Getting Your Home Ready for a House Sit: 12 Tips for Homeowners

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.

Discount Code: Check out the bottom of this post for a code to save 10% on a Trusted Housesitters Membership.

Getting Your Home Ready for a House Sit: A Checklist for Homeowners

 

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.

6. Utilities

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.

9. Pets

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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If you purchase a membership using the link above, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Great article. Very comprehensive.

    One issue for me as a licensed driver but non-car owner is whether the owners are leaving their car and whether they are prepared to allow me to use it. There are considerations like insurance and excess payments, as well as pure preference. I never expect to have such access, however, in 50-75% of my housesits, I have such access and it’s brilliant for me.

    Also, good to be on hand if there are any pet-related emergencies, or just to take the dogs to the dog park.

    In my current housesit they’ve left me a choice of two!

    1. Hi Bill, Thanks for checking out our website. The car issue is a great point and something that should definitely be worked out well in advance of a house sit. We have a car in Costa Rica since we live here so haven’t had any issues ourselves but I can see how it would be tough if you’re just traveling to another country briefly for a house sit. It’s great that you’ve had so many gigs with one!

  2. First off I want to let you know how much I’m enjoying your blog and thank-you for putting out so much valuable information. We are planning our own two weeks in Costa Rica for this November and I find myself constantly cross referencing back to your site whenever I look something up.

    This post however made me giggle, as we were the chaotic scrambling homeowners of which you speak when we tried to leave for our last trip.

    We had someone hired to do daily visits to check on the house, play with the dogs and collect the eggs. We had used her many times before and she had a full list of contact info for vets and trades in her file, had a key to the house etc.

    So quite relaxed, with the luggage in the car and an hour before go-time to the airport, I get a text…..
    “I got bit by a cat I was taking care of last week, it’s infected and I’m in the hospital on IV antibiotics. I have to cancel. ”

    I will leave it to your imagination as to what the reaction was….

    ….but in that hour we not only found someone to take her place, and he would be staying in the house as compared to just visits, arriving long after we had to leave….
    …..but we also managed to write out the longest, disjointed, hand scribbled, 6 pages of instructions about the house, the critters, egg collection, contact info, etc. My own version of OCD kicked in and I got the entirely clean house cleaned again because OMG, somebody is going to be living here. Luckily we have a spare room with empty closets that is always made up and closed off so that the cat doesn’t claim it. The fridge and freezer were beyond over full as I had just finished harvesting and stockpiling enough food to get us through the winter. We just gave him full permission to help himself to any and all food that he needed, meals were on us as a thank you…….he bought all his own anyways.

    Hours later, sitting in the airport, minds still racing, we realized that, even though he had stayed with us before…..
    has he ever met the new dog??
    did he know we now have rabbits too when he said yes??
    did we even write down the new dogs name ??
    …and we both decided that we should put together a “house manual” that has everything in order so that we can just pull it out when needed in case this ever, God forbid, happens again.

    ….we went on our holiday, all worked out on the Homefront, and said manual was forgotten. Until I read this post.

    So, once again, thank-you.

    1. Hi Nicole, Wow, that is quite the story. It sounds like you made the best of it though. I’m sure your replacement house sitter was very grateful to have the six scribbled pages of notes even if it was disjointed! We wrote this post because of all the things that can happen during a house sit that you think will never actually happen. We never expected to deal with water and plumbing failures on our first house sit (multiple times!) and were so happy when we found what we needed in the homeowners’ notes and manuals. So helpful especially since we couldn’t reach them. It’s a great idea to make up a house manual in case the unexpected ever happens again. Thanks for taking the time to share your story. Hope you have a great visit to CR in November!

  3. This is a great article. My partner and I are housesitters ourselves and have been housesitting all over the world. We recently had a very confusing and disturbing development with our homeowners. We were on assignment in New Zealand, Christchurch looking after a bunny. We started the housesit very well – the homeowners were very polite and they even invited us to move in 3 days before they leave, which was very generous.
    So, they left and we sent them updates about the house and bunny throughout the housesit and other than and an old handle mechanism breaking upon touching it and the dishwasher stopped working mid-cycle there were no problems. They even had to stop by a few times in between trips – during which they looked completely normal and happy.

    4 days before the end of the housesit, this unexpected turn of events took place:
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Houseowner 15:52: We have decided to come back early so if you can be organised to leave tomorrow my friend Sophie will be round at midday to sort things out at the house and collect keys. If you can leave the linen laundry I will do it as we have laundry powder allergies.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    At this point, we were quite stunned, as of course plans change and we are no stranger to being flexible however there was no ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ or any consideration/empathy/sympathy, you name it or any remote version of an explanation – in fact – we considered this down right rude. Also, in our opinion, this matter deserves at least a phone call.

    Furthermore, this was at the end of a year-long trip, hence our bags had not been packed for ages and there was a certain fraction of our luggage that we had to send home as it was too heavy. We also had 12 meals worth of food in the house, which for us is a lot of money. So we responded with this:
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Housesitter : ‘Name’, this is quite sudden, we currently have no where to go and arranging a place to move out to for tomorrow will be almost impossible. We need to pack our bags properly. We don’t have our car anymore. We have food here that needs cooking and a fridge. Would it be too much to ask to put our tent in the your garden just so we can get things sorted and make sure we don’t forget anything?

    Homeowners : My suggestion would be campground or try YMCA. From my experience it is not unreasonable to pack in one day and if you haven’t spread out all over the house I’m sure nothing will be forgotten. it’s unfortunate but it’s what needs to happen. I trust you will organise yourselves and be ready.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    At this time of year in Christchurch most of the ones we could afford were fully booked or too far. And may I point out that they did not give us a day to sort our affairs as they contacted us at 4pm – that is closer to evening and then we were commanded to leave at noon the following morning (most of that time would be ordinarily meant for sleep).
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Housesitter : What about all the food in the freezer and the fridge. Did we do something wrong? Is everything okay?

    Homeowner: I’m sure you can take it with you and put it in a camp site fridge or something, can’t be much given you were leaving on Sat. Everything is fine but not up for negotiation, I understand that it is not what was planned but one should be prepared for plans changing. Sophie will be there tomorrow and we expect you’ll be ready and have the keys for her.

    Housesitter: We are are leaving tomorrow. We have found your approach to this very rude – at least we deserved a phone call and a reason, since we did have an agreement. Since we will not be seeing you again… Goodbye!
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    At that point, we started rushing about, tidying, packing and thinking over the situation, which seemed highly irregular – they refused to ring or pick up. Then we got confused, as her very young daughter is named Sophie and in the rush and confusion we had read that Sophie’s friend, who wouldn’t be mush older would be coming to pick up the key, so…

    Plus, why couldn’t we wait for them to come back so we can be sure to hand the key to them, personally?! It sounded suspicious and out of character and with all this hostility…
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Housesitter: Who is the person the keys are to go to? What is their name and how are we to know them by sight? As we are not comfortable just handing other people’s keys to people we haven’t met.

    Homeowner: Seriously, her name is Sophie, like I said, she will turn up when I said and identify herself. Some random person is not going to walk off the street and ask for our keys. I trust her completely so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t met her.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Now, this was getting out of hand – the people we had met at the start of the housesit would not be this rude and ignorant, hence we started to get worried with all sorts of ideas coming into our heads, including: phone scam, someone stealing their phones, etc. Therefore, we decided to make sure it was them texting as they refused to call, so we called the wife’s, the husband’s and the emergency phone the father and all went to voicemail.

    Now, what would you make of this?

    We were really freaked out.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Homeowner: Poli, there is no need to keep calling, we have tried to be respectful and not say anything that’s not acceptable whereas I find you have not shown maturity in the situation which I understand you may feel is unfair, at the end of the day it is our house and property and we have given instructions on how and when to vacate the property, we are trying to enjoy our family holiday and ask you to respect that.

    Housesitter: ‘Name’, we are leaving tomorrow, it’s not the premise that you have asked us to leave its the way you did it – yesterday your rang us to ask about the dishwasher because you’d rather not text and now this over text? If something has happened that you don’t want to tell us we respect that and your privacy but this seems very out of character
    With all due respect, as Housesitters it’s our responsibility to keep the house we are staying in safe, therefore we’re making sure that this really is you and we’re not passing your house keys over to some random person.

    Housesitter: Yesterday I was busy and it was easier to phone than txt, today given the situation it is easy to txt so there is less rudeness…given I have nothing about the house sit in my phone and I know that you tried calling ‘my husband’ as well I assure you it is me, and I know you’re at my house since the 16 th, you are sleeping in my room, and if you have them can you leave receipts and change from ‘rabbits’ food purchases.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    We saw no respect in any of their messages the only rudeness arose from their initiating this exchange in the manner and tone displayed, via text. We weren’t even sure it was them and were trying to keep their house safe from intruders. They obviously didn’t see this and responded even more rudely. We can only imagine that shame and cowardice prevented them from calling as they must have known what they were doing is wrong – why otherwise would they expect us to react badly, which we wouldn’t have even if the reason for coming back was not an emergency.
    They knew we had been on the road for a long time and we were up until 4am packing to make sure we had everything ready. We barely found a place to go the next day as we knew that they will all be booked and even then we could only afford 2 nights.

    Can anyone please explain and help us understand? Has anything like this happened to you out of the blue? What would have done in our place?

    Sorry this is so long, but we really need an outsiders opinion.
    And again, your blog was really helpful and well written.

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