Getting to Yes with Housesitting

When you’re new to housesitting, it can be difficult to know all the questions you should ask, the things you should consider, etc. Since we’ve been housesitting for a while, and have had some rather interesting experiences, I wanted to give people some ideas of what they need to know before getting to yes.

It’s really important that you and the owner(s) feel good about your choice. They need to know they can relax with you in their home, and you want to feel like it’s a good fit for you as well. Once you confirm a sit, you’re committed.

One of the biggest compliments we get from owners is how they didn’t feel like they had anything to worry about with their home and pets in our care. That shouldn’t be one-sided, though. If you have doubts, concerns, etc., you want those ironed out before you both say yes.

getting to yes

First things first

What are your deal breakers? You want to take some time to sit down and write the things that are the most important to you, the things you just can’t accept if you’re going to take a sit. For instance, is it important to you that they have cable/satellite TV with English language channels?

It may sound silly, but for some people that’s a big deal. We couldn’t care less if they don’t have TV; however, if there is no WiFi, we probably cannot take the sit. I do a lot of my income earning online, it’s how I stay connected, my son does his education online, and he keeps in touch with his friends via the Internet.

We did say yes to a house sit in Morocco that required 3G dongles, but it was an opportunity to live on an oasis in Morocco! Hello!

Next, write down the things that are of importance to you. Will your child be able to have their own room (one of my son’s deal breakers)? Do you not want to take dogs on a walk fives times a day in every kind of weather?

If a car is required/recommended, will you be able to use theirs or will you need to rent/own one yourself?

This list comes in handy when assessing potential sits as well. Neither one of us wants to muck stables, so if a sit lists that they have horses I will either not apply or will ask what would our responsibilities be for the horses. We had a sit that included five horses, but they had someone else who did 100% of their care so it wasn’t an issue.

getting to yes

Other questions

  • What are you expected to pay yourself? For instance, do they want the sitters to pay for their utilities? If one of the animals has to have vet services, will you have to pay for this out of pocket initially? (Almost every sit we’ve done has either left behind emergency money and/or had an account with the vet.) If your budget is pretty tight, you’ll want to know what contingencies to be prepared for.
  • If they haven’t sent you any photos of the home, you might want to ask for these. We discovered one of our potential sits only had a one-burner camping stove as a cooking surface when they sent us some photos. It had never even occurred to me to ask “Do you have a stove?” This was in Thailand, though, and I already knew that homes commonly didn’t have a kitchen. Plus, I can work with that so no big deal. Of course, photos aren’t always 100% reliable, but at least you can get a general idea about the place.
  • How will you do your food shopping? Are the shops only a 10-minute walk away, or will you need a car or something? For the oasis, shopping was at least a half-day process that required 2-3 trips into town a week because of our tiny refrigerator. For our sit in Mexico, they picked us up the day before so we could get groceries to last for a while. They also left behind money to be used for paying for a couple of trips back and forth by taxi and for the delivery charge if we wanted to order delivery a couple of times. As they were quite remote, this was a huge help.
  • If the bus is your only method of available transportation, make sure you either find out from the owner or you have researched the cost. A friend of ours was shocked to learn that her bus trip into town for shopping was going to cost her 11 EUR (about $12.50 USD). If you’re using their vehicle and can only drive an automatic, make sure to find about this as well. Many cars outside the US are manuals.
  • Along with the above, make sure you’ve researched how to get there from the airport, etc. We had a very attractive potential sit, but after doing some research and confirming with the owners, I discovered it was going to be an additional $300 in transportation costs. This isn’t something you want to find out after you’ve already committed to doing the sit!

getting to yes

  • Do they have a lot of animals to care for? You may want to ask about their routine so you don’t get any surprises. I know of some sits where the sitters have to cook for the pets. If there are “livestock” animals (chickens, sheep, ducks, horses, etc.), you may want to find out where they are located in relation to the house. When we had 35 chickens and were told the house was “an old farm house,” so I just assumed they would be located in a field on the same property. Nope!
  • If you’ll be there during the summer or winter, find out what type of cooling and heating they have. For some places it’s no issue, but if you’re doing a sit in the mountains where it’s 100 degrees below the point where Hell freezes over, you may want to know that there is only a wood stove in the living room that doesn’t quite heat the bedroom. Most homeowners include these nuggets of info, but not always. In Malaysia, we knew we would only have fans for every room but the main bedroom (which had AC). We were used to the tropical heat at that point, so it wasn’t as big of a deal. If that were to be the case now, I’d probably have to pass because I’m pretty sure I would melt.
  • Will they want you to arrive early and/or stay later than the dates of the actual sit? Mostly this is just so you can properly plan for flights, etc. Sometimes owners want you there for 2 days before they go to make sure you completely understand the routine. If they’re flying somewhere far away (or to a place that often has rough weather), you might want to plan your departure for the day after their scheduled routine in case they have issues getting back. We had one sit where they weren’t returning until later in the evening, and a friend was coming so we wouldn’t be able to stay in the home afterward. That was helpful to know for planning purposes. However, our homeowners in Florida were kind enough to allow us to stay a couple of nights beyond the sit because airfares were a lot cheaper then.
  • What are the opportunities for you to get away and do a little exploring? Some owners don’t want their pets left alone for more than 3-4 hours, while others are perfectly fine being sans human for most of the day. If you can only leave Fifi for 3 hours and the train ride into town takes 1 hour, you won’t get much of a break. Are you OK with that?For long sits (more than a month) in remote locations, you may want to ask about arranging another sitter for 2-3 days or something for a break. I knew that living on an oasis for 2 months was going to be pretty isolated, so we arranged to hire (at our expense) the couple’s handyman to stay at the home for a few days to break up the sit while we went to the “big city” a few hours away. It was a good recharge for us. Later, we were thrilled to be in a small, rural village in the UK for a few weeks, especially after 9 weeks of steady travel. Similarly, we stayed in a rural location on an island near Seattle, and it was like being in a forest getaway. Even though we had a car to use, we were pretty content to mostly stay at home.
  • Last, but not least, make sure you’re aware of how long you can stay in the country if it’s a foreign house sit. You don’t want to say yes to a 4-month sit in France only to discover you’ll be staying there illegally after 90 days and could end up being banned from entering most of Europe for the next 2 years. Also, some visas have to be applied for in advance, and some can be an absolute trial by fire to acquire.

What tips do you have for things to find out before getting to yes?

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  1. H, great article, we’ve just finished our first pet sit, adorable dog, everything was perfect, 5* review which was lovely to receive. We are now planning more (5 in the bag) and want to travel, pet sitting in locations we want to see and after the sit, check into somewhere to explore, as you say while doing a pet sit the priority must be the pets and house care. I just have to become better at downsizing for travelling that length of time and embrace being a travelling gypsy, Julie x

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  2. Some great advice for getting that house sit. I know that without house sitting, we would have had to return to Australia a long time ago.

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    • It has made such a huge difference for us. Not only have we had some amazing experiences, but it’s enabled us to stay longer in more expensive places and has definitely gotten us through some pretty tight budget moments.

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  3. Thank you for posting this!

    I think it’s important to sit down and think about what you’ll be doing for that time where you’re house sitting and not just see it as “free accomodation”. Sure you don’t pay anything to stay there but you are giving them your labour looking after their home and pets and should considder that as well as the lifestyle you will be living over that period.

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    • Absolutely! I cringe when I see people refer to it as free accommodation. I think that’s the wrong mindset.

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  4. This is absolutely superb and includes so much that many won’t consider on their first, third, or thirtieth house sitting application.

    I really have to thank you and Dani of Globetrottergirls too for inspiring Franca and I to start house sitting in the first place.

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    • Thanks, Dale! I’m so glad to see that you feel the article was so helpful. House sitting is so awesome! You guys sure have had some great ones.

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  5. Great post Talon. I’m considering housesitting and yes, it’s really useful to make a good list of the things you’ll need to know in advance. I feel the same about TV ie: couldn’t care less, but Wi-Fi is a big thing – for everyone I imagine.

    Where’s your next sit?

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    • Yeah, I think WiFi is becoming more and more important to people who are doing house sits. I notice a lot of ads make sure to mention they have it.

      Our next sit is scheduled for the end of the year outside London. Pretty rare for us to be scheduled that far in advance, but wanted to grab it since it would mean being near London at Christmastime.

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  6. Wow, so many things I hadn’t thought of before! You see so many posts from the point of view of making the homeowner feel comfortable with accepting you, but it’s of course really important to think about it from the house sitter’s point of view…especially since most of us bloggers writing about housesitting are the ones doing the sits – duh! Like you guys, I always do a quick scan of the listing to see if they mention wifi before considering it any further, because if not, it probably won’t work for us. Now I need to go and ask the couple we’re housesitting for in April about all the things I’d neglected to ask before. I know for sure that they have wifi, though!

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    • I wish they would mention having to have a car earlier in the ad as well. I hate when I read through a long description and get all excited only to discover you have to have a car. LOL

      I think people tend to forget they’re providing a service when they do a sit, and that you can effectively be locked into an uncomfortable situation if you didn’t make sure you got all the information you needed in advance.

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  7. Great post Talon, we have been guilty of not asking enough questions in the past. Fortunately it has never bit us in the butt. We should get a written list together, I don’t know why we haven’t yet.

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    • Yeah, we’ve been mostly lucky, too. For me the biggest thing is having your deal breakers down. We had one the other day that was an automatic no because they couldn’t accommodate one of ours. Makes things less stressful.

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  8. Hi Talon. Am really interested to sign up as a housesitter (I think I saved your affiliate link before), but I don’t know if there are a lot of options in South America. I’m going to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador. I don’t want to sign up and find out there’re no opportunities there. Are there? Or just mostly in Europe? Thanks!

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    • There are some, but South America is pretty limited. However, all of the sites allow you to do a search without being a member. So I would suggest visiting the various sites and seeing if they have sits in areas you’re interested in before you decide on joining.

      Ecuador does tend to have one occasionally, but I rarely seem them anywhere else in South America.

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