Pros and cons of house sitting and how to avoid awkward situations

House sitting can be a great way to see another part of the world without breaking the bank and has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with the Baby Boomer generation.

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Retirees around the world are pulling up stumps for a few weeks, or even months, to find adventure elsewhere — and all from the comfort of someone else’s couch.

While house sitting is an ideal situation for budget-conscious travellers, there are a few things to keep in mind before singing the dotted line.

The positives

One of the best things about house sitting is you get to enjoy all the perks of a home without paying for the electricity and household bills. If you’re staying in the same place for a few weeks, it gives you the opportunity to explore the area and immerse yourself in the local community, while having a comfortable and safe place to return home to every night.

Holidays should a relaxing time, but often the stress of moving from airport to airport and hotel to hotel can cause more than a few frazzled hairs. With house sitting, you’re able to enjoy the one place and really settle in to your new home.

It also creates the opportunity to travel a little further afield, depending on where you are, for a couple of days without the fuss of checking out and carting your luggage around with you.

The negatives

Throughout the life of a house, homeowners are stuck with numerous challenges and scenarios. As a house sitter, these issues become your responsibility.

If the air-conditioning stops working, you need to fix it. If you’re looking after a pet as part of the deal and they get sick, you need to get it to the vet.

For someone house sitting these tasks can be difficult if the homeowner is away and hard to reach.

Sue Coombs, co-founder of house sitting website Mindahome, told Domain a few tips for those new to the house sitting business to help them avoid awkward situations later on.

“Being a house sitter means being flexible, but of course it isn’t easy when things happen unexpectedly,” she said.

“Good preparation and communication with homeowners is the key to making sure both parties understand what needs to be in place.”

The dos and don’ts

Coombs says house sitting etiquette requires you to keep in contact with the homeowners and update them on any issues.

Many houses come with family pets as part of the deal, but not everyone is comfortable with this straight off the bat.

For the more fastidious house sitters, Coombs suggests asking the owners if you can stay with them for a few days before they leave to better understand the pet’s routines, habits and quirks.

One of the best ways to avoid any nasty surprises at the end of your stay is to request a list of emergency contacts from the home owner to ensure you can get in touch with the right people should an issue arise.

“Our number one tip for house sitters is to make sure they have an emergency contact list that includes the home owner’s details, the neighbour or relative who is close by, as well as contacts such as the family vet, electrician, plumber and insurance companies.” Coombs said.

House sitting relies heavily on a system of trust and owners and sitters are expected to treat each other with respect. This means presenting a clean and tidy house for you to stay in with instructions for your stay and necessities, such as pet food, clean linen and toiletries and basic cleaning products.

In return, house sitters are expected to treat the house as they would their own home; watering the garden, tidying up after themselves and respecting the property.

If everyone sticks to their duties, house sitting can be a wonderful way to  immerse yourself in a new culture and enjoy a relaxing and fulfilling holiday.

Have you ever looked after anyone’s house before? Is it something you would consider doing?