When you're planning to be away from your home for more than a few days--or even if you're just heading out for the weekend but have pets or plants that need special care--it makes sense to arrange for a housesitters. A housesitter, whether a friend or neighbor or a professional, can take care of regular maintenance, keep your home secure, and generally offer peace of mind while you're gone.
To make things as smooth and easy as possible for both you and your sitter, take the time to create a basic guide. Here's how.
Decide what you need your sitter to do
Do you only need someone to swing by the house every few days to bring in the mail and water the plants, or are you hoping your sitter will stay on site the whole time you're away, caring for pets, keeping up with daily tasks, and keeping the house running just as it does when you're there? Before you approach a potential sitter, create a list of the things you want him or her to do; this list can then become the basis of a checklist to leave for the housesitter while you're gone.
Also, spend some time thinking about ground rules. If you only need your sitter to come in for a few minutes each day, would it be OK for him or her to stay longer to take a swim in your pool? If the housesitter will be staying at your home while you're away, can he or she have the run of the house, or are there certain rooms, appliances, and foods that are off-limits? Establishing clear ground rules up front will help avoid misunderstandings and potential frustrations later on.
Gather info the housesitter will need
Once you have a list of your housesitter's responsibilities, collect any information he or she will need in order to take care of them. If, for example, you want the sitter to be around when the lawnmowing service and housekeeper come, include the professionals' names, the days and times they're scheduled to arrive, and a way to get in touch with them. If your sitter will be responsible for pet care, leave detailed instructions on feeding times, what to feed each pet, whether pets are allowed outside, and so on.
Detail your home's foibles
Does your house creak and groan in the wind? Do you have an alarm system that needs to be turned on and off? Is there a trick to using your stove? Is the switch for your front porch light hard to find if you don't know where to look? Spend some time thinking about what someone unfamiliar with your home would need to know about it, and list anything that will be relevant to your housesitter's tasks. If your appliances, alarm systems, lights, or locks are challenging to master, leave user's manuals or detailed instructions.
List important dates, names, and numbers
Let your housesitter know where you're going, when you'll be back, and how to reach you while you're gone. (It's also worth establishing why the sitter should get in touch with you: do you want a general daily check-in, or would you rather be left alone unless there's a significant emergency that requires your attention?) Include other important information the sitter might need, such as the names and phone numbers of trusted neighbors or contact info for your pets' vet.
Write it down, bring it together, and take a tour
Before you leave, make sure to write down all of the information you've gathered in the steps above and to store it all in one place (such as a notebook, a 3-ring binder, or a folder). Arrange a time to review the information in person with your housesitter, giving him or her a tour of your home in the process. That way you can demonstrate how to work tricky appliances, can show the sitter just where extra supplies are stored, and can answer any questions that come up. When it comes time to leave on your trip, you'll know that your housesitter is familiar with your home and well prepared to care for it.
The next time you head out of town and enlist someone to watch your house, take the time to do a bit of prep work ahead of time. In exchange for your efforts, you'll be able to spend your time away doing things other than worrying about what's happening back home.