When you go out of town for an extended period of time, it is usually a good idea to have someone house sit for you.

But what exactly does a housesitter do? What should you expect from them? Most importantly, how do you make sure they do everything you ask of them without making mistakes?

Having someone watch your house might seem pretty simple, but it can get more complicated than you might think. For example, every home has its small quirks, like a door you have to pull on the knob to make sure it locks all the way.

Making sure you clearly communicate all the ins and outs of your home is essential to making sure the person you choose as a house sitter is set up for success. It is also important to make sure they understand all the things you need them to do while you are gone. The best way to do this is to provide them with clearly written house sitting instructions.

House Sitting Instructions

Put everything your house sitter needs to know into a printed document. This way all of the expectations are laid out in writing. The more detailed instructions you provide the better. These can be in the form of a house sitter checklist that the person watching your home should follow whenever they visit the house.

Here are few basic items that you might want to include, but be sure to add any tasks that are unique to your property:

  • Bring in the mail.
  • Turn on/off the porch light.
  • Sweep the front stoop.
  • Water indoor plants. Provide clear instructions if your sitter lacks a green thumb.
  • Feed cats, fish, or other pets. (Make sure your house sitter is comfortable with the responsibility of being a pet sitter also!)
  • Check for any leaks or damage after thunderstorms.
  • Drive your car once a week.
  • Arm the alarm system and lock the dead bolt when you leave.

Also consider whether they should enter through a specific door, and let them know if any entryways should not be used under any circumstances. Also let them know if any other parts of your home are off limits.

Be sure to provide the following information as well in your document:

  • Your contact information while you are gone.
  • Emergency contact information such as a family member who can assist with any unexpected catastrophic events.
  • Local police department number.
  • Contact names and numbers for any other persons scheduled to visit your house such as a grass cutter or pest control technician.
  • Gas utility emergency number.
  • Veterinarian contact information if applicable.
  • Trash collection schedule.

One thing you might not want to include on the house sitting instructions is your alarm code, just in case they are driving down the road and the piece of paper blows out the window. After all, anything can happen! Instead make sure to change it something they can remember or text it to them so they have it on their phone.

Before you handover the keys to your place, go over the instructions with the house sitter in person if possible. Ask if they have any questions. Give them a tour of the house and show them anything that they should know in case of emergency, such as the location of your fuse boxes and water main. Point out any of those unique quirks while you are at it. Also be sure to have them practice arming and disarming any security systems.

Preparing Your Home For a House Sitter

One important question you need to answer is will the house sitter be staying at your home, or just visiting every now and then? Having someone at your home all the time can provide some people with peace of mind, but it could also make other people feel uncomfortable. Whatever you decide is up to you, just be sure you and the house sitter are on the same page.

If the house sitter is staying at your home, you might consider establishing some ground rules such as no parties or no guests at all. A house sitting agreement might be useful if you don’t know the sitter that well, but your best friend from college might bristle at the suggestion.

Whether the sitter is staying at your house overnight or not, there are a few things you might consider providing to make sure they are cozy:

  • Fresh linens and towels
  • Some snacks and drinks they can enjoy
  • Hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent
  • WiFi password for internet access, maybe your Netflix password if you are feeling generous
  • Extra batteries for garage remotes, TV remotes, a flashlight, or beeping smoke alarms

While you surely have chosen one of the most responsible people you know to watch yourself, the last thing you want them to do is to accidentally shatter your heirloom Waterford crystal vase while they are reaching for a paper towel. To protect your stuff, and your personal relationship, consider gathering all of your breakable items and other valuables and securing them in one room or even at a self-storage facility. Consider getting a safety deposit box for jewelry and documents as well. Not because you don’t trust your sitter, but just in case there is a break-in you don’t want to end up blaming your sitter for the loss of priceless items.

Return the Favor

If you are lucky enough to have someone watch your house as a personal favor, consider rewarding them with a bottle of their favorite alcohol or a souvenir from your adventure abroad. Better yet, offer to watch their house when they go out of town!

Jessica Johnson