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What does a House Sitter do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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A house sitter temporarily lives in a residence that is not hers to deter intruders and keep the household in shape while the regular occupant is away. She may live in a rental unit or a house that is owned by the resident. Her job may last a few nights up to several months. In some cases, she may work for an agency, though most house sitters are independent contractors.

People are commonly reluctant to leave their homes unattended for extended periods of time while they travel for business or pleasure. They frequently worry about burglars or vandals invading their home or destroying property or landscaping outside the house while they are gone. Others fret over mail or newspapers not being collected in a timely manner. The presence of a sitter and the absence of uncollected deliveries typically discourage prowlers.

Other duties normally performed by a house sitter include the upkeep of the home and yard. She is generally required to perform light housekeeping to keep the house free of dust and clutter. Watering houseplants, grass and outdoor foliage is generally expected of her. If she is in charge of the property over an extended period of time, she may be required to ensure the grass is cut and trees and shrubs are trimmed and pruned. If a swimming pool is in her care, she may be required to keep it clean.

Administrative tasks undertaken by a house sitter may include paying utility bills and opening mail that appears to need urgent attention. The absent resident may ask her to monitor bank account activity for unusual credit or debit card transactions. A list of contractors is often supplied to the sitter in case plumbing or electrical repairs are required. Taking telephone messages and greeting visitors are customarily part of her job.

In some cases, a house sitter may concurrently serve as a pet sitter. She is frequently in charge of the feeding, watering and care of house pets, such as dogs, cats, birds, hamsters or small reptiles. If a dog is in her care, she is normally required to take it outside for exercise and to meet bodily function needs.

There is normally no educational requirement for this position. A sitter commonly builds her resume and list of references through providing services for friends and family before she seeks work from the general public. Having a vehicle and a valid driver’s license are common requirements of people seeking the services of a house sitter.

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Discussion Comments
By recapitulate — On Nov 08, 2011

I have a friend who was a pet and house sitter for awhile in college. She had a professor who was leaving on sabbatical and used this as an opportunity to move off campus and cut her costs of living for school pretty dramatically. I think that house sitting is a great job opportunity, although I've only done it a couple of times for short bursts myself.

By lonelygod — On Nov 08, 2011

@popcorn - If you are worried about hiring strangers I would ask around at your work or through your friend network to see if you can find someone responsible to house sit. If you don't want to do that the agencies that provide house sitters do often check backgrounds and references for you, much like a maid service does.

As far as insurance, you are definitely covered by your home insurance if anything happens to your place while you're away. As far as the agency being responsible though, I think you would have to look at their individual policy to see what they do and don't cover. Basically, many are matchmaking services, and it is up to you to sort out whether you feel comfortable with the sitter they find for you or not.

By popcorn — On Nov 08, 2011

Where can you post house sitter jobs if you know you and a friend are going to be away for awhile?

We really want to find professional house sitters to look after our properties while were out of the country on business, and are a bit concerned about the references of the person we'll be hiring.

Do the agencies that offer house sitter services do background checks on their house sitters? Are there house sitter services responsible if anything goes wrong with your property while you're away?

If we leave our homes in the care of strangers we want to make sure that we'll be insured against any damages. That's the first thing before we advertise that a house sitter is wanted.

By Oceana — On Nov 07, 2011

My best friend knows how much I love gardening and flowers, so she asked me to house sit for her while she went to her sister's wedding. I stayed there for two weeks while she helped her sister get ready, and I had several large gardens to maintain.

In the summertime, weeds grow like crazy here. I pulled some out of the garden every day. I had to water the flowers, so I used a soaker hose to ensure that they got plenty of moisture delivered to them gently. I left it on for about fifteen minutes and then had to remember to shut it off.

I also applied more mulch to the flower beds every other day to keep new weeds from growing. I plucked insects off of petals and leaves, and I pinched off dead blooms.

I did get the mail for her and stay in her house, but other than cleaning my own dishes, there wasn't any housework to do. She had cleaned the place thoroughly before she left, so the garden was my main concern.

By shell4life — On Nov 07, 2011

@seag47 – Your job description sounds a lot like mine. The only difference was that the couple I worked for were major clean freaks, and they made me wipe the dogs' paws before letting them back inside.

I'm sure you know that when you have three large dogs waiting at the door to get back in the house, it's not easy to make them stand in line while you wipe all four paws one dog at a time with a towel. However, they paid me really well, so I couldn't complain.

On the last day I stayed there, I vacuumed the entire house, dusted, and sprayed the place with air freshener to make it smell clean and nice. They were happy to come home to a well-kept house.

By seag47 — On Nov 06, 2011

I have served as a dog and house sitter several times. I have a way with dogs, and I've never met one that didn't like me. Since I live with my parents, it's nice to have my own space, even if it is just for a short time.

I took care of four big dogs and a house for one lady on more than one occasion. It was just for a week at a time. Basically, I just had to feed and water the dogs. One dog was older and needed medication, but it was chewable, so that wasn't hard to administer.

I washed the dishes, vacuumed up the dog hair off the carpet and sofa, and kept the place tidy. The only annoying part about the job was that the dogs usually asked to be let out around 3 a.m., and I had to wait for them to do their business and let them back inside.

By orangey03 — On Nov 06, 2011

My sister asked me to house sit for her while she visited her in-laws for a week. Her house is on a road that leads to a state park with a big lake, so many people drive by and see that it is a nice, two-story home. She thought that my car in the driveway and the lights on in the house would keep people from being tempted to break in and rob the place.

While I was there, someone knocked on the front door late at night. I nearly had a heart attack! I was afraid it might be a serial killer asking to use the phone so he could grab me and murder me. So, I ran upstairs and hid until the person went away.

He didn't try to get inside the house. For all I know, it might have been a nice old lady whose car had broken down nearby. However, when I'm alone, I think it's best to err on the side of caution.

By turquoise — On Nov 05, 2011

Wow, there are actually agencies for house-sitters? I really didn't know about this, I thought all house-sitters worked independently and found work through their contacts. But that makes sense, I'm sure it's convenient for people to call up the agency last minute and hire a house-sitter.

House-sitters don't also babysit right? I doubt that they do because babysitting requires a whole other list of credentials to do. But if I had to go on a trip that I can't take my son on, I wouldn't mind having a house-sitter and babysitter in one. But then I wouldn't expect the house-sitter to keep the house perfectly clean and tidy because taking care of my son can be quite the challenge and time-consuming.

I've had a house pet sitter before. There was a lady that would come and feed my dog, walk him and sit with him for a couple of hours everyday. It wasn't the conventional house-sitting since she didn't stay 24 hours a day. But it was a relief to know someone was checking on the house and taking care of my dog daily.

By discographer — On Nov 04, 2011

@ysmina-- Yes, it's definitely a lot more work to house sit for a full time job. I've been doing it for the past six months and it's not just going and living in someone's house like many people think. The house I'm sitting now, I have a whole routine I need to follow everyday. There are lots of pets in the house- a cat, a dog, parrot and fish. Taking care of them, feeding and cleaning them takes a lot of time itself.

Then I also have to keep the house clean, dust and vacuum every couple of days, check mail, pay bills and clean the yard and pool. It really is a lot of work! And it's not as laid back as it is in one's house. At home you can delay an errand if you want or forego vacuuming one week. But it's not the case when you're house-sitting.

By ysmina — On Nov 04, 2011

I house sat for someone at work once. I didn't know the house owner personally but he was spreading the word at work that a house sitter was needed for his home for one month as he would be away working abroad.

I decided to take it up as his house is even closer to work than mine and I have a roommate in my apartment. I had never house sat before and thankfully I wasn't required to do too much except care for his cat and water his plants. Aside from that, it was like staying in my own home.

I didn't read mail or take phone messages either. I collected the mail and stored it for him and told him on the phone what had arrived. I let the answering machine take messages when a call came in.

I'm sure doing this professionally would be a lot more work. But since I did it informally for an acquaintance so to speak, it was just about making sure his cat was taken care of and his plants watered while he was gone. I'm sure it was important to have my presence there and for me to be collecting his mail though. I probably deterred any burglars without realizing.

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