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This Post is in Memory of Lucy
This Post is also in Memory of Bluebell
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. For U.S. citizens click here for a good point of reference on international visa requirements for both business and tourist travel.
Ditto on vaccines, certain countries require proof of vaccinations upon arrival at their port/point of entry. U.S. citizens click here for 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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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