5 Ways to Screw Up as a New House Sitter

5 Ways to Screw Up as a New Housesitter - house on fire

If you’re house sitting for the first time – or even if you’re not – the homeowners are trusting you to do a good job. Do a good job, you get a good reference. And that reference makes it easier to get your next awesome house sit.

So how do you avoid screwing up as a new house sitter? Well, you certainly don’t do these 5 things.

Be Lazy - kicked up feet

Ignore the Homeowners and Do Things Your Way

As a new house sitter, the homeowners will (hopefully) go over the property and show you how to look after it. Then they leave and things get real – it’s time to make their requests reality.

If you want to suggest modified chores when you meet the homeowners on the property, that’s reasonable. Deciding after they’re gone that you don’t want to look after the house the way they asked you to is not.

Once the homeowners leave, don’t do things your way, neglect the chores they asked of you, or take shortcuts. The house might still be in one piece when you’re done your first house sit, but if you intentionally didn’t do what the homeowners asked you to do, don’t be surprised when they find out and refuse to give you a reference.

I’ve been asked to grease things that don’t need greasing, trim things that don’t need trimming, and clean things that don’t need cleaning. I didn’t like it but I agreed to it, so I did it.

If you find yourself doing chores that you find inane, the best way to get over it is to remember that you’re there to keep the home the way the homeowners want, not the way you want. Remind yourself that there’s no way a new house sitter knows how to take care of a house better than the people who live there.

Be Spineless - a wrecked car

Try to Hide the Inevitable Screw Up

It’s a fact – when homeowners find something broken and you say you didn’t do it, they assume you’re lying. It’s possible that something was broken before they left, but the chances of that are pretty darn slim.

It sucks giving someone bad news, especially when it’s because you screwed up, but you’ve got to get it done. Tell the truth as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the less likely you’re going to take the high road. Besides, thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can send an email and won’t have to tell the homeowners the bad news to their faces.

I didn’t realize a bread knife couldn’t break open a coconut until I broke them both at the same time. I could have hid the evidence, but instead I explained what happened and set aside money to replace the knife.

It’s true, you run the risk of a bad reference when you screw up, but you’d get that anyway when the homeowners find out that you didn’t fess up. By telling the truth, you keep your integrity. And after all, the people who trusted you – a new house sitter – with their entire house, deserve the truth.

Be Brazen - a foam party

Celebrate Your New House With a Party

This might seem like a no-brainer, but some guy actually rented out the place he was house sitting on Airbnb. Guess what? The homeowners weren’t too happy about it.

Even though renting your house sit on Airbnb is quite obviously a bad decision, it’s true that it can be tempting to take liberties during a house sit. Like inviting friends over or hosting a pool party. But if you don’t have permission from the homeowner, just don’t.

Sure, the owners will probably never find out, and your friends will really be impressed with your kickass house sit, but it’s absolutely, completely irresponsible.

I’ve heard from homeowners that a previous house sitter had a party in their house, and the owners didn’t find out until months later. Yeah, so she obviously got away with it (and probably had a great time) but did she get asked back? Not a chance.

Taking liberties with your house sit isn’t worth the risk of damaging the house, never mind betraying the homeowners’ trust on your first house sit. Trust is the foundation of house sitting (heck, TrustedHousesitters even used it in their name to make it that much more obvious), and a good house sitter is a trusted house sitter.

Be Sneaky - a hand stealing a strawberry

Raid the Pantry, Fridge, Etc.

When you’re a new house sitter it can be tempting to use everything in the house like you own the place. The thing is…you don’t. If you’re not sure if the homeowners would want you to use something, ask permission before using it.

Being a house sitter is like being a guest, but it’s a bit different – you have to be a responsible guest. If you use the last of something (ketchup, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.) you need to replace it. Imagine being the homeowner, and you want to do a load of laundry as soon as you arrive home and all your detergent is gone. Yeah. Not a great situation.

When I ran out of eggs and the homeowners had a full carton in the fridge, I really wanted to take a few. But instead of helping myself and asking permission later, I held off to buy my own. For all I knew those were some super-special expensive eggs, or maybe they were all bad and humans shouldn’t ingest them.

A little consideration for using someone else’s stuff can go a long way. Try to leave your house sit with everything fully stocked – or at least as well-stocked as it was when you arrived.

Be Unclean - clothing hanging on a line

Leave the House Sloppy When You Go

Speaking of leaving your house sit, don’t be lazy when you leave – clean the place up. Even if the homeowners didn’t specifically tell you they wanted their place spotless, that’s what’s expected of you. I guarantee.

During a house sit it’s easy to accumulate crap, and when you go, make sure you take that crap with you. Leaving something behind that you think is great, might not seem so great to the homeowners.

At one beachside house sit I got the homeowners’ permission to invite my Mom for the last week. She enjoyed a beach vacation, then we all cleaned like crazy, leaving the house immaculate for the owner.

But before you leave a house sit, be sure to do some basic tidying up like washing the sheets, vacuuming the carpet, sweeping the steps, and scrubbing the bathroom (this is a house sit, not a hotel remember?). Take everything with you that wasn’t there before, and the house will be ready for the homeowners to get straight back into their normal lives.

It’s easy to avoid screwing up as a new house sitter, but it’s also easy to be a jerk and not even know it. Take your house sitting job seriously, respect the homeowners’ wishes, and don’t leave the home in worse condition than when you arrived.

Seems obvious, but by keeping these tips in mind you won’t just be a good house sitter, you’ll be a great one.

Learn how you can start house sitting with our How to Start House Sitting (Infographic)

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