Every good house sit comes with a welcome guide. The quality of this welcome guide depends on the length of the sit and the time the home owner puts into creating it.
We’ve been on the receiving end of more than a dozen welcome guides. We’ll, let me rephrase that. We’ve frequently been in the situation where a welcome guide would be very helpful. We don’t always get one. It really depends on the owner and the length of the sit.
That said, we’ve never actually written our own guide. But we’ve sure read a bunch of them and know what elements are helpful to have and what elements can’t be missing. And we thought you might be wondering what you should put into your next guide. So we created this blog post!
Tips on Creating a Great House Sitting Welcome Guide
There are no ironclad rules to creating a welcome guide. You are busy and are planning a trip, right? Why else would you need a house sitter in the first place? If you are going to be gone for a few days, you may not need an elaborate one. If you are going to be gone for several months, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful about this. A good welcome guide can save you and your sitter a lot of headaches down the road, not to mention time and communication you may not want or be able to have while on your vacation.
It’s a good idea to start with what you will need the sitter to do on a daily or weekly basis. This can be anything from mail to trash to reading the electrical meter, but if they don’t know about it, they aren’t likely to do it.
In South Korea we had some pretty complicated trash situations, mainly because they are basically zero waste. The interesting part about this is that the “landfill” container was opened with a magnetized keycard and then weighed and the homeowner is then charged by weight. How’s that for an incentive to recycle?
But this goes beyond just routine duties. If there are rooms you don’t want your sitter to go into, or if you wish they wouldn’t dog ear your books, let them know. Don't be afraid to be specific. If your expectations aren't expresed clearly, chances are they won't be met to your satisfaction.
Now of course you can’t anticipate everything, but a basic covering of emergency numbers is helpful, along with what to do should one of the pets get sick or injured. This has happened to us on more than one occasion, mainly because our charges tend to be indoor/outdoor.
Beyond the phone number and address/hours of the emergency pet clinic, it’s good to discuss in your welcome guide (and in person) how to handle payment for any fees associated with the visit in the first place. We tend to just pay for this outright and then get reimbursed, but on occasion the homeowner will have an account at the vet, or will call in with a credit card to take care of the charges.
Speaking of reimbursement, it’s important to have note how the house sitter will get paid back for things like pet food or hospital bills. While many people aren’t comfortable talking about financial things, it’s important to lay out some solid foundations here to avoid trouble later. Our preferred method is to keep a receipt and to enter that into a spreadsheet in Google Docs. This way there is a paper copy and a digital copy that we can reference when we leave.
It may seem like overkill, but we like to be organized, and it makes things much easier for everybody.
This should of course be first, because honestly it’s the real reason you are house sitting in the first place! What should be noted about the pets? Feeding time, medicine time, preferences and dislikes, habits. Anything you can think of.
People tend to really love this part of their welcome guide because people love to talk about their pets and their quirks. This is also my favorite part to read for that very reason.
It should be mentioned that when you leave, your pet can often exhibit new behaviors that you aren’t privy to. Oftentimes, a dog will try to get away with a few tricks to see who is boss, or cats may spray. But generally they all just try to get more food. Speaking of food, it’s good to note feeding times and amounts.
Many homes are quirky, just like their people and pets, and it’s good to know in advance what to expect with these tiny details. Things like the thermostat or the dishwasher. Don’t go overboard here because it could drive you nuts trying to remember all the details of every single appliance and sticky doorknob. Just note anything that comes to mind. For us, things like wifi are absolutely essential, so please don’t forget to add the password to your house sitting guide! We spent a few days at our house sit in Taipei trying to get the wifi password from our sitter who was in transit and hard to reach. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it wasn’t time well spent.
For the most part any internet savvy person can figure out what there is to eat and do in your neighborhood (provided they have wifi and cell coverage!) but everybody loves some insider information.
Like, what is your favorite pub and where do you tend to buy groceries? Do you have a favorite coffee shop? Is there easy public transport?
Most people are super proud of where they live, and are happy to show off what sets their city apart from others around the world
We tend to over communicate. But we are crazy animal people and tend to think that everything they do is noteworthy, cute and hilarious, even when it’s something you’ve seen a thousand times already. (We have a pet profile page if that’s any indication of how crazy we are…)
It’s good to set some expectations here on how often you would like to see pics of your cat sleeping, and what your favorite communication tool is. There are many options these days, and we are on all of them it seems, so it’s the homeowners choice here.
It’s important to also remember that this is a guide; it’s still okay and easy to forget things. Directions are easily misinterpreted or confused, and everything will be fine. I’m only saying this to a certain type of audience here. I mean, you did Google something like “how to write a house sitting welcome guide”, right? Those of you who aren’t doing research on the topic…well, you’ll be fine too.