Should You Hire a House Sitter?

Burglar breaking into house
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What Does a House Sitter Do?

House sitters offer either overnight services or daily visits. If you want someone to stay in your home each night you are away, look for a house sitter who is willing to move into your house during your vacation. Overnight house sitters typically look after your home, yard, pool and pets every day, just as you would. You can ask them to forward mail, pick up newspapers and report problems to you.

Daily visit house sitters may or may not offer all these services.

House sitting services are negotiable. You should be able to find a house sitter who will perform the tasks you need done, provided you allow yourself enough time for research and negotiations.

How Much Will a House Sitter Cost?

That depends on where you live, how long you want someone to stay in your home and what you want your house sitter to do. Daily rates start as low as $15 and go up from there. Most house sitters charge extra for pet-sitting services, particularly if you have dogs that need daily walks.

How Can I Find a House Sitter?

There are many ways to find a house sitter. You can ask friends and neighbors to refer house sitters. You can use a house sitter referral service or matching service, such as HouseCarers, MindMyHouseHousem8.com (UK and France) or House Sitters America. Check with local universities for students who need a place to stay during school breaks.

Regardless of how you find your house sitter, be sure to check references. Consider asking for a security deposit or bond to cover the cost of any damage your house sitter causes.

How Should I Prepare for My House Sitter's Arrival?

Contact your insurance company and ask whether your house sitter's personal possessions are covered under your policy.

Be sure to tell your insurance agent how long you plan to be away. Advise your house sitter of the results of your inquiry, especially if the sitter's belongings won't be covered.

If you rent, advise your landlord that you plan to use a house sitter and secure permission to do so. Send a written summary of your house sitting arrangements (names, dates, contact information) to your landlord.

What Should I Provide for My House Sitter?

You and your house sitter should come to an agreement about food and utility costs. Your house sitter may ask for a certain amount of money per week to cover the cost of fresh food. Most house sitters expect to provide their own food, however, and will only need money from you to purchase pet food or other house-related necessities. These details should be included in your written contract.

Utility payments are negotiable. You may wish to pay for basic utilities, based on your own usage, and charge your house sitter for excess electricity, natural gas and telephone use. You will also need to discuss computer and cable / satellite TV usage. If you will only be away for a week or two, consider paying those bills for your house sitter.

Take the time to write up checklists, instructions and a contact list for your house sitter.

In case of emergency, your house sitter will need to know whom to call and what to do. Prevent misunderstandings by writing down yard, pool and pet care instructions. Find your appliance instruction manuals and put them in a folder for your house sitter.

How Do I Know It Is Safe to Hire a House Sitter?

Most house sitting arrangements work out well, but problems can arise. Getting good references and signing a written contract are your best protections against damage and liability issues. If you plan to be away from home for several weeks or more, you are probably better off hiring a house sitter than you would be leaving your house vacant.

Many house sitting referral services offer standard house sitting agreements to their members. Your house sitter should be willing to sign a written contract with you.

If you don't use a house sitting referral service, consider working with your attorney to develop a contract that protects everyone involved.

Ask friends or neighbors to check on the house sitter once in a while, and have them contact you if they notice any problems.

What Do I Do if I Have a Problem With My House Sitter?

You probably won't know you have a problem until you return home. If you discover minor damage, you can deduct repair costs from the security deposit before you return it. Be sure to wait until you receive all of your utility bills before you return the security deposit to your house sitter.

If you discover major damage, you may have to take your house sitter to court.