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10 Essential Questions Before Saying Yes [+ Bonus]
Although the perks of free lodging can be quite attractive, there are many things to take into considerations before saying yes to that house sitting job. You’ll find 10 important questions to ask the homeowner in the following must-have house sitter checklist.
Midlifers, with more freedom at their disposal, can reap the benefits of this slower travel style that house and pet setting provides. Settling down in someone else residence, taking care of their home, with or without pets, while discovering a new region and immersing yourself into the local community, can offer enriching travel experiences.
House sitting is becoming an ever going popular concept to travel rent-free but here are some important questions to ask and considerations to ponder before accepting that house sitting job.
This post was originally written after finishing a 6 weeks stay in Australia back in January 2017 with two completed back to back housesits, both booked via Trusted Housesitters . This article has been updated with information gathered from my ever-growing list of completed housesits since then.
Here’s what you will get from this post
Table of contents
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House Sitter Checklist # 1: What’ the Pet’s Exercise Routine?
House sitting for dogs most often requires walking them, fair enough. Some dogs do well with two short walks while others have somewhat more of an intense exercise routine. I really appreciate the respite dog walking procures as I sometimes (too often) forget that there’s a world out there and get sucked into the vortex of my computer screen. So getting me moving is good and it’s a facet of dog sitting that I truly appreciate.
Different neighborhoods procure various walking scenarios, from magnificent paths in wildlife reserves to garden-like city parks, hilly or flat subdivision suburbia, the patterns are vast. Depending on the age of the dogs, some require more energetic walks and intense ball throwing sessions.
Some pet owners expect more serious exercising, I recall one, in particular, who had a vigorous 90 min morning walk followed by a 45 min. one in the afternoon.
House Sitter Checklist # 2: Sniff Out if the Place Looks Clean
Necessarily, if you choose to do house sitting having a deep love for animals goes without saying, but that entails a fair share of hair, dust, and smell. Most of the time, houses are tidy while others not so much. Having a Skype session with homeowners, prior to committing to a house sitting job, gives you the opportunity to scout out your living areas and their cleanliness. And until they figure a ”olfactive option” video chat you’ll have to content yourself to a visual one.
From past experience households with multiple big dogs, combined with children necessitated a good cleanup on arrival. The houses were tidy but evidence of four-legged furry creatures inhabiting the environment was clear. Worth mentioning if you’re a clean freak. But usually, its nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of elbow grease and some good detergent. You’d be surprised by the different cleanliness standards people have, so be warned and make your own judgment call.
House Sitter Checklist #3: What’s the Pet’s Personality?
I love dogs very much. So much so, that I can’t help but stop owners walking them on the street and ask about the furry fellows. An important factor for dog walking is obedience and behavior. Some dogs are shy and timid, others are full of energy. Some tug while others you have to pull along. Either way, inquire if they have any aggressive behavior towards other animals or humans, this is vital information to have.
In addition, ask about their daily routine. How early risers is the pet? How much exercise is required and expected? Does it like car rides?
House Sitter Checklist #4: How Long Can You be Absent For?
Necessarily, if the housesit doesn’t include taking care of animals, you can disregard this. Moreover, if you are taking care of cats, you’ll have much more flexibility. On the other hand, leaving dogs alone at home dogs is an all different story. Your window of absence can range from 2hrs to 8hrs.
Also, if one if the pets have medication to be taken at specific times or intervals this can affect your ins and outs. In one case, I sat for an elderly dog, a sweet 13-year-old soul, which required 3 times a day pain and lung medication, making day outings more limited.
You can manage to go to the city for wonderful outings in 3-5 hours but it is something to keep in mind if your objective is to be out and about visiting around.
In another instance, I had St-Kilda (Melbourne, Australia), Oxford University and even Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) in close proximity which I got to visit with short outings.
House Sitter Checklist #5: How Much “Personal Space” Will You Have?
A funny thing to think about right? As an example, when I rent my own home while traveling, I always ensure that there’s plenty of space in the freezer for our tenants. Maybe it’s a North American thing, but if I do the groceries, I like to stock up on some basics for 4-5 days and appreciate being able to freeze things, especially meats. In an instance, I could barely fit a piece of sliced bread in the icebox!
This is a moot point for short assignments but if your house sitting job is more than a week or two, you might want to request for some amount of freezer real estate, especially if you’re located outside of town. Also important for long term housesitting mandates, ask if they plan to provide you with some closet or shelf space to unpack your suitcase.
House Sitter Checklist #6: How Much Yard Work is Involved?
Often enough, big properties have a landscape contract that maintains the grounds and mows the grass. I’ve been lucky that none of my past sits – knock on wood – required my participation in extensive yard work. Nevertheless, sometimes weeding the vegetable garden, watering plants -indoor and out – and taking care of the pool is needed.
Make a note to ask how many potted plants, as a fellow house sitter sadly found out the hard way and had to water over 300 of them regularly.
House Sitter Checklist # 7: Are You Allowed Any Visitors?
Also important, especially for a long-term housesit, make sure you clarify with the homeowner if guests or visitors will be permitted. Get the owner’s approval of visitors being allowed or not in their house. This is just plain courtesy. Again, there’s nothing like being transparent about your intentions during the stay. I’ve had wonderful home-owners so far and all have accepted that I have day or overnight visitors with prior warning.
For instance, when housesitting in Queensland’s Australia over the Christmas season, I kindly asked if I could host a brunch for fellow Servas members, the homeowner had no objection at all.
House Sitter Checklist # 8: What Are Your Sleeping Arrangements?
Some house sitting jobs might be in luxurious residences with a pool and stunning views, some can be in modest properties. You need to establish what levels of comforts are acceptable to you. You will be living there for a short or long period, so do ask about your sleeping arrangement, if there’s air conditioning, heating and bed size.
If you like cooking, you might ask what type of supplied cooking equipment that may be important to you. In my case, I need a coffee making machine, I simply can’t function without one.
House Sitter Checklist # 9: Are Utilities Included?
You spotted an out-of-this-world house sitting job on a tropical island, fantastic, sounds like paradise and it probably is. Nonetheless, it would be reasonable to find out what is provided to ensure a comfortable climate in the home. Are there any ceiling fans, any air con in the bedroom?
What about fresh water, is it included? Many countries don’t have drinkable tap water which might require you to purchase it, in large quantities.
At the other end of the spectrum, home sitting in cooler climates requires heating. Being Canadian, I take central heating for granted. I’m still amazed, how many countries don’t have proper inside heating such is the case in many United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand homes. Most have fireplaces in the living room with water bottles for the beds (or electric blankets).
Either way, hot or cold, you’ll definitely want to find out what is included or not. Electricity and firewood costs can add up, just be clear with the homeowner beforehand.
House Sitter Checklist # 10: How’s the Internet Connectivity?
Even if you’re not a digital nomad working remotely, wifi is an essential tool of everyday life. It has become vital to keep in touch with friends and family while traveling and also procures entertainment features we’ve grown accustomed to – hello Spotify, Facebook, and YouTube.
For some (like me), a minimum amount of data, speed, and bandwidth are necessary to work therefore this question sits high on my list. You can purchase local SIM cards to supplement any needs but be aware of what is included in the home. For example, you’re addicted to Netflix and the home doesn’t have it, you’ll be going through some your own data real quick.
BONUS Question #11: Where are the Emergency Items?
While this question is solely pertinent to ask once at the actual house sit, it’s nevertheless an important one.
Here are two separate but related stories. Anybody who knows me will tell you how careful and prudent I am. I’m usually prepared for all kinds of events or surprises and usually know where all the needed equipment is to address a certain situation – back home, that is!
My first mishap involved the big propane BBQ, which was set on the second-floor balcony of a Queenslander wooden house. The home owner’s BBQ grill hadn’t been cleaned in ages, next thing you know, 2-foot flames were erupting from it while I was frantically looking for baking soda, starch or, of course, a fire extinguisher.
In another event, returning at dusk with the loaner vehicle and leaving its headlights in the ON position, resulted in a flat battery the next morning. This required some going door to door in the neighborhood asking for booster cables. I managed to get out of both situations with no injuries and only a slightly bruised ego.
I know make it a point to ask were the fire extinguisher and booster cables are 🙂
I’ve been having a wonderful time housesitting around the world from New Zealand, Australia, the Uk, USA and Canada. I enjoy immersing myself as a local and being more than a tourist passing through. It’s been a different experience altogether, one that has made me appreciate each country, its people and culture that much more.
Interested in learning more? Read how to get house sitting jobs and travel rent-free.