Housesitting can be a financially feasible way of experiencing a new city while helping someone in need, or a way to provide someone you know with assistance while they’re traveling. It can also be a difficult situation if you don’t know what to expect and aren’t adhering to some basic rules of conduct. These are 10 of the rules that every first-time housesitter should know about and make a point of following.
- Leave Things As You Found Them – You may prefer your towels to be stocked a certain way or the books on a shelf to be organized alphabetically, but that doesn’t mean that the owner of the dwelling you’re staying in shares those preferences. When the person you’re housesitting for returns to their home, they should find it in the same shape in which they left it. That means that you don’t move things around, rearrange furniture or clear out drawers while you’re staying there.
- Plants Are Part of the Deal – If you have a decidedly brown thumb, it’s wise to make sure that the house in which you’ll be staying doesn’t boast a large selection of treasured houseplants. When you sign on as a housesitter, you’re agreeing to the upkeep and maintenance of everything on the property. That means caring for any plants on the premises, too.
- Follow Pet Guidelines to the Letter – One of the reasons why many people enter into a housesitting arrangement in the first place is to ensure that not only is their property cared for during a long absence, but also their pets. Traveling with the four-legged members of the family isn’t always feasible, which means that you could be responsible for the care of a pet or two. Make sure that you don’t deviate from pet-care guidelines in the least, because there’s almost certainly a reason why each and every one of those rules exists in the first place.
- Clean Up After Yourself – It should go without saying, but it’s important that you make sure not to leave a mess behind. The last thing a homeowner wants is to come back from a long journey, only to find that their house looks as if it were ransacked. Clean up your own messes, even if you’re housesitting for free.
- Keep All of the Mail – You may make a habit of tossing the offers that you consider junk mail, but the people who live in the home you’re watching might hold on to them. No matter how worthless you think a particular piece of mail is, don’t throw it away. Keep all of the mail that comes to the residence while you’re there, just so you don’t accidentally discard something that’s important to your client.
- Maintain an Open Line of Communication – While a traveler doesn’t want to field a dozen emails every day, you’ll still want to make sure that you’re keeping them apprised of things around the house. You’ll need to know where to forward utility bills, how to handle unforeseen events and how to contact the homeowner if it becomes necessary to do so. The owner of the home you’re watching will also want to know that their property is safe, even if you just send them the all-clear once a week.
- Work Out a Checklist With the Homeowner – Keeping a running mental list of everything you need to do and take care of is just asking for trouble, as something is sure to slip through the cracks. Make sure that, before you take possession of your temporary new dwelling, you have worked out a comprehensive checklist with the rightful owner and have it in writing.
- Understand That Every Arrangement is Different – No two housesitting assignments are the same, which is why you’ll need to make sure that you throw away your preconceived notions before you start your first housesitting stint. Know what your particular agreement entails clearly, not just general guidelines.
- Know the Guest Policy – Some homeowners will be relaxed about the idea of you entertaining in their home, while others will have a strict no-guest policy. Make sure you know where you stand when it comes to guests before the homeowners leave for their trip in order to avoid potential disputes later.
- Buy Your Own Groceries – Unless you’re given express permission to eat or drink anything you find in the house, make a point of providing your own groceries. No one wants to come home to find that their housesitter drank the best bottles of wine, ate the delicacies they were saving and emptied the cabinets.
While it is helpful to be apprised of these guidelines before embarking upon a housesitting adventure, it’s also important to understand that every housesitting arrangement will be different. Knowing the expectations of the homeowner, along with their individual rules and policies, is an essential part of any successful housesitting endeavor, so be sure that you’re working out all of the unique details before taking possession of keys and setting up camp in someone else’s home.