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House Sitting Etiquette

Landing your first house sitting job may seem easy, but keeping it, being invited back to house sit again or securing a solid reference from a homeowner is where the real work comes in.

Sure, living in someone else’s home and caring for their home and property may seem like mindless tasks, but in fact, good house sitting requires true commitment, a great attention to detail and a whole lot of respect for the homeowner and his possessions.

As you embark on your house sitting journey, keep these rules of etiquette in mind.

10 Things to Do When You Are House Sitting

  1. Do ask for the house rules. You can’t live up to the homeowner’s expectations if you don’t know them. Be sure to ask for a list of written house rules prior to taking your post. It’s much better to find out you’re not welcome to Chateau Ste. Michelle before you drink it.
  2. Do ask for the WI-FI password. Before the homeowner jet sets to Chili, get the wireless password. Most homeowners are willing to share it if you ask and having it handy can sure make getting online a whole lot easier.
  3. Do keep all of your things in one place. Resist the urge to spread out your belongings across the entire first floor. Instead, pick a room and make that a base camp for your belongings. It’s much easier to pick up and keep track of your personal items if they are all in one place.
  4. Do always keep the house in the same condition you found it, or better. It’s essential to maintain the condition of the house and property. If you arrived and the plants were alive, you best ensure they’re alive when the homeowner returns home.
  5. Do fulfill your obligations. While it may be tempting to grab the mail every other day, don’t. If you agreed to pick it up each day at 5 o’clock sharp, do so. The homeowner is counting on you to do what you’ve promised.
  6. Do replenish any food you’ve eaten. When it comes to perishables that need to be thrown away or eaten, use your discretion when it comes to replacing them. That said, if you’ve killed a bag of gourmet chocolate covered pralines, it’s a good idea to replace them.
  7. Do treat the home as your own, or better. Treat the homeowner’s home and property like your own, but if you don’t treat that with great care and respect, treat it better.
  8. Do say hi to the neighbors. If you’re getting dirty looks from the neighbor, introduce yourself. The last think you want is a well-meaning neighbor to call the police- while the homeowner is in unreachable on an African safari.
  9. Do strip and make your bed prior to departing. After you’ve slept your last night, strip the bed and if time allows, wash the linens. You don’t want to leave the homeowner wondering if his sheets are clean.
  10. Do leave a thoughtful welcome home gift. Whether it’s a vase full of wildflowers or a plate of chocolate chip cookies, leave a small, thoughtful welcome home gift before you depart on your next adventure.

10 Things Not to Do When You Are House Sitting

  1. Don’t break the house rules. If you were asked not to have house guests over, don’t. Homeowners always seem to know when the rules have been broken, especially if there’s a bunch of empties in the recyclables.
  2. Don’t mess with the DVR. The last think you want to do is delete the season finale of Amazing Race that the homeowner has been dying to see. If you can’t figure out the TV or DVR, leave it alone.
  3. Don’t mess with the tech. Same goes for other techy gizmos. If you can’t figure out how to log onto the wireless network, don’t go messing with the settings. It’s better to leave these things alone that to delete something you don’t know how to get back.
  4. Don’t have any guests without permission. If you were not explicitly given permission to have guests over, don’t. While it can be tempting to show off your “new” pad, if you haven’t got permission it could lead to problems. If you’d like to have a friend or two over, be sure to clear it with the homeowner, prior.
  5. Don’t do anything illegal. Enough said.
  6. Don’t raid the wine cellar. You know that cheap bottle of wine you just popped open? Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn it was a wedding gift from the homeowner’s late aunt Methuselah. Even if given permission to drink the wine, it’s wise to be careful taking such liberties.
  7. Don’t be a snoop. It’s only natural to wonder what’s behind cabinet number four, but don’t look. Be respectful of the homeowner’s personal belongings and property. Things behind closed cabinets are on a need to know basis—and 99.9% of the time, you don’t need to know.
  8. Don’t make long distance calls from their landline. Since most house sitters have cell phones, this is rarely a problem, unless of course they forgot to opt for international calling. Don’t make long distance calls from the homeowner’s landline, unless you’re calling her or making a call on behalf of her, of course.
  9. Don’t leave the house without tidying up first. Make it a point to do a quick tidying up before leaving the premises. It would be quite embarrassing if the homeowner returned early and found his place looking like a pig sty.
  10. Don’t neglect your duties. While house sitting may feel like a vacation, and hey, sometimes it really is, it’s vital to remember you’ve agreed to taking on specific duties and responsibilities. Don’t short change the homeowner. Complete all house sitting tasks as agreed upon.

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