Why do we love to housesit? Well, imagine hanging out solo in a nice hotel room—but better. As a housesitter, you have more space, more freedom and zero money coming out of your checking account. Talk about a serious win!
Still, this isn’t vacation. Housesitting is work, even if it feels like you’re living the high life from time to time. When a friend, family member or client asks you to care for their home, they’re trusting you with their biggest investment. It’s up to you to get it right.
Want to wow your host (and get all the information you need to be a good housesitter)? Here are all the housesitting questions you need to ask before your gig begins.
1. How should I pick up (and drop off) my key?
More and more homes are swapping out old-school door fixtures for smart locks. If that’s the case with the home you’re taking care of, all you’ll need is a code (and maybe a demonstration).
If there is a key involved, though, you’re going to need to grab it somehow. Work this out ahead of time—and if the solution is a hiding spot, make sure you know exactly where it is, what it looks like and how to access it.
2. Do you mind if I…?
House rules are house rules, no matter what. Regardless of your relationship with the host, you should always ask about the way they want their home cared for while they’re out of town (and, it should go without saying, follow their directions).
If you’re wondering about bringing a pet by, cooking in their kitchen, staying over, inviting a significant other or a friend over while you stay—anything that goes beyond taking care of the house itself—ask that question up-front.
3. Does the garbage or recycling need to go out?
Trash duty is your responsibility, too. If your visit lines up with local garbage and recycling schedules, it’s common courtesy to bring those bins to and from the curb if there’s anything in them. And, if you’re moving in temporarily, you should toss any perishable trash that’s piled up in the kitchen can before you leave for the last time.
4. Would you like me to set your security system?
Attitudes about home security vary across the United States, and between rural, suburban and urban areas. When you’re caring for someone else’s home, always go with the most-safe option. Lock all doors at the knob and deadbolt, and if there’s a security system, inquire about setting it.
Thanks to smart home security systems, cameras are also becoming more common in interiors. Ask your host if there are any you should know about in living areas.
One more thing: If the home is in a gated community, request any access codes or passes you may need for the duration of your time at their house.
5. How can I reach you while you’re away?
Our own homes are second nature, so it’s not surprising that some details slip when a host supplies housesitting directions. If a question or an emergency crops up, you should know how to get in touch. If your host is going 100 percent incommunicado, ask for a local emergency contact who is familiar with the home and the area, instead.
6. What plants need to be watered?
Even if you think your host’s plants are all easy keepers, it pays to ask if there are any special cases. Some might like a spritz of water. Others might need a pile of ice cubes. If there are low-maintenance creatures that need to be fed, watered and cared for, (think: fish, reptiles, frogs, insects) bundle those questions in with this one.
7. Where’s your cleaning equipment, and what do you use on…?
If you’re housesitting anywhere for more than two weeks—especially if you’re staying in the home part- or full-time—you’re going to want to do more than a quick tidy. Get a clue about their cleaning basics, like brooms, vacuum cleaners and mops, before you move in.
Also ask if they want any surfaces cared for in a special way. Marble, stainless steel and hardwood floors can go either way, depending on the host.
9. Where is your circuit box and water cut-off?
Disaster always strikes when you’re least prepared. Get one step ahead of a frozen pipe or a blown fuse by asking where the necessities are before you need them. Trust us, stumbling around in the dark isn’t a fun way to figure out how to fix things.
10. How does your…work?
Fancy gadgets and appliances are great…until you need to use them for the first time. Sometimes, the learning curve is steep! Ask about anything fancy or unusual that you may have to use, like a television, oven or coffeemaker. During the winter, be sure to see if the fireplace is fair game and, if so, how to use it. For example, if the fireplace uses gas logs, make sure you understand how to properly light and operate them.
11. Is there anything special I should do if the temperatures drop below freezing?
Most houses in cold climates are built to handle chilly temperatures. If you are going to housesit for an older home with less weatherproofing or you’re in an area that isn’t used to extreme weather, you might need take some preventative measures on colder nights. Some typical preparations include dripping taps and leaving under-sink cabinets ajar.
If you’re housesitting during the summer months, there might be special considerations then, too. Beach houses, for example, often have light restrictions when sea turtle hatchlings are due to emerge.
12. Are there any weird quirks I need to know about?
Every house has its eccentricities. Some door locks are finicky. Some toilet handles need to be jiggled. Some showers take forever to warm up.
The person who knows all these minute details is—you guessed it—your housesitting host. Ask them if there’s anything you should know, especially if you’ll be living there 24/7 instead of dropping by occasionally.
13. What’s your WiFi password?
No housesitting must-do list would be complete without getting your mitts on this baby. Also, be sure to ask if there are any streaming or data restrictions you should be mindful of. You don’t want to cost your host extra dough without realizing it!
This list of 12 questions will make your life easier when you housesit. But that’s just the beginning. Coming into a housesitting gig prepared with a comprehensive list of questions and concerns shows that you’re treating taking care of someone’s home like a job, not a vacation. While you might me psyched to move in for a few days or weeks, your goal should be making this exchange a positive one for your host, first.
After all, how else are you going to get a repeat invite?