Have you ever wondered what you do with your stuff when you use house sitters?
Using house sitters really is the perfect way to leave your home, pets and possessions in the hands of someone reliable, while you travel on a vacation, or go back home to see family and friends.
For many, the prospect of the pets being loved and cared for without any upheaval is enough reassurance to set-off on holiday, care free and sure that all at home will be tickety-boo!For others there’s a nagging concern about letting a stranger into the home, to live among your furniture and possessions.
What about the artwork that’s worth thousands? Or, the carefully selected souvenirs, the Persian rugs, the treasured wedding presents, private papers, and other personal items?
The list of private possession can be extensive and it’s hard to imagine what you will do with all your “stuff” while the house sitters are in residence.
Don’t worry – it’s pretty normal to have these concerns.
The first thing to remember is that professional trusted house sitters are not interested in your possessions, other than to make sure they are safe and secure (along with the pets) while you’re away.
And many of the larger house sitting platforms have some type of vetting system. This could be references from previous sits, security checks or even verified police checks.
How not to find a house sitter
Now, if you want to simply pick an unknown person from a Facebook group, or via friends of friends, I’d be much more cautious. The analogy I use is that you wouldn’t leave your kids with someone you’d not carefully vetted, so why would you even think about doing this with your property, possessions and pets!
You might save a few pounds on a house sitting platform subscription, and it might save some time just popping a quick message in a group, but whenever we hear of problems, they’ve inevitably occurred as a result of securing house sitters in this casual way.
So what does a platform offer that's different?
It’s ultimately your responsibility to check out the people you have coming to stay at your property, but if you use a respected international house sitting website, you can expect the following:
– House sitters who have been through some sort of identity verification or security check
– A pool of reviews and references that enable you to see how a house sitter has been rated in past sits
– A well thought out, professional profile with pictures, that allow you to assess applications before progressing to interview stage
– Links to videos and personal travel websites that show transparency of lifestyle
– You’ll also get access to downloadable resources to help you prepare for your house sitters, and sometimes a help desk or chat line to answer questions and concerns
And remember, once you’ve received a set of applications, this is the time to Skype or talk to the applicants to start building trust. Once you’ve created a short-list of three, I’d suggest contacting their references, or, if they are in the same location, arranging a visit.
We just did this for a house sit later this year. Our application was accepted through Trusted House Sitters, but we stopped by while passing through the UK last month to meet the home owners and the pets. A great way to start building a trusted connection.
Free international house sitting is all about building these trust-based relationships, and part of that trust is to listen to your intuition. We now know very quickly if a house sit is going to work for us, and as a homeowner you will know quickly too whether you feel comfortable with the people you’re talking to.
Everyone’s expectations are different, and I always say there’s a house sitter for every home owner, and a home owner for every house sitter. It’s just about finding each other!
Back to your stuff!
There are some practical things you can do when preparing for house sitters.
First of all decide where they are going to sleep. If it’s in a guest bedroom, this makes things much simpler. But, if they will be sleeping in your bedroom you’ll need to think more about what you do with your possessions.
My suggestion would be to clear away all the personal knickknacks that you don’t want anyone to touch or use. Think hotel room – especially if it’s a long term sit. House sitters will want their own space, where they can put out their own personal belongings, toiletries etc. It’s so much easier if the space is clear. Pop everything into a box that you can, and put away in a cupboard or wardrobe.
It’s fine to leave ornaments, and things that make the place feel homely, but anything you are worried about in terms of breakages, store away safely.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s easier to be clumsy in a new, unfamiliar environment. So, one of my first tasks on arriving at a house sit is to move anything that looks fragile, that might get broken. I take photos to make sure everything goes back in the right place, but my objective is to keep everything in one piece!
Again, and especially if it’s a long term sit, move your precious objects, not because anyone’s going to run off with them, but to protect them from accidental breakages.
Artwork and antiques
I’ve never known a home owner move artwork, but I guess if it really was a concern you could. Antiques can be designated “off limits” at the time of the handover. The same goes for musical instruments. At our current sit, there’s an antique dining table in the formal dining area we can’t use. We do however have a perfectly functional glass one in the open plan kitchen / diner.
All of this is up to you of course – some homeowners don’t worry at all about their possessions, while others are very particular about what can and can’t be used or touched.
You can also request that certain rooms or spaces, are “out of bounds”, either locked or unlocked. Again the trust you build should ensure that these requests are respected.
Security safes and money
If you have a safe, then of course it would be prudent to lock away anything valuable in the same way you might if going on holiday and leaving the property empty. It’s not necessary to tell a house sitter that you’ve done this, or even where your safe is.
It’s always a good idea to leave some reserve cash for the house sitters, in case they have to pay for anything while you’re away. This might involve emergency property repairs, food for pets, or unexpected vet fees.
We are on a 3 month sit at the moment and have been left $500 USD. It’s our responsibility to keep this safe. If your house sitters aren’t comfortable having cash like this, then you could drip feed their bank account as and when, or if they need money.
Personal possessions, toiletries and perfumes
If your house sitters are staying in a guest bedroom with a private or en-suite bathroom you can simply tell them your own bathroom is off-limits. If however, they will be using your bedroom and bathroom, it’s best to move your own toiletries, make-up and perfumes to a cupboard, out of the way.
Similarly, any personal possessions you don’t want used or touched, simply put them away in a cupboard. You can also specify things like the linen and towels that can be used.
It’s also quite normal to tell sitters not to use your best glassware or crockery.
Food & drink
Again, this is a personal decision and usually agreed by discussion at the handover. Some homeowners tell sitters, especially if it is longer than a week, to eat up the perishable contents of the refrigerator without the need to replace. On the other hand, as an expat in a country far from home, you might have some foods that were difficult or expensive to obtain. Simply put them aside and tell the house sitter not to use.
You might be generous and leave your house sitters a welcome bottle of wine, but that doesn’t mean you want them to drink your cellar dry! Again, tell them if your alcohol is off limits (most of us would expect that to be the case).
If you have a legal weapon in your home, gun or other type, you should make sure it’s stored safely, locked away and that your licence covers the period you are gone. We have twice stayed in properties where a gun was present. Both were legal and we were informed on each occasion. Coming from the UK, it felt a little strange, but knowing the weapons were legal and safely locked away and secured, was reassuring.
Good house sitters will let you know if they damage or break anything, and usually either replace or offer to pay if the insurance doesn’t cover. If it’s just a small item like a glass or a cup, they will usually have the item replaced by the time you return.
Accidents happen, especially on longer sits. As a home owner it’s necessary to accept this as general wear and tear.
Discussion is key
The key with everything is, don’t be afraid to discuss anything that concerns you. You should have the opportunity both at the interview (Skype or in person) and at the handover to go through all of these issues. Don’t avoid the difficult questions.
House sitters are used to receiving different sets of instructions and “dos and don’ts” for each assignment they take.
It’s a good idea to create a “home guide” for sitters, and you will find templates online to help you with this. This is another benefit of using a house sitting platform – these templates are usually made available to you.
You don’t have to hand over everything in your home for use, but you do need to make sure that the house sitters will be comfortable in your home.
Am I suited to using house sitters?
I would say that if you are the type of person who, when family come to visit, is constantly watching to see if people touch, move, spill, or dirty your possessions, then you might not be suited to house sitting.
But if you could comfortably leave a friend or family member in your home for a weekend, then it should be no problem at all to you. It’s only “stuff” after all, and if it means you can go off and have an experience of a lifetime, or see friends and family without worrying about your pets being miserable at boarding kennels or catteries, that has to be worth experimenting with this exchange of trust!
That, of course, is the number one reason why home owners use house sitters. They want to know their pets will be loved, cared for and looked after in the same way you do. That they maintain their routines and are helped through any separation anxiety.
You can go away with the image of a happy pet in the care of a professional house and pet sitter, rather than a sad face staring through the bars of a crate or cage.
And finally, remember in the event of a disaster, or extreme weather situation, your “stuff” will be far safer with someone looking after it than in an empty home.
If you want to find out more about becoming using house sitters ask your questions in the comments below – or visit our website (see my profile).