So you've found a housesit! Now what? This is a guide on how to be a good housesitter so that the owners want you to come back in the future or give you a good reference for your next target for a housesit.
Housesitting can be a good way to immerse yourself in a community at a very low cost, but it does come with a great deal of responsibility. While housesitting is good for the homeowner, it's also very good for the housesitter, so take your role seriously. They are counting on you, so be sure you're capable of being there and doing what they need.
Communication is Key
Good housesitting starts before you even arrive! Make sure you understand when they need you to be there and if you can arrive early. Let them know of your travel arrangements (and book early). Do they need to pick you up from the airport? You might need to get a taxi or bus to their home. Ask, but don't demand, for some help getting there if you need it. A homeowner will expect you to be able to at least get into the area (within 30 minutes drive). If you have special needs, make sure they're aware of it during the interview process, or be ready to supply them yourself.
While the homeowners are away, make sure you have an open line of communication. If they won't be reachable, make sure you have a way to contact someone else if you need to, like a relative. People get sick or hurt, so if you're in the hospital, you need to make sure you have someone that can help you if need be. Get emergency phone numbers just in case.
Respond to the homeowner quickly and diligently. If there's a problem at the home or with a pet, let them know what the issue is and what you're doing to solve it (or waiting to hear back). If it's not that important, take a note of it to tell them when they return. They should feel like you're OVERsharing, so then they won't wonder if you left something out.
It's possible that the homeowner will ask too much of you. If you agree to it, you are responsible to do it, so if something is too much, be respectful, but state your case for not being expected to do it (or be compensated for it). The sooner you make it clear that you're unhappy about this unexpected request the better for both of you. And don't overstate your abilities. If you've never done something before, arrive early enough for the homeowner to train you for everything they're asking of you.
You Are Responsible
As said before, if you agreed to do something, you're responsible for it. If they have plants with 10 different watering needs, you better get a calendar ready. If they come home to a dead plant, that's on you. Pet care is even more important. If you said you'll do it, then do it. If you think it's too much, then ask them to either find someone else (early in the process) or hire it done. Be reasonable, but expect them to be reasonable, too.
Living in a house has a lot of strings attached to it. If you leave the house, lock the doors. If you take a shower, turn on the fan to avoid mold. If something is missing or damaged, you are responsible. So be a good steward and take care of the place better than if it was your own.
Be A Good Neighbor
Be respectful of your new environment and community! You aren't just a guest in the house, but in the neighborhood or town. Assume that the homeowners have good relationships with their neighbors. This means that if you play music loudly or have a party, etc. that they WILL tattle on you! They also might just be annoyed with you and that can impact the good relationship that the homeowners have built. Plus, if you are a good neighbor, maybe they'll bring you yummy baked goods or invite you for their own parties or events.
Pets Need More
Housesits that include pets require more attention. Most housesits include taking care of pets since they can't be left alone. They don't only need to be kept alive with food and water, but will need love and companionship. Unloved pets can act out, so it's best just to be loving and caring with them. Dogs need walked, cats need a clean litter box. Be ready to go the extra mile for them. It's much harder to find a housesit that doesn't include a pet, but they are out there. If you're uncomfortable taking care of pets, don't accept a housesit with pets! It's as simple as that.
Give What You Get
Being a housesitter comes with a lot of responsibility and expectations, but you are getting a place to sleep, too. The homeowners need you, but you need them as well. Be responsible or get a hotel to stay in. It shouldn't take very long each day to do what's needed of you, so just get it done. Then you can enjoy the rest of the time in your new community!