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Responsible and Reliable House-sitters Wanted!

The prequel to this piece looked at finding a suitable house-sitting service and signing up for membership, thus giving you access to their catalogue of listings. It also walked you through setting up a profile and provided you with tips on applying for and securing a house-sit.

In this post we consider the fundamentals of house-sitting or essentially, know before you go. House-sitting is a wonderful way to see the world or even your own home turf. Amidst the excitement of finding a house-sit that sounds perfect, take your time and read through the listing thoroughly. Both you as the house-sitter, and the home-owner will each have your own expectations of the house-sit.

Nellie – Ramah, New Mexico

House-Sitting Opportunities Anywhere in The World

Getting a sit 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 for over two years. Their online service connects sitters with homeowners throughout the world. What’s more, this is the most prolific sitting service on the web so you’ll have hundreds and 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% off membership link we receive a nominal commission. This deep discount is good for your first year and covers both sitter and home-owner memberships.

International House-sitting

If you plan on pursuing an international house-sit, please pay careful attention to the following house-sitting tips. Before you even apply for an overseas house-sit check and confirm your passport is in order. Ensure that any applicable visas and/or vaccines can and will be secured before your trip.

Remember it’s not just your trip that will be ruined if you do not have everything in order, there is a home-owner relying on you. Your responsibilities begin before you apply for an international house-sit.

Your Bags Are Packed, But Are You Really Ready To Go?

What could be better than finding a house-sit in an exotic locale you’ve always wanted to visit? How about house-sitting in Europe? Often, as long as you have a valid passport and of course the funds to travel you are well underway – as long as you are selected for said dream house-sit.

Passport Requirements

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 do not meet the requirements.

Visa Requirements

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 it doesn’t end well.

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

Lily – Ramah, New Mexico

Typically you are not prompted or advised about visa requirements when you book a flight. Therefore it is your responsibility to do your research before booking and know what is required of you in order to travel.

Visa requirements differ from country to country and are dependent upon the passport you are travelling on. Know before you go. Check online for what is required of your specific home country. U.S. citizens will find a good point of reference for international visa requirements for both business and tourist travel online.

Vaccination Requirements

Ditto on vaccines – certain countries require proof of vaccinations upon arrival at their port/point of entry. U.S. citizens will find an overview 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 have to be administered in advance of travel. Be prepared, do your research and yet again, know before you go.

Driver’s License Requirements

It may go without saying but I’ll say it anyways, being able to drive and having a valid driver’s license is a bonus for house-sitting and in some cases a necessity. If you are undertaking an international house-sitting assignment that requires driving make sure you have an international driver’s permit, also known as an international driver’s license. Coming from the States you must first hold 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 international permit.

Rulon – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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 more often than not you will be expected to have your own set of wheels. If the home-owner does offer the use of a vehicle enquire if you will be covered by their insurance. Check the house-sitting guidelines for vehicle/driving requirements if any before applying, especially if the location is remote.

Tails of the Unexpected

Nobody wants to hear the dreaded words there’s been a change of plans! Whether you are the house-sitter or the home-owner it is always good to have a plan B if possible.

Our house-sitting experiences have told us it’s best to be flexible. 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 is your responsibility to live up to that expectation.

Unexpected circumstances do arise unfortunately. If this is the case try to give the other party as much notice as possible, which in the event of a death or medical emergency is not always possible. Again having a plan B is vital as both a house-sitter and a homeowner.

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

The Responsibilities of House-sitting

Now that you’ve secured your house-sitting gig there are some factors to keep in mind. What follows is really just common sense, not to mention common courtesy.

  • Keep the house clean and tidy. At the very least, launder all towels and bedclothes that you have used and tidy up after yourself.
  • 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. You are assuming the role of responsibility in the homeowner’s stead therefore you must act accordingly. Typically the homeowner will provide a list of emergency numbers including utilities, plumbers, electricians etc…
tabby cat sleeping on a multi coloured blanket on the back of a sofa.
Mischief – Los Angeles, California

Photo Etiquette

Remember, you are a guest in someone’s home. This is not a photo shoot for “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. What follows are some basic observations to take into consideration before snapping some pictures on a house-sit.

  • Do not take photos of the interior or exterior of someone’s home without their express permission, especially if you plan on sharing them online. Make sure you disclose to the homeowner if your intent is to post any photos of any of their property online.
  • Request permission from the homeowners if you plan on using any photographs of their pets online.
  • Naturally if you are taking a photo of their fur baby there may be a piece of furniture or some home decor in the background; you cannot eliminate the home’s contents completely from your photos. Having said that, I try to be mindful of not including the homeowner’s displayed photographs in the background.

Although these house-sitting guidelines may seem a bit anally retentive, in reality it is just being respectful.

Cat sitting in a bathroom sink
Zea – Tucson, Arizona

House-sitting Scenarios

House-sitting assignments can vary greatly. Keep in mind certain creatures are natural hunters, i.e. cats – therefore they may come bearing gifts! Be prepared for the possibility of clean-up duty after the hunt.

Case in point is my own personal idiosyncratic phobia, which is a game changer when it comes to house-sits for me. Thankfully Jerry is there to save the day. I have ornithophobia and pteronophobia, a fear of birds and a fear of feathers respectively. Yes that’s right, I will not be signing up for any house-sits containing birds!

We have however minded many sweet wee kitties, several of whom have a predilection for what is their natural prey – birds. Thankfully Jerry was there to dispose of the evidence whilst I was safely locked in a different room. Though not a very common phobia, it is a handy example of potential unexpected scenarios that may have to be dealt with.

brown and white cat and a tortoiseshell cat snuggled up together on a beige couch
Ned and Lucy – Ramah, New Mexico

A Token of Gratitude

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

Black cat sitting in a window sill
Notcha – Pecos, New Mexico

House-sitting Harmony

The ultimate goal of a house-sit is for a seamless transition between the home-owners and the house-sitters. Successful house-sitting experiences simply means all parties involved are content and happy at the end of the day.

It is an honour to be invited back to house-sit  There is no doubt you will become very attached to all of your charges and you will meet the most lovely folk in the home-owners. Personally speaking, we have made some amazing friends through house-sitting. The hardest part of a house-sit is saying good-bye.

This Post is in Memory of Lucy

tortoise shell cat lying on a picnic table
Lucy, Ramah, New Mexico

This Post is also in Memory of Bluebell

Brown dog 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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