10 top tips for finding the right housesitter

PUBLISHED: 13:57 19 May 2014

The demand for housesitters has gone global

The demand for housesitters has gone global

Archant

Helpful Hints for arranging Housesitters by stayingforfree.com

Relocation and long-term overseas assignments are common, second home ownership is on the rise and more of us are taking extended holidays. Meanwhile, insurance companies are refusing to cover unoccupied properties and dogs are barking mad about kennels.

So, what’s the solution?

How about a housesitter?

In the last few years, the demand for housesitters has gone global, with sitters around the world polishing their impressive profiles. A quick search of candidates is likely to yield an impressive selection of qualifications and a wide variety of skills - from retired executives, ex security officers, qualified tradesman, veterinarians and a slew of professional personnel.

Sitters are as varied as the properties. Mature couples looking to change their routine, young singletons in search of experience, and those who can work anywhere with a good wifi connection. With little planning and a lot of common sense, opening your home to a complete stranger might not be as odd as it sounds.

Since retiring early to take a belated gap-year, we’ve been housesitting at the topend of the market in England, Europe, America and Asia. Networking directly allows both parties to fine tune their requirements - homeowners steer clear of agency fees and we experience a different side of life while controlling our travel expenses. It’s a win-win solution.

If the idea appeals to you - here are our top 10 tips for finding the right sitter.

PLAN FORWARD

Experienced sitters can be booked months in advance. It’s never too early to start.

SITTER SURFING

Several online matching sites allow you to browse current sitter profiles, evaluate the quality and judge if the website meets your needs. Consider placing an ad in a lifestyle magazine or quality local/national paper. Searching for a long-term housesitter is different to finding a weekend pet sitter - so tailor the search criteria to fit your needs and choose the best channel for your assignment.

CREATE YOUR OWN PROFILE

Homeowners can expect between 20 - 40 replies. So paint a clear picture of your assignment needs - narrowing the field will save time wading through unsuitable candidates. Without providing personal details or pinpointing your location - say where abouts the house is and how long the assignment is for. Do you have pets, will you accept pets, or are you a pet-free zone. It helps to provide an idea of your age group and mention why you need a sitter. Are you a family, a couple or on your own.

Be upfront and honest about your home and your expectations. If you prefer a mature couple over a young singleton, a non-smoker or somebody who can manage a high energy dog, say so. If your home has a number of quirks, is in a remote location or is so large that it gets cold in winter - come right out with it.

Do you require garden experience or, are garden services provided. Will you continue with your regular house cleaner, and do you expect other visitors to the house. If you anticipate the sitter contributing towards the running costs, paying for cable TV or wifi, make it clear. Prioritizing your requirements and providing specific information can save a lot of wasted effort.

RESPOND QUICKLY

Launch your ad, then make yourself available. High caliber sitters may have multiple offers. Process applications asap and make a shortlist. Don’t shy away from sitters outside your area, or dismiss applications from overseas, or from candidates already traveling - their adventurous spirit and can-do attitude may serve them well during your absence - and sitters with international flight tickets may be less likely to switch plans at the last minute.

SET UP A MEETING

In person or on Skype - connect however you can to delve deeper into your top picks.

DUE DILIGENCE

Pick your favorite and obtain references, background/police checks and other credibility factors, such as a copy of their passport or driving licence. Talk to at least two of their nominated referees - ideally previous homeowners. If you expect a signed agreement, provide a copy for the sitters to review in advance

PREPARATIONS

Prepare for the sitters arrival - create a house booklet and be specific. Include how to start the lawn mower with a tricky throttle, which products to use on the granite countertops, how to work the security system and who to call in the event of a burst pipe, or if a slate blows off the roof. Include who, when and how to make contact in an emergency and list information for the doctor, nearby hospital and local garage if a car is included.

Consider a second keyholder.

Make room in the closet and empty a few drawers. Clear a shelf in the pantry and space in the freezer.

SPREAD THE WORD

Inform your insurance company, security company and neighborhood watch committee.

LEAVE TIME

Ask the sitters to arrive the day before your departure so they become familiar with the property. Don’t rush the house introduction, walk through each room, open the electric panel, eyeball the outdoor water taps and go through the house manual. Take time to share information on the best local shops and nearby points of interest - make them feel comfortable.

Prepare an evening meal so that you can get better acquainted - discuss events that might crop up during your absence, how to deal with phone calls, expected and unexpected visitors. Stipulate how often you would like the sitter to contact you - in the event of an emergency, via a weekly email or, depending on the length of the assignment, agree to catch up when you return, and don’t forget to confirm your return details.

Leave basic provisions for the following day - the sitters will likely return the favor.

HANDOVER

Carry out a walk through of each room, review phone messages and incidents during your absence and settle any financial matters before the sitter leaves.

Setting up systems might be dull, but nothing works well without them. We encourage you to give housesitting a try - it really can provide security andpeace of mind - with the added bonus that... next time you venture off - the prepwork has already been done.

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