Housecarers Guide to House Sitting Success.

What is House Sitting?

House sitting is arranging for someone to live in your home while you are away. In exchange for free accommodations, the house sitter will perform specified duties to care for your home and pets.

What are the advantages of using a house sitter? Why should I use a Housesitter?

Avoid the hassle of renting your home.
  • No packing. Your possessions stay in place.
  • No forwarding mail.
  • No storage expenses.
  • No disappointment when you return. You select a house sitter who agrees to your terms.
Avoid extra expenditures
  • No need to hire gardeners, pool service, or pet boarders.  Your sitter handles these services in exchange for their free accommodations.
Avoid imposing on your friends and family.
  • No reason to request sporadic visits to care for your home and pets.
Avoid becoming a crime statistic.
  • Deter a home burglary by maintaining a "lived-in" look.

What are the standard guidelines of a house sitting agreement?

As the homeowner, you should carefully consider your personal requirements and expectations.  It is your responsibility to clearly explain your criteria to potential house sitters and agree to the terms in a written contract.Every situation is unique; however, we have included the accepted standards of a general contract for your review. You can add and remove points to fit your situation.

The homeowner expects the house sitter to
  • Accept total responsibility of caring for your home, pets, yard, gardens, and pool areas.
  • Maintain a standard of care for your home and pets equivalent to and no less than your own.
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety and security of your home and contents at all times.
  • If agreed on - (see Who Pays the bills?): Pay all utility charges incurred during their occupation of your home.
Tasks usually performed during a house sitting stay
  • Gardening
  • Lawn mowing
  • Garbage disposal
  • Pool maintenance
  • Readdressing mail
  • Forwarding faxes or important documents
  • Pet care
    • Regular walking
    • Bathing
    • Feeding
    • Vet visits and necessary medications

Why do people register to housesit?

People search for house sitting situations for many different reasons. The reasons might be financial or similar to why a homeowner may be leaving their homes.

Common House Sitter Objectives
  • Saving a down payment or deposit for a home of their own.
  • Meeting financial goals.
  • Saving for retirement.
  • Starting a small business.
  • Paying for school tuition.
  • Seeking short-term accommodations.
    • Renovating their own home.
    • Professionals transferred interstate or overseas.
    • Relocated and want to become familiar with the area before deciding on a certain neighborhood.
  • Retired with the freedom to experience different parts of the world.
  • Be near Grand Kids or other relatives
  • Mobile workers, Writers, Artists and others looking for a change in scenery and inspiration

Who pays the bills during housesitting?
This is negotiable between Homeonwer and Housesitter depending on the case and circumstances.

When appropriate the house sitter may pay for some limited utilities (electricity, gas, phone calls/not phone rental) that they use during their stay. This usually applies for long term housesits, without pet care. The housesitter should always be responsible for their own personal phone calls. In countries such as Canada where heating bills can be very high, this needs to be negotiated between the sitter and homeowner. If the sitter is caring for pets and the heating is therefore also for the comfort of the pets a fair arrangement should be made. If there are a lot of extra duties with the housesit, and for short term sits, it may be fairer for the homeowner to cover the utilities. Also even for long term sits, the house also needs to be heated so that the pipes won't freeze - so a shared arrangement should be considered even for long term sits. I am including below a comment from some Canadian house sitters.

The posters are definitely calling their charges utilities, not rent. However, if the posters couldn't find a housesitter, they would have to pay someone to remove snow from their sidewalk, rake leaves or  water plants; or put some effort into what's called "winterizing" your home if you want to shut it down for the winter. And finding a short term renter through traditional means is difficult, so they use your site to do it. In some ways a housesitter is doing them a favour: they want their house occupied while they're away, yet they want to charge for it. I live on the southwest coast, so can't say what heating costs are in colder areas, but $800 for all utilities is absurd, particularly in this Alberta case where they're called fees - a fee a Canadian condo owner has to pay monthly regardless of occupancy. The house also needs to be heated so that the pipes won't freeze.

Other recurring bills

... such as phone rental, rates, condo association fees, body corporate fees, strata fees,  local council rates, water, sewer, cable TV rental, security services, ISP rental, or property taxes usually remain the responsibility of the owner. If your arrangement will be 12 months or more in duration, you might consider allocating all or a portion of the recurring bills to the house sitter. There appears to be a practive in Canada where homeowners are asking up to 800 a month for utiliites. This is not in the spirit of housesitting, particularily when considering the benefits a house sitter brings - and the alternate high cost of leaving a vacant home eg costs of winterizing a home.

Stata or Condo fees

Should not be included in the utilities as the condo owner has to pay monthly regardless of occupancy.

We urge you to incorporate your utility/tax payment conditions in your written contract. Refer to our: "Putting It In Writing" guide for examples.

Will house sitting affect my homeowners insurance?

We encourage you to consult your insurance agent to discuss your policy coverage. Most agencies will agree that your home is more secure when it is occupied rather than empty.  You should review and update your list of contents covered and remain current on your insurance premiums.

Unless you learn otherwise, explain to your housesitter that your insurance does not protect their personal belongings. They should arrange for their own coverage during their stay at your home.

Should I require a bond or security deposit from my house sitter?

The homeowner may at their discretion, ask for a deposit equivalent to the amount you would collect as two weeks rent. This bond may be lodged with an independent party along with your written contract. An attorney or solicitor can help you with this procedure.

Many housesitters who have a proven level of maturity and responsibility believe that the payment of a bond is unnecessary. Each case is different and this should be addressed between each homeowner and housesitter.

We provide free Housesitting Agreements, Bond Lodgment, and Claim Forms for your convenience. They can be downoaded from the Support section of your Members area

How do homeowners and house sitters  register and communicate.

We have developed an international database of homeowners and housesitters. We provide the most advanced registration process available in our field. Our technology allows members to add and edit their search information at their convenience. The new information is simultaneously updated on our site.

During registration, the Housesitter provides the following information, to facilitate matching:
  • Desired sitting location/s
  • Date available to sit
  • Age Range
  • Occupation
  • Gender/ Relationship Status
  • An autobiographical sketch/ motivations
  • Keywords defining skills, experience, motivations, interests
  • Peferered duration range of housesits they will consider -e.g. short term, medium, long term
  • Willingness to mind different pet/animal types e.g. They May select Dogs, but not Cats due to cat allergies
  • Upload Photos, References and Police Clearances

Housesitters membership subscription is US$50.00 per year. FREE membership is extended to homeowners.

Upon registration, homeowners are assigned a secure and private message box identified by a personally chosen user name. Homeowners browse our Search pages and send messages inquiring about profiles that match their needs. When a sitter receives a message, we send an automatic email alert stating that you have a response waiting.

HouseCarers.com does not disclose the names, addresses, email addresses, or any other private information of either party. All messages are coordinated through our message system under your user name. Exercise your discretion to decide when to disclose personal information to each other. Refer to our guide "Steps To Selecting Your Housesitter"

Making your decision - Steps to selecting your housesitter.

When selecting a housesitter take your time and follow your intuition. You are entrusting the care of your most valuable asset and the person you choose should be willing to agree to all your requests for the opportunity of enjoying the benefits of living in your home.

These steps are intended to guide you through the process of choosing the right housesitter for your home. Carefully consider your expectations and organize them into a clear agenda you can use to screen each applicant.

Step 1

  • Access our Search pages to locate candidates who meet your criteria.

    AND / .OR

  • Post your free Condiential Sitter Required ad.
    • We will circulate it to Matching Housesitters, who are interested in your Location; Timing; Housesit Term(duration); and Pet Care preferences
    • We will forward application to you for your consideration (please respond to all applicants)
    • This is a more efficient process, as only available, interested and motivated house sitters will respond)
  • Send a clear and concise Message or Response to the candidate through the HouseCarers message system.
  • The candidate will receive an alert stating they have a Message or Response waiting.
  • Reminder- Parties are only identified by their user name at this step.

Step 2

  • You will be alerted by email when a candidate responds.
  • Compile a list of potential candidates who suit your needs.

Step 3

  • Respond to your selected candidates. At this stage, communicate by telephone, skype, email, or snail mail. You will know your comfort level. Ask the candidate to provide several references.

Step 4

  • Contact the candidate's references. Verify their qualifications. Would this person select the candidate to care for their home?

Step 5

  • Schedule and prepare for the interview.
  • Create a detailed list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to be handled while you’re away.

Step 6

  • Conduct personal interviews of your selected candidates whose references and qualifications meet your standards.
  • Possible components of the interview:
    • A clear explanation of your expectations and required tasks.
    • An interaction with your pets. Do they get along? Do they have experience in caring for pets?
    • A request for a security deposit or bond. Credible sitters are in agreement to this.

    Be aware of any indications that the candidate is not willing to fulfill any of your requirements and do not choose that candidate. Follow your intuition.

    If possible, consider visiting their current residence. It will be a valuable indicator of how they will care for your home.

HouseCarers.com does not screen or interview any registrant. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to verify candidate qualifications and identification.

Please now refer to our guide Finalizing the arrangement - preparing a written contract.

Finalizing the arrangement - preparing a house sitting contract

Your contract should include the terms and conditions under which a sitter may occupy your home. A solicitor or attorney can help you arrange this or you can use our free House sitting Agreement and customize it with your requirements. Theis can be downloaded from your Members area, Support section

Your contract should include specific detailed instructions for the task list you prepared for your interview.

  • Instructions for lawn and garden care and the equipment used for these purposes.
  • Instructions for houseplant care, fertilizer, watering schedule, etc.
  • Instructions for pet care, feeding times, exercise schedule, vet visits, medication dosing.
  • Instructions for pool maintenance, reading chemical levels, etc.
  • Instructions for mail collecting, handling, and forwarding.
  • Guidelines for visitors, reporting damages and emergencies.

To minimize the risk of miscommunication, you might schedule a meeting to provide your sitter with hands-on training and demonstrations to guarantee a complete understanding of your requirements.

Your contract should specify your utility billing arrangement, if applicable - see "Who Pays the Bills"

There are several options available including:

  • Take a water/gas/electricity meter reading just before you depart and upon your return.
  • The sitter pays all bills from the date of their occupation.
  • When you return, you can pay back the difference for the percentage you used.
  • OR

  • Arrange to continue paying the bills yourself by direct debit, a friend, or a family member.
  • The sitter reimburses you for their portion when you return. Your security deposit or bond can be used as reimbursement protection.
  • OR

  • For longer housesits, you can disconnect the utilities under your name.
  • The sitter reconnects the utilities in their name and is responsible for remitting payments.

In addition to securing a written agreement, you need to arrange for a bond to be held by an independent party. Again your attorney, or solicitor can help you with this procedure or you can use our free Bond Lodgment and Claim Forms.

House Sitting Fees: Should I pay for a house sitter or not?

The standard Housesit is Rent Free Accommodation in exchange for house sitting/ pet care. This is the spirit of our site, and our guideline.

If there are a lot of special duties required a fee may be negotiated between the house sitter and homeowner. We recognize that some professional housesitters advertise on our site and homeowners are at liberty to hire them as well. This is more of a practice in some countries and areas. If the situation involve more special duties such as extensive property management/maintenance or animal/stock management etc. please register at CaretakerJobs.com , which is more for paid caretaking positions.

Travel expenses are normally borne by the housesitter. The homeowner can always choose a local. Many retirees and travelers are more than happy with obtaining rent free accommodation in exchange for housesitting. Many travelers and retirees have been successful and grateful for obtaining housesits in foreign countries. Please see our housesitting blog for many examples over the last 12 years.

Further comments from founder Ian White, following communications from members on both sides of the fence.

Thanks for the feedback - yes it is a difficult one due to some countries having more professional sitters (especially UK). Unfortunately when they start charging all sorts of laws kick in and it is not longer just fellow citizens helping each other and the sitter is a guest in your home. This is the main spirit of my site and I dont want to turn it into a job site

We are a place for housesitters to advertise and match up with homeowners. Many housesitters will housesit for no charge - just rent free accommodation. They include travellers, retirees and people looking to save a deposit for a home. This is a great benefit especially for long term housesits.

However some house sitters charge for their services: especially if there are a lot of extra duties. This is negotiated between the sitter and homeowner. Some homeowners will only consider the rent free arrangement. Others will consider professional sitters who charge a fee. Sitters who charge for their services is more of a custom or expectation in some areas than others. To check going rates you may want to get an idea of what some pet sitting businesses charge at www.pet-sitters.biz.

I also recommend you look at the site of a professional housesitter http://housem8.com/

It is a free market and we don't impose rules or regulations - on this. The homeowner has a free choice.

Travel expenses are normally covered by the sitter as the homeowner can always choose a local. For more information please click guide at our home page

Why use a house sitter from House Carers, rather than friends or family?

For homeowners, the solution seems clear: find somebody to stay at their house, and take care of everything while they're gone. The challenge, however, is finding somebody they can trust. Friends? Perhaps. But most people feel uncomfortable asking their friends to shoulder such a tremendous burden. Relatives? Possibly, but many homeowners don't like the thought of leaving their homes in the care of their crazy cousin, Eddie. Or worse.

What homeowners need are honest people to occupy their homes. People who desire a change of scenery, for example, or save for homes of their own. People who wish to be closer to their own families; writers seeking peace, quiet, and inspiration. And they definitely need people who understand their specific requirements, and someone they can trust. housecarers.com, is online search and screen database for house sitters and homeowners to share information. The introduction of Housecarers.com allows people to leave their troubles behind. Literally.