t upon their return.

Stocking their kitchen with essentials is a nice touch. Leaving flowers and a card or printed photographs of what they missed with their furry ones are also nice ways to say ‘thank you’.

ResourcesTrixie Pacis