Last Updated on November 28, 2020

Are you wondering what house sitting etiquette involves and what to expect when you get a gig? Obviously, house sitting is a big responsibility but you must first meet certain expectations before applying. Once you know what’s expected you’re then ready to accept an offer. This article focuses on the lesser-known expectations and some common sense house sitting etiquette guidelines.

A brindle-coated dog sitting on a vantage point overlooking pine trees.
Nellie – Ramah, New Mexico

We’ve completed over two dozen house sitting jobs ranging from three days to five months. Getting that first sit was the most difficult but we now have plenty of experience to share. Make our house sitting expectations and etiquette guidelines yours and discover the amazing benefits of using this resource anywhere in the world.

Want to Know How to Become a House Sitter and Save Money on Accommodation? 

House Sitting Expectations: What to Know Before You Go

Before getting a house sitting job it’s important to know what homeowners expect from you. This article details the expectations listed below and other house sitter responsibilities once you land that gig.

  • Does your citizenship require you to obtain a visa in the country you’ll be sitting in? Will that visa cover the duration of the sit?
  • Will you need any vaccinations to enter the country you’ll be sitting in?
  • Does the homeowner require you to have your own vehicle or a driver’s license?
  • Exactly what does a house sitter do?
  • What do you expect from a house sit?
  • Dealing with unexpected changes of plans
  • Tails of terror: My personal fears realised

How and Where to Find House Sitting Opportunities Anywhere in The World

House sitting jobs are  a wonderful way to see the world or your own home turf. Amidst the excitement of finding a house sit that sounds perfect, take your time and read the listing thoroughly. Both you as the sitter and the homeowner will each have your own expectations of the house sit.

Getting an assignment typically means joining a house sitting agency. Take your time and research an agency which works best for you. Our house sitting experiences have been through TrustedHousesitters and have spanned almost three years.

Their online service connects house sitters with homeowners throughout the world. What’s more, this is the most prolific house sitting service on the web. That means you’ll have hundreds of opportunities at any moment and in many different countries.

We are affiliates with TrustedHousesitters. If you sign up for TrustedHousesitters using our special 25% discount code below we receive a nominal commission. This deep discount is good for your first year and covers both sitter and homeowner memberships.

Ready to Get Free Accommodation Throughout the World and Get a Discount at TrustedHousesitters.com?

  • Click this link to get a 25% discount on your first year of membership. Or just use our discount code RAF101778 upon checkout.

Special Considerations for International House Sitting: Your Passport and Any Passport Requirements

When pursuing an international house sit please pay careful attention to the following tips:

  • Before applying for an international house sit check and confirm your passport is in order.
  • Secure applicable visas and/or vaccines before your trip.
  • See below for more details on these.

Remember it’s not just your trip which will be ruined if things aren’t in order – the homeowner is also relying on you to make their trip happen. Your responsibilities begin before applying for any house sit.

A tabby cat sleeping on top of a green backpack belonging to a house-sitter.
Your Bags Are Packed, But Are You Ready to Go?

What could be better than finding an international house sit in an exotic locale you’ve always wanted to visit? How about house sitting in Europe? With a valid passport, the funds to travel and any necessary visa(s) secured you’re well underway as long as you’re selected for said dream house sit.

An Irish and United States passport sitting on top of a geometric Navajo weaving.
Are These in Order Before Your House Sit?

However, even if your passport is valid check the expiration date. Many people are unaware of the “Six Month Rule for Passports”, whereby you must have at least six months of validity on your passport for international travel. Therefore, ensure you have six months validity beyond your projected return date. Airlines can and will deny you boarding of your intended flight if you don’t meet the requirements.

Visa Requirements for International House Sitting

Certain countries require a visa of inbound/arriving travellers, i.e. you must have the visa upon arrival. Having worked for an airline I’ve encountered individuals attempting to fly without their required visas. All I can say is this does not end well.

Somehow, if you do make it onto the flight it won’t end well for the airline either – they’ll get slapped with a very hefty fine. You (the visa-less traveller) will be turned around upon arriving at what would’ve been your destination and sent back to where you came from. Airlines have the authority to deny you from boarding if your visa requirements haven’t been met.

A spotted dog with two blue eyes sitting on a stone walkway.
Lily – Ramah, New Mexico

You typically aren’t prompted or advised about visa requirements when booking a flight. Therefore it’s your responsibility to do research before booking and know what’s required before travel.

Visa requirements differ from country to country and depend upon the passport you’re travelling on. Know before you go. Check online for what is required of your specific home country. United States citizens will find a good point of reference here regarding international visa requirements for both business and tourist travel.

Vaccination Requirements for International House Sitting

Ditto on vaccines – certain countries require proof of vaccination(s) upon arrival at their point of entry. United States citizens will find information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on country-specific vaccination requirements.

The N.H.S. and TravelHealthPro also provide a compilation of countries and their vaccination prerequisites. Vaccines must be administered in advance of travel. Be prepared, do your research and yet again, know before you go.

An official yellow International Certificate of Vaccination issued from the CDC on top of a Navajo weaving.
An International House Sit May Require Vaccinations

Driver’s License Requirements

It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyways: Being able to drive and having a valid license is a bonus for house sitting and in some cases a necessity. If your international house sitting assignment requires this make sure you have an international driver’s permit.

Coming from the United States you need a valid U.S. driver’s license in order to obtain an international driver’s permit. Depending on your nationality please check required documentations in your home country to secure this permit.

Typically driving is only required in more rural locations where local bus transportation is sparse. Some homeowners may offer the use of a vehicle but you’re often expected to have your own set of wheels instead.

If the homeowner does offer the use of a vehicle enquire if you’re covered by their insurance. Check the house sitting guidelines for vehicle/driving requirements, if any, before applying and especially if the location of the home is remote.

Exactly What Does a House Sitter Do?

Now that you’ve secured your house sitting gig there are some factors to keep in mind. You are assuming the role of responsibility in the homeowner’s stead, therefore you must act accordingly. Typically the homeowner provides a list of emergency numbers for utilities, plumbers, electricians etc. Are you comfortable handling immediate or ensuing issues and relaying potential problems to the homeowner?

It’s not all about waiting for problems to arise, though. Your responsibilities largely involve time with pets and being a general presence in the house. What follows is common sense, not to mention common courtesy and an example of house sitter responsibilities:

  • Keep the house clean and tidy. At the very least launder the towels and bedclothes you’ve used.
  • Send regular updates via email, photos or video to the homeowners on how their fur babies are keeping.
  • Keep the homeowners informed of any accidents, issues, questions or concerns you may have – nobody wants to come home to any surprises.
  • Feeding, watering, walking and cleaning up after the pet or pets.
  • Providing warm companionship for the pets; the homeowners have chosen you instead of a kennel.
A tabby cat sleeping on a multi-coloured blanket on the back of a sofa.
Mischief – Los Angeles, California
  • Picking up the post and receiving parcel deliveries. We’ve had homeowners ask us to post items to them.
  • Watering indoor and outdoor plants and possibly performing general yard work.
  • Taking any phone messages and relaying these to the homeowner.
  • In rare cases, administering any medication to pets. This has happened to us and it may happen to you.
  • Running errands for the homeowner.

What Do You Expect From a House Sit?

When applying for and performing a house sit make sure your expectations are met as well. If you reach the interview stage with the homeowner use that time to ask questions. Always be prepared by having a list of your questions ready.

A desert tortoise on a terra cotta-coloured floor, one of the more odd pets to take care of while house-sitting.
Rulon – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Your needs are important too, so don’t feel bad assuring this sit won’t have any unexpected surprises before it’s too late! Here’s a list of some very important house sitting expectations to have for yourself:

  • Has the homeowner provided photographs of the pet or pets? Is Fluffy a lap dog or a steak-eating behemoth?
  • How old are the pets? Are they on any medications or special diets?
  • Do the pets need to be walked? How often? Do they interact well around other animals and humans?
  • Has the homeowner provided photographs of the house?
  • Is the house clean, tidy and in good repair?
  • Is there an alarm system in the house?
  • Are there any listening devices, security or pet monitoring cameras? This should be disclosed by the homeowner before the sit is agreed upon. Indeed this is an actual requirement in TrustedHousesitters Terms and Conditions.
  • Will the homeowner provide their address beforehand so you can get information on the neighbourhood?
  • Do you need to pay for any utilities? This hasn’t happened with us, however always check for certain with the homeowner.
  • How fast and reliable is the wi-fi? Is there a data cap? Fast, unlimited wi-fi is very important to us and likely to you, too.
  • Does the homeowner expect you to rarely leave the house? Are you allowed enough time to leisurely explore the area?
  • Are builders scheduled to work on the house while the homeowner is away? Sounds crazy but it can happen…
  • Any unexpected guests arriving? Did they promise the spare bedroom upstairs to cousin Earl for a few nights?

Dealing With Unexpected Changes of Plans

Nobody wants to hear the dreaded words “there’s been a change of plans”! Whether as the house sitter or the homeowner it’s always good to have a plan B if possible. Our house sitting experiences have told us it’s best to be as flexible as possible and to allow for sudden changes.

Be prepared for a house sit to start or end earlier or later than initially agreed upon. Hopefully any changes will be minor variances. Inform homeowners ahead of time if you have another house sitting gig back-to-back with theirs. Homeowners want reliable house sitters – it’s your responsibility to live up to that expectation.

Unexpected circumstances do arise unfortunately. Try to give as much notice as you can, which in the event of a death or medical emergency isn’t always possible. Again, having a plan B is vital as both a house sitter and a homeowner.

A brown dog and black dog, each sleeping on either ends of a brown leather couch.
Bluebell & Ruby – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tails of Terror: My Personal Fears Realised

House sitting assignments vary greatly. Keep in mind certain creatures are natural hunters, i.e. cats – therefore they often come bearing gifts! Be prepared for the possibility of clean-up duty after the hunt. A good case in point is my own personal idiosyncratic phobia, which is a game changer for me! Thankfully Jerry is there to save the day…

A brown and white cat and a tortoise shell cat snuggled up together on a beige couch.
Ned & Lucy – Ramah, New Mexico

I have ornithophobia and pteronophobia – a fear of birds and a fear of feathers respectively. Though not a very common phobia, it’s a handy example of potential unexpected scenarios which may need to be dealt with. Yes, that’s right, we won’t be signing up for any house sits containing birds!

We’ve covered plenty of the expectations you’ll encounter as you look for, apply and accept a house sit. Also, this article pointed out many house sitter responsibilities. Now it’s time to move on to the topic of house sitter decorum…

House-Sitting Etiquette

Consider yourself honoured when invited into a home as a stranger. That complete level of trust bestowed upon you means respectability is in order at every level. I’d like to address the easiest house sitting etiquette code to unintentionally violate, especially in this day and age:

Taking Photos

Remember, you are a guest in someone’s home – this isn’t a photo shoot for “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. What follows are some basic observations to take into consideration before snapping some pictures during a house sit. Although these house sitting guidelines may seem a bit anally-retentive this is in reality being respectful.

Do not take photos of the interior or exterior of someone’s home without their express permission, especially if you plan to share the photos online. Request permission to take photos in or near the home and disclose your intent to post these online. Also request permission from the homeowners if you plan to use photos of their pets online. Homeowners granted permission for each of the photos used in this article.

Naturally, if you’re taking a photo of their fur baby there may furniture or decor in the background; you cannot eliminate the home’s contents completely from your photos. I’m mindful of not including the homeowner’s displayed photographs in the background.

More House Sitting Etiquette to Ponder

A level of decorum is at play before, during and after the house sit. Some of this is obvious and some will catch you off guard. Our experience has prepared us to anticipate these ahead of time and practice other forms of house sitting etiquette while on-site.

  • Accept offers of dinner and/or to spend the night prior to the house sit. The former is a nice gesture; the latter is often a convenience for the homeowner.
  • After accepting the above offer(s), never show up without a small gift. Don’t arrive with one arm longer than the other, as the saying goes!
  • Do not discuss politics, religion, other house sitters or other homeowners. We’ve had to dance around these subjects in the past – awkward
A cat in a bathroom sink, playing a hiding game with the house-sitters.
Zea – Tucson, Arizona
  • Avoid using the homeowner’s address without permission. This goes for receiving your mail or ordering merchandise – it’s the proper thing to do.
  • Don’t even think about inviting family or friends. Also, don’t ask the homeowner if you can invite family or friends, either.
  • Avoid using any of the homeowner’s personal property unless they’ve expressly given you permission to use it.
  • Don’t modify anything on the property unless the homeowner instructs you. Avoid modifying anything you don’t feel comfortable doing!
  • Be mindful of the utilities you use – don’t abuse the heat, air conditioning, electricity, etc.

One Final Bit of Etiquette: A Token of Gratitude

A black cat sitting in a window sill with trees in the background.
Notcha – Pecos, New Mexico

Although not expected, leave a simple note of thanks before leaving. As a house sitter you’ve had the luxury of staying in someone’s home and the use of it’s comforts, all for free; take a brief moment to say thank you.

In Conclusion: House Sitting Harmony

The ultimate goal of a house sit is for a seamless transition between homeowners and house sitters. A successful house sitting experience simply means all parties involved are content and happy at the end of the day.

Being invited back to house sit is an honour. You’ll likely become very attached to your charges and meet the most lovely folk in the homeowners. Personally speaking, we’ve made amazing friends through house sitting. The hardest part is always saying good-bye.

This Article is in Memory of Lucy

A tortoise shell cat lying on a weathered wooden picnic table, posing for a photo for the house-sitters.
Lucy – Ramah, New Mexico

This Article is Also in Memory of Bluebell

An old brown dog sitting on a brown leather couch.
Bluebell – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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brown dog sitting on mountaintop

black dog sitting on dog bed

brown and white dog with blue eyes


  1. Great reading material, I had never considered house sitting for travel and as I am house sitting right now and taking care of the home owners dog, I was given a list of all instructions, which wasn’t very long considering the home owner bought the house my grandparents sold to him, I grew up here and it’s been bitter sweet not much has changed, I know where everything is and belongs because he kept the order. The home owner told me he filled the refrigerator w some meats and shower me where some canned goods were he told me to please help myself because he did this for me bc going into town is 30 miles and the closest grocery store is about 40. I met the homeowner only after my grandparents sold and my husband became good friends with him, today is my last day here and it’s strange I feel like I’m leaving my grandparents home, I’ve been able to share so many of my childhood memories with my husband that I’ve never told him, even where my name is in the concrete in the pole barn, which was neat to see. Previously I took care of his dog during the week for about a year until she had adjusted due to the fact she’s a hunting dog from Texas, it was a complete change for her and she didn’t forget me not one bit, most lovable dog ever, however I have my own dog my husband has been running home everyday to take care of her and our neighbors have been keeping an eye on the house, our dog is protective of me and more lovable with him. All in all it’s been an experience, I found your blog while looking up house sitting etiquette. I just wanted to know what was expected for when the owner returned. Thank you again for the great read and the tips in some of your other articles!

    • Hi Brooke!

      What a nice comment to get from you! I’m happy you found this and and hope it helped you out. Do consider housesitting if you decide to travel – there are so many opportunities around the world with TrustedHousesitters. We’ve used them for a few years and it’s been a great chance for us save money as we travel, get comfortable and fall in love with plenty of cats, dogs and even a desert tortoise and goldfish!

      Sounds like your housesit was special since the home once belonged to your grandparents. And you got to share those memories of their home and your childhood with your husband – how great is that?

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  2. Christine Marlow

    Excellent read, I’ve been forwarding it to friends who are considering house sitters. Lovely to see the photos..we miss Lucy terribly.

  3. Eavan O'Dochartaigh

    A very good read! Thanks Fiona. My airbnb hosts are away this week so I feel a little like a house sitter. In any case, many of the same rules apply. Hope you’re both well!

    • Eavan,

      I’d say the same rules apply, indeed. We are both well and hope the 3 of you are enjoying Sweden. Let us know if any house-sitting gigs pop up!

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

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