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House sitting has become a massive movement in the travel community, and we can totally understand why; from luxury villas in the countryside, to modern lofts amidst skyscrapers, and cottages right by the ocean, it’s an incredible way to travel, and sample local life.

An exchange where you take care of someones property and pets while they’re away, and in return are allowed to stay in their home, house-sitting is basically “borrowing the homeowners lifestyle for a period of time”.

Owners have peace of mind that their home and pets are lovingly cared for, and that pets get to stay in their own home, while pet loving sitters experience life in new places, without having to pay accommodation.

Now a massive movement, it’s super easy to find house sitting opportunities all over the world, of all kinds; it’s a very viable way to travel (some people even do it full time!), and while some house-sits might only last a few days, some can be for weeks, or even months at a time.

Taking care of someone else’s home and pets might seem like a dream come true, but you do need to be a reliable, responsible, and committed sitter. And there are some things that you just shouldn’t do.

But we’ll start with the do’s!

The Do’s and Don’ts of International House Sitting

Do: Sign Up For a Legitimate Platform

Do's and don'ts of international housesitting

The best house-sits these days are advertised on house-sitting platforms. Platforms like TrustedHousesitters allow you to sign up as either a sitter or an owner (or both!) and from there you can connect with a huge community of like-minded people.

Because housesitting is an exchange, it’s based on a mutual trust. And it’s therefore imperative that you connect with people who are on the same page as you, and have been thoroughly vetted, referenced, and reviewed.

There’s a lot at stake when you’re housesitting, whether you’re the sitter caring for someone’s pets and property, or you’re the owner leaving your fur babies and home. And that’s why it’s so important to sign up for a legitimate platform.

There are many platforms out there that advertising house-sitting jobs, though TrustedHousesitters is the biggest and definitely the most well known. They have members from over 130 countries which is the biggest community of housesitters and owners worldwide.

Pro Tip: We also like TrustedHousesitters because, unlike other platforms, you can actually view the house-sit listings without paying. This means you can have a look at the house sit opportunities before you decide to sign up (you will then have to sign up to apply).

They feature reviews from both owners and sitters, and verify everyone. And they also have a fantastic feature packed app you can download to use on the go.

Using an established platform like this too means being able to rely on their support; TrustedHousesitters specifically has a membership services team available day and night, as well as a vet advice line, where you can talk to a vet professional, at any time.

Do: Love Their Pets

Horse country RF

Pets are often the heart and soul of a house-sit, so when you’re there in the house, you’re expected to love the persons pets as if they were your own.

The whole reason people invite sitters into their home is so that their pets receive just as much love and care as they would normally, whether it’s a gold fish that needs to be fed, a horse that needs riding, or a dog that wants a best friend.

If you’re not a pet lover you shouldn’t accept a pet sit. It’s as simple as that. When looking at opportunities, you’ll need to make sure you can love the pet (ie don’t accept a cat sit if you’re a dog person), but also have the time to take care of them (a horse will require a lot more time than a gold fish).

Questions you should ask the homeowner before accepting a sit include the age of the animal, the level of care they require (including whether any medication is involved), and any other expectations (like will they be sleeping in your bed).

As a housesitter, the idea is that you’re traveling to take care of their pets, not your own. If you do plan on taking your own pets to a house sit, it’s important to discuss this with the homeowner first, as it might not be appropriate.

But remember that your standards and expectations might be different to that of the owner, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page about things like leaving their pets outside, leaving them overnight, etc.

Notes For Owners

When accepting a house sit, sitters are committing to love your pet like their own. So it’s really important that you’re up front and completely honest with them about your pet, and the level of care they’ll require.

And you shouldn’t spring pets on sitters without giving them adequate notice – like deciding to adopt a rescue dog a week before they arrive.

It’s also important not to have unreasonable expectations of your sitter, like expecting that your pet will NEVER be left alone, or expecting them to toilet train them. If you have aggressive pets, or pets that require extensive medication, this should be fully disclosed.

Ultimately, finding a sitter that can love your pet for who they are, and be tolerant of any quirks in behavior, is going to mean a smoother experience for all involved.

Do: Know The House Rules

Hot tub spa RF

When you’re living in someone elses house, the most important thing is to know the house rules (and once they’re established, to respect and follow them!).

For instance, can you use their computer, is the dog allowed on the couch? Are there any rooms that are off limits (house-sitting doesn’t always mean you can use the entire house)?

Experienced owners will give you a full run down of the house, and take you through an orientation once you arrive – some will even have the house rules written out. If not though, it’s important that you ask questions and clarify.

Pro tip: If the home owners are comfortable with you arriving early, it can be a great idea to spend at least a day with them to learn the ropes. When doing so, have your phone switched off – there’s nothing worse than looking at your phone while an owner is giving you a run down of the house. It’s rude, and it doesn’t instill much confidence.

Things to ask include what parts of the house are off limits (ie if there’s a hot tub, office, etc). Some homeowners prefer guests stay in a guest room instead of their bedroom, and it’s important not to automatically assume you have the right to use the car.

It’s also very important to clarify if you’re allowed to have guests over. If you’re only sitting for a week, or a few days, the answer is usually a no. However if you’re staying for a few months, they may be willing to allow it. But it’s always important to ask.

Keep in mind too that some house rules are unwritten, and it’s assumed you’ll use your common sense – like not having a house party. Respect the space, and don’t do anything at the owners expense.

Do: Have a Daily Checklist

Pet dog housesitting RF

The whole concept of a house sit is that you’re there to look after their pets and home. As such, housesitting often comes with some basic household chores, like watering the garden, putting out the trash, and collecting the mail.

If you’re pet sitting there’ll be things to remember like walking the dog, feeding schedules, and things like bedtime. It’s easy to forget things that are new, and aren’t part of your own routine, so making a checklist takes the stress off you.

On the topic of checklists, it’s also a good idea to make a checklist of the things you want to ask the owner at all stages of the process – questions for the initial interview before you accept, and questions once you arrive etc.

And keep a list of important numbers and passwords, like emergency contacts, security alarm codes, and the WiFi password.

Staying organized is one of the keys to a successful experience!

Do: Be Nice to the Neighbors

If you’re not a people person, you don’t have to actively engage with the neighbors, but you should always be respectful of them, and at the very least, smile and wave.

It can be a really great idea to walk next door and introduce yourself, especially if you’re going to be living in for an extended period of time (perhaps you can ask your owners what their relationship is with their neighbors first).

Apart from using the opportunity to establish a social circle straight away (neighbors can give you recommendations on things to do, where to eat, etc), it’s also a great idea for security – having someone to reach out to if help is required.

If you’re a home owner, and you’re having sitters for an extended period of time, it may be worthwhile letting your neighbors know that someone will be watching your home. This way they know not to be alarmed by a strange face.

And it’s important that you set boundaries / ground rules with family, friends, or neighbors who are used to coming over. For instance, it is not appropriate to allow your adult children to drop by the house, or leave teenagers at the property, unless it has been discussed with all parties.

Do: Check Out the Area

Venice couple love kiss RF

House sitting gives you the opportunity to travel to far flung corners of the globe, and live in real communities, immersed in new cities, cultures, and ways of life.

So get out and check out the area! Explore! Maximize your time!

Click play on this video to hear from Mark & Chris, about their latest house sit in Chiswick, a district of west London. Then we’ll jump from the do’s to the don’ts!

Click to Play Video …

Don’t: Apply For a Sit You’re Not Comfortable With

A house sit can be an exceptional experience, but only if you’re comfortable with each specific job. You should only apply for house-sits you’re actually comfortable with, as otherwise it’s a recipe for problems.

Before agreeing to a house-sit, make sure you’ve had an honest chat with the owners and fully understand the duties and expectations. Though beyond looking after their house and animals, you should also confirm if you’re actually able to take the job.

By this I mean considering whether you can get a visa to the specific country. Do you speak the local language? Can you afford the general cost of living? Can you afford to book a flight?

Often times there are many applicants who apply for the same house sitting jobs, so if you’ve applied and you can’t actually fulfill the requirements, or know you wouldn’t be the right fit, you’re taking the opportunity away from someone who would.

Being the wrong fit for a house sit only leads to disappointment. And it’s worth remembering that platforms like TrustedHousesitters allow people review their experiences with you. If you act in bad faith on one house-sit, this could affect your ability to get future jobs.

Don’t: Mess With Their Tech

TV remote control couple fight RF

One of the most important unwritten rules of house-sitting is not to mess with their gadgets or tech! Don’t change the language on the TV without knowing how to get it back. Don’t change the password on their WiFi and then forget.

On the topic of WiFi, it is absolutely reasonable to request to use their network, especially so that you can stay connected and send them photos and updates about their home and pet. However don’t abuse this.

Many countries around the world have limited bandwith, so you shouldn’t use their WiFi to download large files, or stream movies. Likewise, don’t make long distance calls from their home phone.

If they have an online movie subscription, ask if you’re allowed to log in. If you purchase any movies through the course of your sit, make sure you reimburse them.

Don’t delete anything from their TV or DVR, and if you can’t figure out how to use something, whether it’s a food processor or the dryer, plain and simple: don’t use it!

One of the most important unwritten rules of @Housesitting - Don't mess with their gadgets or tech! #HousesittingClick To Tweet

Dont: Leave the Fridge Empty

Fridge empty RF

Unless the fridge is empty when you arrived, don’t leave it empty upon your departure. Most hosts will tell you to help yourself to their pantry and fridge, however it’s courtesy to replace the food that you’ve eaten.

But you should make sure you can replace food before you consume it.

For instance, a box of ferrero rochers – it’s highly likely there’ll be another box at the supermarket. But a dusty bottle of vintage wine that looks like they’ve been saving? It’s highly likely that’s irreplaceable, and therefore off limits.

Don’t consume anything that looks like it’s been imported or might be difficult to replace. And as a general rule, don’t drink their booze.

Just don’t!

Don’t: Leave The House a Mess

The unspoken rule of house sits is to leave the home in a cleaner state than you found it. Make a point to tidy up before the owners arrive home, and on your final morning, if you have the time, strip the bed and wash the sheets.

It’s bad manners to leave the house a mess, but at the same time, it’s also not appropriate to go in for a full scale spring cleaning. The house should be as the owner left it; if you have rearranged the furniture over the course of your stay, put it back where it was on the first day.

House sits are not the time to channel your inner interior design skills, or to rearrange their filing cabinet, though if you do decide to move things around, it’s a great idea to take a photo of the room before you do so, so you can remember where everything goes normally.

Equally, don’t say you’ll do jobs that you’re not skilled for, ie if the wiring needs work, or if you need a plumber. The owner should have left details for a tradesperson, and by taking on jobs you’re not qualified for, you’ll likely leave more of a mess than when you started.

For home owners – make sure the house is clean and tidy before your sitter comes in. This includes providing clean linens and pillows. It’s important that they feel comfortable in your home if you want them to care for it.

Don’t: Ghost Them

Pet couple love dog RF

Home owners want to leave their home and pets with people they trust, though even though they may trust you, it’s still perfectly normal that they’ll want updates, especially if you’re staying for weeks or months.

It’s important to keep open lines of communication with your owners throughout your sit – this might include sending a photo of their pet once a week, and confirming that everything is OK. Ask the owners at the beginning how often they would like updates, and come to a mutual agreement.

Imagine how you would feel if someone watching your home went dark and stopped responding. It would bring on immense amounts of stress and anxiety. So don’t do it.

Obviously, as a home owner, it’s not reasonable to expect updates every hour, or even every day, so set the boundaries with each other at the beginning so everyone is on the same page.

Just as important as staying in touch, is being honest about what’s going on during your sit. If you have to take the dog to the vet, you’ll need to tell them about it. If the house is broken into, tell them about it.

Don’t withhold information because you think you can fix it, or that it might ruin their holiday. Home owners never appreciate a cover up, and they always find out eventually.

Don’t: Ask For Payment

Money Euro RF

While some house sits do pay, the vast majority are built on the concept of trade. The exchange based nature of a house sit is central to the movement, where the exchange of services is seen as a fair trade.

As such, don’t go into a house sit and expect to be paid. And don’t ask for payment either.  In return for your house sitting responsibilities, you’re able to enjoy the owners home and amenities that come with it.

In the majority of cases, all travel costs will be up to you. You’ll need to pay for your visa, passport, flights (click here for cheap flights), airport transport, and then ongoing living expenses like food. However the owners should cover all utilities, unless otherwise agreed.

As a home owner, it’s important to make sure your utility bills and other household costs are up to date and fully paid. It is not appropriate to leave unpaid bills for your sitter, and you should also fully stock up on things like pet food.

On longer term sits, say of more than 6 months, an agreement may be reached as to who pays the ongoing utilities. Being a trust based agreement, everything will run smoothly if both parties act in good faith.

The exchange based nature of @housesitting means the exchange of services is seen as a fair trade #HousesittingClick To Tweet

Don’t: Cancel Your Sit Last Minute

Headache traveler mental health RF

Unless there is a genuine emergency, cancelling a house sit is bad faith. Taking on a house sit is a serious commitment, and cancelling can cause the other party immense stress, not to mention the financial burden.

You have to consider that sitters have likely spent large sums of money in flights, and likewise, owners will have difficulty finding someone to cover at the last minute, and may have to cancel their plans if they have no-one to look after their pet.

People understand that emergencies do happen, so if this is the case, have an open conversation with the other party about how you can help them – ie a nice gesture could be paying for alternative accommodation, or finding them another sitter.

As a sitter, you should never arrive late. It’s a good idea to arrive at least a day early, especially if you’re flying in on international flights which could be subject to delay. But stay in contact with your owners to keep them informed either way.

Pro tip: It’s important not to lie to immigration, but if you’re entering on a tourist visa, it’s best to avoid the mention of your house sit, unless asked directly. It’s not far fetched for an officer to interpret your exchange as a form of unpaid employment, which could be considered work, in violation of a tourist visa.

And you don’t want to be the sitter who was turned away at the border!

Time to Apply For a Housesit!

Ready to start applying for a house-sit? Click play on the below video for a run down on how it all works.

Then, jump over to TrustedHousesitters.com to sign up and search for homes to sit!


Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

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