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house-sitters: how to make them happy?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by rivenoak View Post
    Oh, one more thing: if you have nosy neighbors, pre-warn them that your house sitter will be there & who she is! And let your sitter know the busybodies have been advised.

    You don't need your sitter hassled!
    THIS! I doggy sat for a co-worker, and his neighbor decided to shut off the home base of their dogs underground fence because it was beeping and she could hear it at her house HELLO!? There is the underground fence for a reason. At the very least, she could've told me, and I could've turned it on when I needed the let the dogs out, but no, she decided to just turn it off. (I'm not sure how she did it either...) Also, the first night I was there, I got a phone call from her at 11:30 PM because she saw the lights on in their house and "knew they didn't stay up that late so she was calling to check on them. Who are you???" as I'm half asleep (I fell asleep with the light on...) WTF?!

    My co-worker said 'oh yeah, that's the neighbor, she probably got into the wine that night...'
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


    • #22
      Originally posted by Canaqua View Post
      You could leave your credit card info with the vet themselves, in case there is an emergency and you can't be reached.
      This is also a great idea! You can also let your vet know the maximum you're willing to charge in case they can't reach you for a decision.
      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


      • #23
        I also ask them to show me where the breaker box is when I do the pre-babysit walk through with the owner.
        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


        • #24
          I leave what amounts to a novelette about who gets what, and when, how and where to turn out. Emergency #s written on board at barn. Hot tub clean and ready to go. Tasty food/drink in frig, a clean house, and hay conveniently located where it can be tossed at any time of day/night. Clear directions for everything, including how to use remotes and access internet. Clear directions on what cannot be eaten, drank, used, etc. as well as expectations for what to find when you get home (such as clean/picked paddocks, fresh water in troughs, sheets in washing machine, etc.) that sometimes might be forgotten on their way out.


          • Original Poster

            WOW what wonderful suggestions!! Thanks all, this was very helpful!!

            The idea of leaving the rig hitched was a great one, and something I had not thought of!

            Originally posted by betsyk View Post
            Instructions for all the tv/vcr/etc. stuff.
            This type of thing I had not thought of, and is a great idea.

            Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
            I always leave a 'permission to treat' letter which gives the pet sitter permission to authorize vet care that I will pay for on my return.
            I actually usually leave a list of people who to contact that are authorized to make emergency decisions in the event that I cannot be reached. There are enough people on that list and methods of contacting them (and all of them are aware that they're on that list) that if none of them can be contacted, it's likely because of a global crisis.

            Originally posted by susanne View Post
            Be sure to alert them to any animal quirks -- the equine escape artist, the dasher dog, the animals that do not get along.

            Don't assume anything. Go overboard with written instructions, especially with meds.
            Originally posted by bathsheba8542 View Post
            I leave what amounts to a novelette about who gets what, and when, how and where to turn out.
            OK, I'm glad to see this. I'm already up to 3 typed pages (single spaced) for 6 critters of "care instructions", mostly consisting of "this is Fido's normal behavior that is abnormal for other dogs" or "Horsey always has pale gums". If my dog starts barking at the back doors, I want her to know that he's barking at his own reflection and not an intruder... My husband thinks I'm crazy, but the housesitter said she appreciates these types of novels, and I would too.


            • #26
              As someone who has done a lot of house sitting, I can assure you that such "novels" are really appreciated. Please put the most important/most frequently used information like feeding instructions and the daily routine around the house on the first page or two so they are easy to find.

              Stocked/freezer fridge is much appreciated. Also, clear instructions as to what should NOT be eaten or otherwise used whether that is food, the home office, etc. Please leave extras of everything (leashes, lead ropes, buckets, more than enough kibble, etc.) just in case something should break or your flight should be delayed.

              Most of all, be honest about how much work your pets are and compensate accordingly. One of the best house sitting jobs I've ever had (I house sat for them for many years) involved taking care of an elderly large dog and could be quite labor intensive. However, the owner left me well prepared with cleaning supplies, clear instructions for his medications, contact numbers for everyone I could possibly need to contact should he have a health emergency and compensated me accordingly.


              • #27
                As a house sitter, thank you for asking -- there are many that don't ask or care and those are the people that usually find me busy if/when they call again.

                All of the above are excellent, excellent suggestions. Something else I would add is let the sitter know what sorts of things you'd prefer a vet be called for and what you'd be okay with the sitter treating (if they're comfortable with it to begin with) -- most little wounds I'm perfectly capable of treating, but some owners (like the ones with halter horses, etc) want a vet to treat to ensure the wound is perfect once healed. To that end, having first aid items readily available is a must so when someone else's horse ends up with a wound, I'm not freaking out trying to find appropriate materials!
                To be loved by a horse should fill us with awe, for we hath not deserved it.


                • #28
                  Great suggestions thus far.

                  Having been on both sides of the pet/farm sitting thing, I have a few more suggestions:

                  1) Where are the flashlights?
                  2) Where is the circuit breaker? Where can you turn off the water? The gas? For the house? For the barn?
                  3) Where are the first aid kits for me, for the critters?
                  4) Where is the fire extinguisher?
                  5) A list of the numbers for utilities.
                  6) If you have a preferred handyman/plumber, etc, have those nums somewhere.

                  Can you tell that I've farm sat and run into major issues? Like a totally flooded basement due to power failure and sump pump probs? LOL

                  7) Alternate numbers for someone who generally knows your critters and won't be with you on your trip. In my case, I usually leave my Mom's number. Even though she's out of state, she generally knows what to do.

                  8) If you're going on a trip where you'll be unavailable during the day or have limited contact, consider having a daily check in time. When I was on a cruise, I would plan on checking messages at about 7pm each night. Just in case. That way, my house sitter knew I'd get the message one way or another but I wasn't sitting on my phone all day.

                  9) As for tipping, I would reserve a tip until AFTER you get back and see what condition everything is in. I would leave the check (or cash) for the normal fee up front, would plan on buying a small gift, and would send a thank you and a tip with the gift afterwards if all was well when you return (on this first experience).

                  10) You might also ask another friend/neighbor to pop in at some point. TELL the farm sitter this. It keeps everyone honest and if someone doesn't show up, you can have a backup plan.

                  I have had pet/farm sitters before that A) didn't even show up. B) Passed on their "job" to another friend without talking to me

                  I have been "back up" for neighbors before in similar situations.

                  Have fun! A great farm sitter is worth their weight in gold. Being able to leave and not worry is such a nice thing. It's not a vacation if you can't leave worry behind.
                  A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                  Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                  • #29
                    While I never expected to find a well stocked kitchen when I house sat, it was always nice. My FAVORITE family and house to sit for (especially in the summer...they had a POOL!), always told me to help myself...but, the mother is Swedish and usually, by the time they left, there wasn't much that I found terribly appetizing. If you are way out, definitely ask about what they like and get some stuff in for them. It was never much of a deal at my regulars as they were in fairly suburban areas that I could get in and out of easily.

                    DO make sure they have either instructions or a quick how to tutorial on the electronics, thermostat, high tech kitchen appliances, etc. Especially the thermostat. People can be very particular about their preferences in temps, and you'd hate for them to spend their time at your house either freezing or roasting!

                    If it hasn't been mentioned yet, give your vets a heads up that you will be gone and who will be caring for your animals. If they don't have it already, consider leaving payment info, in case, God forbid, one of your animal needs emergency care. For pets, be sure they know where the nearest after hour/emergency clinic is, if they can't get to your regular.

                    I like the idea of having a worst case scenario friend to call. Even if it is someone who can just chuck a few bales of hay at the horses and check water, if something terrible happens to your sitter, you at least can have someone to keep everyone from starving.

                    I've never been tipped. I've always been paid very well for doing a job I enjoy, so I've never thought that tipping would come with it. If you are blown away by the care, then do it if you feel inclined, but I wouldn't feel obligated.

                    Clean sheets and towels! I think this goes without saying, but I have cared for some houses that I would NOT want to sleep in (this was always understood. I came by X number of times a day to care for the animals, but didn't stay). If you aren't the greatest of house keepers, consider making time before you leave to tidy up, clean your kitchen and at least the bathroom, bedroom, and living area the sitter will use.


                    • #30
                      Don't forget to show them where the water turnoff is too.


                      • #31
                        My list of things a farm sitter would want:
                        enough hay and grain to last until you come back with a little extra just in case of emergencies.
                        Same with cat and dog food
                        Come home when you said you would not 2 weeks later ( ask me how I know )
                        Phone number like others have said, Vet Farrier, ect.
                        Pay me immediatly upon your return and don't short me!
                        i wokred ONCE for someone who did not do any of the above. I have never gone back! Other prospective customers who heard I worked for her balked at hiring me because of her crazy history in the area


                        • #32
                          When I go away and have a house sitter, I leave a novel. With phone numbers, how-to's, instructions, etc. Better too much information than not enough. I leave all feed for all animals OVERSTOCKED. I would be horrified if they ran out and had to go buy some on their dime. I leave the pantry stocked with anything they would need to cook with, and leave the fridge stocked with water, soda, milk. juice...leave the freezer stocked with frozen pizzas and quick meal stuff.... I leave money on the counter (next to the novelette), and send a tip and a thank you card when I return from my trip. There is never a doubt that they will come back again next vacation, because I overpay them, and tip them well. I appreciate being able to get away, and couldn't do it without them!
                          ~Rest in Peace Woody...1975-2008~


                          • #33
                            Even if they live in the same community, be sure to post the non-emergency numbers for police and fire department.

                            If you have an alarm system, be sure to list steps in case they accidentally set it off -- shut off, alarm company's phone # and local police non-emergency phone #. It's pretty awful when that alarm goes off and you have to search for directions and/or numbers.
                            They're not miniatures, they're concentrates.

                            Born tongue-in-cheek and foot-in-mouth


                            • #34
                              I board my farm sitters horse, year round, for "free". That seems to keep her pretty happy.
                              "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                              • #35
                                1.) Contact info for helpful friend/neighbor that your farmsitter can call for backup if necessary. Bonus points if said friend/neighbor is handy at fixing things that might break, if your farmsitter is not so handy.

                                2.) Gift cards and menus for local restaurants your farmsitter might like, especially places that deliver. Bonus points if you include some $1 bills for delivery tips.

                                3.) Find out what kinds of foods/beverages your farmsitter likes, and stock fridge accordingly.

                                4.) Gas money and/or gas card, if farmsitter will be going to his/her day job and will have a longer commute from your place than their own.

                                5.) Before you leave, clean your house as if the Queen of England will be dropping by for tea.

                                6.) If you do Netflix, give them queue access so they can pick what they want to watch.
                                *friend of bar.ka

                                "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                                • #36
                                  I have house/farm sat, and used house sitters. I don't have much to add as you've already gotten lots of great suggestions! I want to 2nd the thermostat instructions as I've house sit in two different freezing houses. You absolutely need to have a financial plan if there is an emergency. What I do is leave my sister and brother-in-law's cell phone numbers and house phone number. They live pretty close and know my animals. They also both carry their cell phones with them at work so can always be reached. Just as important though, if there is an emergency of any sort that requires payment, they are both capable and willing to charge it onto their own credit card and get reimbursed by me later. I let my pet sitter know to call them if they need money for any emergencies. This frees me up from having to leave a cc/blank check/extra cash/etc. If you don't have a friend/family member capable and willing to do so, I would leave a few signed personal checks, not a credit card.

                                  Also, you should absolutely tip her (assuming she does a good job). Most people that house sit (myself included) undervalue the service. I'm also afraid if I charged what I "should," then people wouldn't use me and would use one of the other under value sitters out there... unless she pulls up in a new BMW, in that case she's charging plenty
                                  Last edited by Twisted River; Jan. 4, 2013, 10:22 PM.


                                  • #37
                                    I have house sat for a number of people including my vet. I would say the MOST helpful thing people do is leave a Detailed written list of all animals on property, what they get and where they are supposed to go. Also have everything set out so it is easy to find. Plus phone numbers in case of emergency!!
                                    I usually take my own food just to make sure i have what I like.

                                    I do not think a tip is required. I usually get between $30-$40 a day and that is more than enough. usually my sitting includes driving 20-30 minutes out of my way.

                                    I note on how electronics work is always helpful too!


                                    • #38
                                      I know this is a bit of an old thread, but I thought of 2 things that haven't been mentioned yet, both phone related, that might be useful...

                                      1) Let your sitter know if you'd like them to answer your home phone for you - I'll take messages if you'd like me to, but if you'd rather I let the voicemail pick up incoming calls, that's fine by me, and saves me having to tell people that you're out of town. If you've got caller ID, I can answer calls from you and let the others go to voicemail. Most of the folks I house/farm/pet-sit for use my cell to contact me directly, rather than their home phones, anyway.

                                      2) If you have a land-line phone, please have one old-school non-cordless phone plugged into the wall somewhere in the house and let me know where it is! If the power goes out, it's much easier to call the power company to report the outage if you're doing so from the house phone, and while the cordess phones are convenient and wonderful most of the time, they don't work if the power goes out. BTDT several times. I can use my cell if I have to, but in my experience, power companies are terrible when it comes to reporting an outage from a phone number not associated with your own account - they always seem to want account numbers and passwords and first born children...

                                      And as a sitter - I love it when you leave me a "novel" about how things need to be taken care of - it's wonderful to have something in writing to refer to! Spare copies are great - one of my friends/clients leaves me one in the house (for the dogs) and one in the barn (for the horses) - same info on both, but it's very handy to have a copy in each place.