As a house sitter starting a new assignment I try and think of the different scenarios that might come up while the owners are gone. When doing a key pick up, or before the owners leave for their trip away I spend some time to discuss these matters. There are the usual things like where is the electrical switchboard and hot water system? Where is the pet food and other supplies? Keys? Mail? Much of this I could do from memory, but every home, home owner and pet is different which is why I use a checklist (this still never covers it all and there are always extra notes to take).
Some might call this a Welcome Kit, Hand Over or a Sitters Guide. The name really is not important, nor arguably is the format. What is most important is that you have one. If you are a homeowner, and have made arrangements for a sitter to come in while you are away you should prepare for their arrival and their stay.
Download the Pet and Plant Poppins Prepare for your House Sitter Check List here, and all of the hard work is done. A lot of thought has gone into deciding what information might be needed while you are away. Things like what to do in case of an emergency, the day to day necessities, pet preferences and property upkeep.
This preparation should be completed well in advance of the sitter arriving. I recommend that all members of the household should be involved and as a group you should start filling it in a week before. Leave it in a shared communal area where it can easily be accessed by all as a work in progress project. Day to day, as things come to pass there will be regular tasks that you might normally do without thinking, that can be added. Things like bin night or when the gardener comes. If you have needs for your property or pets that aren’t covered on this document, add another page or section and fill in all the blanks unless it is absolutely not relevant to your situation.
Knowledge is power, and for me knowing what the home owners expect and what the pets and property require means that I will do as the owner would want and would do themselves. This could have any number of implications. Positive ones, like managing costs, reducing disruption and damage, and eliminating stress. For example if there is a maintenance issue and I know who the preferred contractor is to contact, and there is an arrangement in place for payment this can be seen to and resolved before the owners even return home.
Remember any home can potentially need maintenance work at any time. Windows can break, plumbing can fail, electricity can fault. I always ensure I find out how the owners would like maintenance to the home handled in their absence. Asking this question is also a great way to invite the people I am sitting for to bring up any quirks the property may have that I will need to be mindful of. Things like leaks, sticky locks or jammed windows that often go unchecked or lived with.
Personally for me I can never have too much information. It is nice to know the owners itinerary while they are away. This is especially helpful if they are on a long trip and moving around alot, and might not be easy to contact some of the time. For one person three reliable channels of communication and the frequency and circumstance the owner would like to be contacted should be established. For a couple, a minimum of two each. I recommend a combination of mobile phone number, email, social media and messaging service.
I have sat in homes where the owners have included general interest information like local library details, information on attractions, public transport, markets and gym in their welcome kit and check list. Having already connected on Facebook, some owners have even shared events they thought would appeal to me. It is really lovely to be welcomed into a home as a guest as well as a sitter. When homeowners are proud hosts and want to showcase their neighbourhood, city and state they are genuinely interested in how much I enjoy my stay and I can also reach out to them for advice on how to get around and things to do.
Where possible I go through the check list with the owners present. I have been very fortunate on a number of sits where I am flying in to be hosted for a night or two prior to the owners leaving. This is a perfect opportunity to combine a guided tour of the local area with a reconnaissance of the vets, supermarket, pharmacy, hospital and favourite beaches or parks for walks.
I like to also return the favour for homeowners and create a list myself documenting anything I have noticed that needs to be reported back when they return, like minor maintenance requirements, deliveries or messages from the neighbours.
I pride myself on being a very good house sitter. When I know I am doing what is needed and what the owner expects I am calm and happy. When I am happy and content I enjoy the time in the home and location where I am based for the period of the sit. This is obviously good for me, but this is also very good for the owner. A happy sitter is more likely to spend more time at the home and the property and keep it secure, interact with the pets more, maybe even enjoy the yard maintenance that has been agreed to. Most importantly, they are likely to want to return and house sit again. When the time comes and the homeowner is in a position where they need to find someone they can rely on and trust, the second and subsequent times around it is just a matter of a call and confirming availability and dates. With the groundwork established and a reputation earnt all that is left is booking it in and making travel arrangements.