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Is House Sitting Safe? 11 Tips to Feel Comfortable

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You might have heard how rewarding house sitting can be, from caring for adorable pets to living in dream homes in countries around the world. After many sits, I can say the experience has restored my faith in humanity.

But is house sitting safe?

Absolutely. Since 2019, I’ve completed 32 house sits with my partner and 5 more as a solo autistic woman traveler. This is our full-time lifestyle now, so we completely believe in the general safety of house sitting.

In fact, I often feel safer at our house sits now than in our old apartment in Seattle. Only once have we felt vaguely unsafe at a sit, and nothing happened.

Before we dive into how to stay safe as a house sitter, first let's cover some of the basics.

What Is a House Sitter?

A house sitter is someone who goes to stay in another person's home while they're out of town. It's usually a trade off where you get a free place to stay and the homeowner gets the peace of mind that their home is well taken care of. Sometimes they just want someone to watch their house and water their plants.

In a lot of cases though, house sitting means pet sitting, too. That means you're really there to look after the homeowners cat or dog while they're out of town. It's usually less stressful for the pet that they get to stay in the comfort of their own home while their owner is away and again, you get the benefit of having free accommodation.

You can find house and pet sits all over the world, from expensive places like New York City and Paris to unique spots like Gran Canaria and Bay of Kotor. It's a really savvy way to travel for free and stay on budget while still getting to visit your dream destinations.

How to Find Great House Sitting Opportunities

Now, before you start Googling like crazy and apply to every opportunity you you find without a second thought, there are some basic tips to finding the best house sitting and pet sitting gigs based on what you're looking for.

It really starts with making sure you've taken the correct steps to care for owners precious pets and homes.

A few good starting places are:

  • Make sure you're ready for pet care and feel comfortable watching someone else's home and pets. While it's possible to find solely house sits, most of the time a pet or two will be involved.
  • Join a few house sitting websites to widen your search.
  • Be honest in your profile and don't oversell anything you wouldn't actually be able to do.
  • Have a face to face call (even if it's a video call) with the home owner to make sure the sit is a good fit for you both.
  • Ask for recommendations so you can continue to get better and better stays. Your first gig might need to be for friends so you can gain recommendations straightaway.

For more details, learn how you can find the best international house and pet sitting jobs.

So now that you know the basics, let's dive into the real priority of today: is house sitting safe? Can you really be and feel safe at a house sit? Take these 11 tips to feel comfortable when house sitting around the world.

Things to Know Before You Go

Photo by depositphotos.com

Now that you’re gearing up for your pet sit and planning the specifics of where and when you’ll go, there are a few things you don’t need to overlook. 

I know just how easy it is to look towards the big hike, bucket list city, or beach of my dreams and forget about all of the little things in between that’ll make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Be sure to take into consideration these few things before you go to make sure you get all the good bits of your trip without the stress. 

  • Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket. 
  • Do your best to learn a few local phrases in their language. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary. 
  • Last tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful. Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses.
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11 Safety Tips for House Sitters

1. Go with your gut. No shame

Let’s imagine you’ve found a perfect house sit: a lovely, attentive dog living in a bougainvillea-covered villa by the sea. Your only responsibilities are to feed, cuddle, and walk the sweetie.

When a sit looks so glamorous, it’s easy to ignore your gut.

But maybe something seems a little off, inconsistent, or doesn’t sit right.

Trust your intuition.

It’s easy to let FOMO take hold of you and convince yourself there will never be another sit as good as this. It’s not true. As I’m typing this, there are 2,000+ house sits listed on Trusted Housesitters just for the UK.

We have occasionally not listened to our intuition — not about safety, but about smaller things like the house being clean or comfortable. It all turned out fine, but a few times we thought, “Why didn’t we listen to that little voice?”

2. Choose sits differently as a solo traveler

Here are my tips for approaching solo sits: 

  • Choose a non-isolated house sit. This is more about you feeling safe rather than actually being safe. Large country houses at night? By yourself? No thanks. Having said that, if your imagination isn’t as vivid as mine, go for it.
  • Choose cats over dogs. Most sits involve cats, dogs, or both. While I love dogs, they generally have more unexpected needs, so it’s easier to do with a partner. Cats are also better if you’re on the smaller side: I’ve had a well-built Labrador knock me over in his excitement about walkies. However, if you do choose an isolated house, a semi-guard dog can be a welcome comfort.
  • Really tune into your intuition. Decline the sit if you have any doubts whatsoever.

3. Get nosy

 Do some detecting about the neighborhood before agreeing to the sit.

  • Use Google Street View. If you’ll be walking or using public transportation, check for safe places to walk. You don’t want to have to walk along a highway, for example.
  • Pop the neighborhood or town name into search. See what comes up — it’s always interesting, and sometimes very helpful. My first sit was right next to a paper mill. Stinky and probably unhealthy.

4. Meet the neighbors

We’re a white American-Ukrainian couple in our forties and fifties who are both US citizens, so the racial/class/citizenship/hetero/cis privilege we have is enormous. 

Meeting the neighbors — or at least knowing the hosts have told the neighbors about you — is a key part of being and feeling safe. Make sure you’ve discussed this in case your hosts didn’t consider it. It will ensure backup in case of an emergency, someone to “look out” for you, and is a great introduction to the local community.

5. Communicate with your host

Texting your hosts cute photos of their pets during the sit is a natural part of house sitting. It also ensures fast and smooth communication in case something goes awry.

  • Ask about visitors. Who will be dropping by during your sit? Sometimes hosts are so used to cleaners or gardeners coming that they forget to tell you about their scheduled arrivals. Knowing that a cleaner will show up while you’re at home is important, but it’s even more important if you’re not at home.
  • Ask about construction. Will there be any construction on, in, or near the house during your sit? It can be disruptive, and you also want to know if people will be wandering around the house. We rarely accept a sit with construction because it’s too disruptive for us and the pets.
  • Be transparent. Lay out your expectations for the sit and ask probing questions to ensure the host does as well.

At a recent sit, we returned from a long walk and found the gate locked because the cleaner had come while we were out. Luckily, we had that key with us, but it could have been a major headache if we hadn’t.

7. Check insurance

You’ll probably skip this heading, but hold on one moment!

  • Have basic health/accident/travel insurance for yourself. I use SafetyWing, but there are plenty of options to suit your individual health needs.
  • Check the house sitting platform coverage. If you use TrustedHousesitters (check the different membership levels), you’ll be covered if you’re bitten by a pet, for example. Other house sitting sites have varying levels of coverage, so check out their website.
  • Ask the host about their homeowner/renter insurance. It might not cover you. It’s important because it will protect you and them if damage occurs to the house while you’re there. Obviously, this varies, especially by region and country.

8. Find out about the pet

We’re often so focused on pet safety that we forget our own! This is probably the hardest area to predict and know beforehand, so it’s essential you find out before the sit.

Trusted Housesitters has a firm policy about this (Alligators?!):

“Pet parents must not ask sitters to care for inherently dangerous pets, such as venomous snakes, primates, wolves or wolf hybrids, non-domesticated cats, or alligators. This also includes pets with a history of attacking other pets or people.”

But hosts forget their pets can lash out at strangers. It’s like telling a doting parent that their mild-mannered child yelled at you — they’ll look at you in disbelief.

At a recent sit, we were introduced to a large dog who growled and bared his teeth. Not good. It turned out he was protective of the host and a total goofball who did this randomly. We would have said no to the sit if the host had told us earlier, and that would have been sad because it was one of our best experiences.

On another sit, one dog was growling and nearly attacking the other dog. We knew the aggressor dog had dementia, so my partner tried to separate them. He received a light but firm bite as a reward.

These things happen, and you cannot really control or predict them. And they happen to pet owners themselves all the time — and even people in the street. The point is to ask and trust your gut if something seems off with a particular pet. You have permission to quarantine them until you can get clarity from the host on next steps (or with a call to the house sitting service).

9. Ask about emergencies

There are three basic kinds of emergencies at a house sit: a pet health emergency, your health emergency, or something happening to the house itself.

Hosts are great about preparing for these possibilities, but it doesn’t hurt to review them:

  • Ask the host to walk you through a possible pet emergency. This is more than a vet’s phone number. The host must consider how you’ll transport dear Poppy to the vet and under what circumstances. Really vital at rural sits, especially if you don’t have a car.
  • Identify hospitals and emergency care before the sit. I’m bad about this one. You should ideally identify a hospital near you. Many times, hosts will put it in their notes. 
  • Ask for friends and family numbers to call in an emergency. A burst pipe is a more likely scenario to happen than a major physical emergency, but it’s still an emergency since it might flood the house. The longer the sit, the more important these details are.
  • Locate emergency appliances. When you arrive at the sit, ensure the host shows you the electrical circuit breaker box, the gas, the heating, and so forth so you can quickly take care of any small (hopefully not major) disruptions.

Remember, they’ll have different emergency service numbers in different countries. For example, if you’re in Europe, you can use the 112 Suomi app everywhere. Because 112 is the emergency number everywhere in Europe, you can use this Finnish app, which will route you to the right place anywhere in Europe.

10. Ask about security cameras

TrustedHousesitters has a strict policy about this:

“In our Terms and Conditions, our Camera & Recording Devices Policy states that during a sit no internal recording or monitoring devices can be enabled. We do allow devices fitted to the exterior of the property or doorbell that monitor the security of the outside areas such as the porch, driveway and garden. However, all devices must be disclosed to a sitter before a sit starts, and a pet parent must display this information on their listing as well as their Welcome Guide.”

We often forget to ask whether there are security cameras, but your hosts should definitely turn off the inside ones, and you can negotiate the outside ones during your interview. While you’re at it, ask where and if there’s an extra house key.

11. Know you can always leave

You can always leave if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It’s easy to forget this simple but powerful point. But if you follow the tips in this article, the chances of this happening are low.

You're Ready to House Sit with Peace of Mind

House sitting is truly a fantastic and rewarding endeavor, and taking these few steps will ensure a great, comfortable, and safe sit. Enjoy your next sit with a furry friend.

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