By Richard Montgomery
Reader Question: We have a chance to take a six-month trip to Australia. We have always cared for our home ourselves. We have several pets, yard work, maintenance items and other responsibilities. Is a full-time house sitter a good idea?
Monty’s Answer: The internet has allowed the advance of this business model which has fueled the growth of the house sitting concept. Pet care is the primary driver. Many options impact the service. The popularity of your location, the size of your home, your expectations, your budget, and more.
Direct versus match service
The direct method means to engage a local person. You make the match between you and the house sitter; there is no company between you and the housesitter. You would find these local services through word-of-mouth, local classified newspaper ads, or an internet search. The local house sitter will likely mean you pay the house sitter as they already have a home.
An online house sitting services is a matching service. It is still up to each homeowner and each house sitter to vet the other in deciding if there is a match, but the company is the filter which makes the introduction. Depending on how long these services have existed, they often have repeat users of their services. These sitting jobs often, but not always, are a trade-off where occupying your home is seen by the homesitter as free rent, so they work free in exchange for living there.
House sitting businesses offer a variety of methods and services to meet the needs of consumers. Because they have a pool of house sitters to match with you, they can provide live-in service vs. daily visits, home swaps, a variety of pet types, many favorite locations, free or paid house sitting, and other features.
Eight Important Homeowner Considerations
- Vetting the individual or individuals is the number one factor. Homesitters are often a couple that comes as a package. Personal habits such as allowing visitors, automobile usage, groceries for them and the pets, the care of your pets, routines, food portions, variety and timing of meals, exercise, and other house rules need to be communicated and understood. Some of the matching services will offer templates, checklists, and even sample contracts to inspire a mutual understanding.
- Insurance is a critical component. Remember to includes coverage if operating your vehicle is part of the agreement. Some home insurance policies require occupancy to maintain full coverage so reading the policy or checking in with your insurance agent to make certain you understand your coverage.
- Remember to include responsibilities around the exterior and interior maintenance such as lawn care, snow removal, changing filters, floor care, and more, in the house rules.
- List the contractors you use should a need arise outside ordinary wear and tear. Roof leaks, HVAC interruptions, water filtration systems, are examples of systems that conceivably may require service calls.
- Communication between you and the house sitter are necessary. A method that works for both of you should be established and honored by both parties during the engagement. Australia is on the other side of the world and time zones are important to consider if an email system is not the primary method chosen. Consider enlisting a local contact person other than the house sitter with access to the house who can be your eyes in emergencies.
- Pre-plan execution of financial matters you normally handle at home. What will come in the US mail? How will the utility bills be handled? Can we pay them in advance? Are tax bills prepaid? Can magazine renewals and mortgage payments be payable online or auto-withdrawals established? How and when will you pay the housesitter? There are online services you can join such as PayPal and Venmo before your adventure begins.
- Security and oversight are also available today with real-time cameras that can be operated remotely from around the world. It is simply an additional tool that provides peace of mind. Relocate expensive jewelry, documents, and prized possessions in a secured room or safe deposit box before you leave.
- Secure a written agreement to describe and deal with all the terms and conditions of the engagement.
Unplanned and unwanted events can occur when you are home and when others care for your pets and your home. With the precautions described in the items listed above, along with other requirements you may present, home sitting is an accepted business service that fills an ongoing need.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money – An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Ask him questions at DearMonty.com.