How to Hire a Trustworthy House Sitter (Who Won’t Destroy Your Home)

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing. But when you’re leaving behind everything you own and possibly a menagerie of furry friends, the stress can be considerable: Who will take care of everything while you’re gone?

Most dogs and cats can be boarded, but the costs can add up quickly—especially if you have multiple pets. And news flash: Your plants won’t water themselves. For many vacationers, a house sitter makes the most sense.

But finding a house sitter sometimes makes no sense. You must trust this individual to live in your home—possibly for weeks at a time. If you can’t find a friend or family member to volunteer, you’ll have to trust a stranger in your space—and that’s terrifying.

Use these tips to find—and keep—the perfect house sitter.

Go beyond the obvious choices

We’re sure you already know that when seeking out a trustworthy house sitter, you’ll want to consult your friends and family first. But if they’re unavailable, take it to the next level: Think about the people you regularly do business with, suggests Mark Cianciulli, a real estate agent in Los Angeles.

He turns to other people he’s “familiar with and have somewhat of a personal relationship with,” such as clients or people he’s a client of—think dog walkers, personal trainers, and hair stylists.

Browse house sitting sites (yes, they exist)

Silicon Valley hasn’t overlooked our great national need for house sitters. Websites such as Trusted Housesitters, Nomador, and House Carers can truly make the entire process easier, says Meg Marrs, a senior editor at dog product review website K9 of Mine.

To stanch the anxiety associated with handing over your keys to a stranger, these sites thoroughly verify sitters to ensure they won’t make off with your favorite heirloom necklace. For instance, Trusted Housesitters requires, at a minimum, a driver’s license and one personal reference. For a more-vetted sitter (and for more money), you can find someone who’s been through an identity and background check.

Do your homework

You shouldn’t rely on a website alone to verify your potential house sitter.

“Just because someone posts a profile on an app, or even on a nationally publicized site, doesn’t ensure he or she is a qualified pet sitter operating a legitimate business,” says Meghann Evans of PetSit International, an educational organization for professional pet sitters.

Here’s how to ensure you’re booking a reputable sitter:

  • Read through the sitter’s bio. “This will give you a better idea of their personality and whether or not they’d be a good fit for your needs,” Marrs says. And “any individual who can’t take the time to fully fill out their profile probably isn’t someone you want watching your home.”
  • Before confirming the booking, Evans recommends meeting with the potential sitter—ideally in your home. A video meeting can substitute for sitters who live farther away.
  • Pay attention to the questions the sitter asks, according to Kelly Hayes-Raitt, the author of “How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva.” “Are they asking about how to make your pets happy in your absence and about keeping your home’s routine? Or about things that interest them only?”
  • Take a peek at their social media profiles to get a feel for their personality and past job experience.

Describe the situation appropriately

You want to find someone who actually wants to tackle the job.

“Your goal is to disclose anything that might discourage the wrong house sitter from agreeing to care for your home and pets,” Hayes-Raitt suggests.

Outline your pets’ behaviors: Do they need special medicine? Do your cats and dogs fight like, well, cats and dogs? Explain what your home has to offer, too.

Remember: Many house sitters are full-time nomads, which means they require wireless internet and space to work. You might think your off-grid home is a respite from the world outside, but it might not be convenient for every sitter.

Give thorough expectations

Good house sitters can save the day, but they certainly aren’t mind readers. Make sure your expectations are clear and your instructions are thorough—otherwise you may come home to a dead vegetable garden, or worse.

“Assuming a house sitter will just know (what you expect from them while you’re gone) isn’t reasonable, and it’s up to you to explain every duty and responsibility before you leave,” says Brett Helling, who owns ride-sharing resource Ridester and travels for work regularly.

He recommends printing and laminating instructions to ensure that every ask is within easy reach.

“Knowing I’ve properly explained everything lets me travel with one less thing to worry about while I’m gone,” he says.

Consider cameras

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your sitter actually did a good job and didn’t snoop through your office drawers or destroy your house.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve seen someone exploring my house, going into rooms they have no reason being inside,” Helling says. “Also, if something really bad were to happen while you’re not there, video evidence is irrefutable—there’s no denying what happened.”

Surveillance cameras are tricky territory, though. First, you’ll need to make sure you’re not breaking any kind of wiretapping laws, which vary from state to state. Plus, you can’t record video in a place where someone would reasonably expect privacy, like the bedroom or bathroom.

But if you want audio-free video of your living room and home office, you can set up cameras without disclosing them to your sitter.

Should you? That’s up to you.

Article by Jamie Wiebe