We’ve been house sitting in Costa Rica for a couple of years now and have walked into all different kinds of situations. Sometimes homes and pets are prepped and ready for a seamless handover, while other times, things are hectic and chaotic. In this post, we offer some tips from our perspective as house sitters on things homeowners can do to get their house ready for a house sit.
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1. Make Space for the House Sitter
This is probably the most overlooked item on this list, but it’s important. You are, after all, trusting this person to take care of your home and precious pets while you’re away. With so much responsibility being handed off, you want to get off to a good start. The perfect way to do that is to make sure the house sitter feels welcome and comfortable.
Simple things will go a long way. Have clean sheets on the beds and towels in the bathroom. Set aside space for them throughout the home. Make room in the closets so they have a place for their clothes, and in the cabinets and refrigerator. It is also a good idea to clean out the fridge as much as possible. We’ve had some house sits where the refrigerator and freezer have been almost completely full, leaving us no space for our own groceries. When this has happened, it is usually full of nearly empty beverage containers, salad dressings, and condiments. This can be frustrating since it forces the house sitter to sift through the items and decide whether to toss things to make room. Taking a little time to clean out your fridge and pantry prior to the house sitter’s arrival will be much appreciated.
2. Define Off-Limit Areas
If there are items or rooms that are off-limits, that is fine, just be sure to put things away and let the house sitter know.
3. Emergency Contacts
If you haven’t already done so, give the house sitter a list of people in the area to contact in case of emergency. Also give them the name of a friend or trusted neighbor in case they have a question about the house or your pets and can’t reach you right away. Also be sure to provide the name and contact info for the local vet and whether they do emergency visits during non-business hours.
It is a good idea to put this and other important information in one document for the house sitter so that they can refer to it during the house sit. They will likely not remember the fine details of everything that you tell them on the day of the handover so it helps to have it in writing. Leaving a printed version somewhere in the house is also good in case the power or Internet goes out and the house sitter can’t access the document online.
4. Details on Nearest Medical Facilities
Since the house sitter is unlikely to be acquainted with the area, it will help to provide them with info on the nearest hospital in case of an emergency. A recommendation for your favorite local dentist would also be good just in case.
5. Your Contact Info
Be sure to leave your travel itinerary with the house sitter and best way to reach you on every leg of the trip. We’ve been in the unfortunate position of not being able to reach a homeowner when we had a major issue with the house because they took a mini-vacation and forgot to tell us. We’ve also had to get in touch with homeowners when an urgent piece of mail arrived at the house.
Make sure that the house sitter has your account information for electricity, gas, water, internet, security system, etc. in case of an outage or other problem. Also be sure to walk them through where the major systems are located and how they work. We have had to deal with several water problems in Costa Rica during house sits and it was nice to know how the pipes were run and system functioned. If you have the owners’ manuals for appliances and utility systems in one spot, that’s even better.
7. Gardeners, Housekeepers, and Other Hired Help
If anyone comes on the property to perform services, explain exactly who comes, when they come, and what their job duties entail.
8. Money for Hired Help, Bills, etc.
If the house sitter is responsible for paying hired help or bills on your behalf, be sure to leave them enough money. Most house sitters prefer to have the money upfront rather than being reimbursed later on. If it is a large sum, you could always arrange to have additional funds be sent to them midway through the house sit. Most house sitters will do an accounting of how the money is being spent, but it doesn’t hurt to ask specifically for this upfront.
If your house sitter will be taking care of your pets, make sure you have adequately stocked up on supplies (food, medication, etc.) or are leaving money for the house sitter to replenish them. Also be sure to provide instructions on when any medications should be administered and notify them if there are any behavioral issues that they should be aware of (e.g., barking, biting, behavior around other dogs, frightened by thunderstorms, etc.).
10. Trash and Recycling
Don’t forget to tell the house sitter trash pick-up days and what to do with recycling.
11. Spare Keys
Leave a spare set of keys with a neighbor or friend and be sure to let the house sitter know how to get in touch with them.
12. Welcome Meal
It is always much appreciated if you have a meal prepared for the house sitter’s first night in the house. This is especially true if the house sitter has traveled a great distance. The meal doesn’t have to be anything special; it’s more of the thought that counts. You can bet that if you leave a lasagna or casserole in the fridge for the house sitter’s first night, they’ll pay it forward and have something yummy for you when you return.
We hope that this checklist helps get you ready for your first house sitters. It may seem like a daunting list, but it is far easier to address these issues upfront than to wait for a problem to arise and have to deal with it from the road.
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below.
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