All About House Sitting

Homeowners who leave their homes for a period of time and prefer not to leave them vacant may entrust their home and property to a house sitter in their absence.

House sitters typically live in the homeowner’s home in exchange for caring for the home, performing routine maintenance and housekeeping tasks and serving as a deterrent to potential trespassers. While this is the most traditional version of a house sitter, some house sitters do not live in the homeowner’s residence, but instead make frequent visits to the homeowners property to perform the agreed upon house sitting tasks.

House sitting jobs can be causal or formal in nature. Some house sitters may simply exchange their services for living rent-free, while others are compensated for their services. It is up to the homeowner and house sitter to establish a mutually agreeable arrangement as pursuant to applicable laws.

Since some insurance companies offer discounts for policyholders who employ a professional house sitter to oversee their property during an extended absence, hiring a house sitter can be of utmost importance for homeowners who incur a high insurance premium. In some countries like Canada, it is not unheard of for insurance companies to actually insist that their policyholders make arrangements for when their homes will be vacant  for an extended period, ideally hiring a full-time house sitter or minimally having an individual monitor and enter the home at least once every four days.

Knowing an individual is present to care for the property and to ensure routine housekeeping tasks are tended to, can provide peace of mind for the homeowner that must leave his abode. For individuals who enjoy traveling or could benefit from living rent-free, house sitting jobs can be a viable employment option.

The History of House Sitting

While the phrase “house sitter” came into wide usage in the English language during the latter half of the 1970′s as a derivative of the term “babysit,” which appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time in 1937, the concept of looking after a friend or neighbor’s home during a vacation or extended absence has likely existed in some form or another for as long as there have been homes to look after or vacations to take.

House sitting as it exists today has roots in the English tradition of caretaking and land management; in 1868, venerable London newspaper The Times defined a caretaker as one “put in charge of a farm from which the tenant has been evicted.” During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, domestic servants often lived on estates year-round in exchange for room and board while the masters of the house traveled, keeping these homes open and in good repair in anticipation of their return. Large estates often employed groundskeepers as well as domestic servants, with a housekeeper overseeing the main house in the mistress’s absence.

Over time, these many roles have evolved into a single streamlined, more modern one, which encompasses everything from casual maintenance done as a personal favor for a vacationing friend or relative to the more inclusive services of a professional house sitter. A select number of professional house sitters have been able to carve out a quite lucrative niche for themselves, spending time in exclusive locations around the world as they care for the main residences or seasonal homes of the well-to-do. House sitting has also become a favorite among travel-hungry retirees, who are able to spend their golden years traveling extensively without draining their savings accounts to pay for expensive temporary rentals in exotic locales.

What is a House Sitter?

Merriam-Webster defines the term “house sitter” as: “a person who occupies a dwelling to provide security and maintenance while a tenant is away.” While a family member or trusted friend might drop in to water plants, care for pets and collect the mail while the homeowner or tenant is away, a true house sitter will live full-time in a property, ensuring the safety of the home as well as performing chores and routine maintenance.

Lawn care and specialized attention to gardens and landscaping may also be included among the expected skills of a professional house sitter; while such the completion of such tasks is almost never expected of a casual caretaker looking after a home as a personal favor. Someone who visits the property on a daily basis to provide light services while living off-premises may also be considered a house sitter.

While house sitting arrangements vary from one appointment to another, depending upon the needs of both the homeowner and the abilities and expectations of the house sitter, one common aspect that each assignment shares is that, regardless of further compensation, the house sitter will live in the property they’re in charge of for the duration of the assignment with no responsibilities to pay rent. While at no time is a house sitter expected to provide the homeowner or tenant with any monetary compensation in the form of rental fees, though arrangements may include a charge for excessive utility usage fees.

Pet sitting services may be combined with house sitting; rather than incurring pet boarding or kennel fees, homeowners and tenants often opt to engage a house sitter with experience tending to household animals. Clients that require extensive pet care and other chores may provide spending money or a small salary in exchange for a house sitter’s services, as well as furnishing all pet-care items and supplies.

Live-in Caretakers

While a caretaker will often collect mail and newspapers for homeowners to peruse after their return, professional house sitters typically forward any mail that appears to be time-sensitive or particularly important, especially if the client will be spending the entirety of their vacation in one location. Live-in house sitters are also responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of any pools and spas on the property, in addition to ensuring that all fixtures inside and outside of the home are in good repair. An experienced, professional house sitter should always have a list of service providers and repair-people in the event of storm damage, leaks or other unforeseen events.

Professional House Sitters

At the turn of the twenty-first century, house sitting as a career began to grow more and more prominent, with an entire lifestyle and house sitting culture springing up around it. Those who are considered the most successful in their field live in one luxurious home after another on salaries which they either earn with limited part-time work outside of those homes or collect as a fee for ensuring the safety and maintenance of their palatial temporary dwellings.

House sitters that build impressive resumes, complete with impeccable references and a reputation for discretion, respect and unwavering attention to detail often manage to carve out a respectable living for themselves by charging for their services, especially when extended arrangements include the care of pets or excessive landscaping. While these professionals have become increasingly more common, the average house sitter barters their services in exchange for the use of a vacation home free of charge. There are as many variations on the theme as there are individual house sitters, but the one thing they all have in common is the ability to live in either the humblest dwellings or the most ostentatious mansions rent-free for the duration of their engagement.

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