Q&A: How to Hire a House Sitter

It’s a sad fact that more than 2.1 million home invasions happen each year in America.

The threat of a home invasion is a big reason why many people choose to hire a house sitter when they’re gone for an extended period of time. A house sitter can be someone who lives in your home while you’re gone—or simply someone who stops by on a regular basis to get the mail and check on things.

If you’ve never hired a house sitter, you probably have some questions about how to find someone trustworthy, what you can expect from their services and how they’re compensated. The following tips will help make the process as smooth as possible.

How do I find a trustworthy house sitter?

A good place to start is to ask trusted friends and family members if they know of anyone who is interested and able to watch your home. A referral is one of the best ways to hire a house sitter.

Another option is to hire a professional house sitter. (Yes, they do exist!) A few free online resources you can consult include:

  • Mindmyhouse.com
  • Housesittersamerica.com
  • LuxuryHouseSitting.com

If you hire someone you don’t know, be sure to ask for references. You might also consider asking friends and family to check out your house once in a while to see if everything looks okay.

What should I do before my house sitter arrives?

First, you need to decide if you want someone staying in your home full time or simply stopping by on a regular basis.

Once you sort that out, you’ll want to lay out the expectations. Will the house sitter be responsible for looking after any pets? What sort of tasks do you need taken care of? Common responsibilities of house sitters include:

  • Getting (and sometimes forwarding) the mail
  • Watering plants
  • Light housekeeping
  • Pet care
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Gardening
  • Reporting any problems to you right away

Of course, the more a house sitter does, the more they will need to be compensated. (More on that later.)

Finally, you’ll want to have the house sitter over to your house before you leave. Show them the lay of the land, explaining how any alarm systems work, how to turn off water pipes and how to deal with unexpected emergencies. If you have pets, definitely have your house sitter meet them.

Do I need a contract?

Some people find peace of mind working with their attorney to create a formal contract. Many others find that a checklist with detailed instructions on what needs done is enough. The decision will depend on your relationship with the house sitter and your own comfort level. Keep in mind that many professional house sitting referral businesses offer house sitting agreements as part of their services.

Should I cover any other expenses in addition to paying a house sitter?

In addition to tasks, you’ll want to agree on how food and utilities will be handled if the house sitter will be living in your home. While most house sitters take care of their own food, some may request an allowance for food. No matter which option you go with, spell out which kitchen appliances and gadgets you house sitter is permitted to use and how to use them.

Utility payment negotiations can come into play if you’ll be gone for more than a few weeks, so make sure you and your live-in house sitter are on the same page before you leave.

How much do I pay them?

This can really vary. If the person is just stopping by to check on the house, get the mail and water some plants, figure at least $15 to $25 per visit. Additional duties such as housekeeping or pet care (especially if dog walking is required) will warrant more.

It gets trickier if someone is living in your home while you’re away. Professional house sitters will probably have a daily rate while some people (like college students) will house sit for no cost in exchange for a free place to stay. Knowing the person’s motivation for house sitting is key. The location of your home and the responsibilities of the house sitter also need to be considered.

Is tipping appropriate?

If you feel your house sitter met or exceeded your expectations, a tip is a kind (but not a necessary) gesture. Another option is to give them a thoughtful gift from your travels.

What happens if something were to happen under their watch?

The best way to prevent anything from happening is carefully vet your house sitter. This person has the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, so make sure that he or she can be trusted by checking referrals, meeting beforehand and going through a professional house sitting service if necessary.

It also helps to clearly agree on expectations well beforehand and to provide detailed instructions on how to care for your home and any pets in it. You’ll also want to leave the numbers of your local police department, your contact information, the contact information of someone you trust in your city or town, and the number of your veterinarian if you have a pet.  If you rent your place, let your landlord know about the house sitting arrangement, making sure both your landlord and your house sitter have each other’s contact information.

Much like when you let your friend borrow your car, your homeowners or renters coverage generally offers protection if your house sitter damages your home or files a liability claim against you. That said, it’s not a bad idea to talk to your insurance agent if you have someone watching your house. This is especially true if the person will be watching it for an extended period time or if he or she will be living in your house. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can give you more information and make sure you have the right coverage.

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