House Sitter Check list: Essentials for Every Sitter

7 Jun, 2019

House Sitter Check list: Essentials for Every Sitter

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How would you prepare the ultimate house sitter check list to ensure peace of mind when you leave home?

Here are some top tips on how to prepare the ultimate check list prepared by trusted house sitters for home and petowners.  While home and petowners experienced in having petsitters at home will have established routines and approaches for how to select and brief the house and petsitter, those who are new to housesitting may find our house sitting guide handy to have.

And for experienced home and petowners it may prove to be a useful aide memoire. The information, ideas and ‘ house sitting rules ‘ presented here are gathered from our members both homeowners and housesitters. We hope you find this useful.

house sitter check list

The ultimate trusted house sitter check list – Where to start

As we reflected on our own house sitter check list we became convinced that both homeowners and housesitters could benefit from the insights of experienced house sitters from all walks of life who enjoy housesitting, caring for property and pets while traveling and experiencing new places and countries.

Here we offer the  contributions of some of the most experienced housesitters we know, people who perhaps started housesitting part-time as a way to explore new locations on a budget or experience new countries from an authentic local perspective.

Eventually most of the housesitters quoted have gone on to do ‘housesitting’ full time, and often internationally. Between them they offer you a wealth of experience, gained by housesitting across continents, managing properties, homes, farms and estates, sometimes holiday homes in far off countries, usually with multiple pets.

What is the ultimate check list?

Together, they offer a fresh perspectives on the  ‘Ultimate house sitter check list’ drawn from years of experience and based on three simple questions:

  1. What must a homeowner look for to select a house-sitter?
  2. What top tips should they consider when briefing their chosen house sitter?
  3. What is best practice when hosting a house sitter?

Selecting – What to look for when ‘you select a house-sitter’

house sitter check list
What criteria do you use to choose a sitter?

What are the most important things to look for in a house sitter when you are selecting someone to care for your property and pets in your absence?  Likely you will never have met them before, and all you have to go on is whatever is given you by the source of information. This is where your house sitter check list can really help.

If that is a housesitting platform such as there will be a well documented profile, with ID and background checks visible or underway.

We offer these to everyone free of charge on the HouseSitMatch network. If the sitters are experienced they will have references to share. They may even offer to talk or meet either virtually on Zoom, Skype or in person if possible. These are the general guidelines we as a housesitting platform would give you as a homeowner and petowner.

We then asked a number of housesitters on our register, all of them experienced and great exponents of housesitting, what they would consider the most important things to look for when selecting a house sitter.

The group house sitter check list for ‘When selecting a house-sitter‘:

Claire Doyle – One housesit completed, another booked

A really good honest house sitter profile.

Tracey & Rob aka The Expat Experiment  a housesitting family 

Selecting someone who is trustworthy and experienced.

Andrew Redfern – Winner of the HouseSitMatch Video Competition

Read and check references and/or letter of introduction. These can give a great insight into the people who have applied.

Vanessa Anderson – Editor of Housesitting Magazine

When selecting a house sitter, I would want to see them advertised on a reputable house sitting platform where some ID check has taken place and I could see a well prepared profile with a history of their sits, references and skills.

house sitter check list - check if sitters are happy with isolation
Some house-sitting assignments are pretty isolated

Tim & Lou – International sitters 

Check that they meet your needs before you choose

That is, before you review the sitters on offer list the things they MUST be capable of doing. It could be critical, for example:

  • Large powerful dogs require an experienced dog handler
  • If you have an off-grid or isolated property, someone who’s comfortable being around generators, understands the workings of this type of property and is happy being in an isolated location
  • I would suggest creating a list of needs and sending them to potential sitters
  • Don’t settle if you don’t think the sitters can’t handle your place – keep looking
  • The Skype call can really be advantageous in this regard, to help you understand the level of their knowledge and adaptability
  • Ask them to demonstrate how and if they’re strong dog handlers, or why they feel comfortable in isolated environments or even to share with you the type of off-grid property experience they have.

Briefing – What’s top of your house sitter check list for ‘ briefing a sitter’

house sitter check list
Meet & greet – first meetings are very important

Claire Doyle – One housesit completed another booked

Clear instructions and relevant phone contacts, for just in case situations.

Tracey and Rob aka Expat Experiment housesitting family

Being honest with them about expectations and pet behaviour. It’s only fair when you leave your pets and property in their care.

Andrew Redfern – Winner of the HouseSitMatch Video Competition

Have prepared written notes or a ‘book of the house’ as the sitter can refer back to this. Owners are used to their home & pet routines but the sitter is not. So having written, thorough instructions can be so useful.

Vanessa Anderson – Editor of HouseSitting magazine

Before the sit, it’s really important to brief the sitters with anything that might affect their ability to complete the sit well. This is really key in a house sitter check list.

What do you discuss in the brief

Talk about the pets, the duties, the location, ease of getting around if there’s no car etc. Don’t hide anything that might later cause an issue. It’s better to be upfront and have a sitter decide the assignment isn’t for them. You can always keep looking for that sitter that is the right one for you! And at the handover, don’t overwhelm the sitter. There’s often a lot of info to take in. Take it slowly. Check they understand.

Ask if they have questions. And if the opportunity is there with dogs, go for a walk together so they can see how the dogs respond to commands, socialise and what their recall is like if off the leash. These are really essential pointers in your house sitter check list.

house sitter check list
A good briefing ahead of the housesit helps ensure success

Tim & Lou International Housesitters 

The success of the house-sit has a great deal to do with preparing your sitter to succeed.  Sits that fail generally suffer from a lack of preparation.  What might go wrong could be in any category –  Environmental, mechanical, pet health.  How should a sitter handle these issues?  Provide them with a map for success.

Silly as it may sound some sitters find themselves handling extraordinary conditions unexpectedly.  We have certainly experienced earthquake, hurricane, tornado, floods and volcanic activity as unexpected challenges to face as part of previous house-sits. Think about the following items, it might be important if your part of the world is vulnerable to extreme weather or environmental conditions:

  • What do you want saved?
  • Where should a sitter go if they must evacuate?
  • What should they do with the pets they can take with them?

Everything matters in a housesit

The most important thing is that you must consider everything. And for that, one requires a Book of the House that is detailed enough for the sitter to handle the ‘What if scenarios’ we dread but just might happen. You know things about your home that nobody else does.  Document those property foibles. The book helps you list everything. It must be your comprehensive house sitter check list for when the sitter is in situ.

Give yourselves one day – at minimum – to go over the home and systems with the sitters.

Take the time to show your sitter your community including dentist, doctor, shopping and points of interest. Include a map.

Cleaning matters a lot when your housesitting

One of the most important tasks apart from caring for the animals is maintaining the home. According to Super Cleaning ‘Cleaning is a vital routine when you are maintaining the home. Whether the property is a large estate or a small apartment cleaning the space where you are living is important. With pets it matters even more. So do maintain those cleaning routines.

house sitter check list brief the sitter on your pets
Prepare a good brief on your pets & property

Hosting – Best practice notes for when ‘Hosting the house sitter’

Claire Doyle – New Irish housesitter who loves Spain

Regarding what food to leave for house sitter – Make sure the basics are available Milk tea sugar bread, the vet’s and a neighbour’s phone number to help in a crisis ???? These are really good pointers in a house sitter check list. It leaves a great impression on me as the sitter.

Tracey and Rob aka Expat Experiment housesitting family

Making room for the sitter’s stuff, cleaning out a space in a closet or drawer, moving important items to an unused area. i.e. moving sentimental breakables to a closet or bedroom. You are better offer feeling secure they are carefully out of harms way.

Andrew Redfern – Winner of the HouseSitMatch video competition

Provide some space for them in a wardrobe, pantry and the fridge. It makes the sitter feel welcome and expected and allows them to be comfortable in the owner’s space. Introducing them to a few neighbours or friends can also be a great help.

Vanessa Anderson – Editor of Housesitting Magazine

When hosting a sitter it’s important to make sure they have really understood the routines and procedures during the handover, where quality time has been allocated. Have they read the home book, asked questions, taken notes?

Have they shown a real interest in the pets? I think it’s also really important to ask the question, “Is there anything you aren’t comfortable with, or that we should be providing you with, before we leave?” Expectations need to be met from both sides to ensure a trouble free sit.

house sitter check list prepare a bedroom
The sitter should have their own space

Tim & Lou – International housesitters 

When hosting or housing a sitter, welcome them.  Treat them like old friends. You will likely become really good friends by the end. This should be top of any house sitter check list. Better bonds are made if you start with this attitude.  Remember, they’re caring for you most valuable possessions so help them feel welcome.

Think of yourself, in a vacation rental or Airbnb.  How do you feel when hospitality is lacking?

The room they are going to be living in should be comfortable, with a bed adequate for the sitters (ie: not a twin for couples). 

Introduce them to friends and neighbours.  Perhaps a community group like Yoga, Tai Chi or a social club.

You must provide the house-sitter with a clean, safe and secure environment. Do not expect the sitter to deep clean your home upon arrival.  It should already be very clean. You can certainly ask them to keep the property clean for you.

In summary, all our sitters made excellent points for their personal house sitter check list items. They help us understand about how to ‘select’, ‘brief’ and ‘host’ a sitter. Did any of these points make it onto your house sitter check list?

So why not start your housesitting adventure now. You can find your house and petsitting solution register with HouseSitMatch:

To register as a House-sitter follow this link

To register as a Homeowner follow this link


Further reading about housesitting and trusted house sitters

At we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitters and house sitting in London useful.

What is House Sitting?

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Founder and Director of HouseSitMatch - I'm a hands-on Admin on the site. Please ask any questions and as soon as I can I'll happily answer and assist where I can.

1 comment

  1. A great article Lamia. With 3 years of house sitting under our belts I still like to read tips from home owners and other sitters to make sure we’re staying up to date.

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