Is there a good checklist for house sitters and house sittees?
March 29, 2004 11:14 PM   Subscribe

Going away for a bit and I have a close friend house sitting for me for the week. We've got several pets and such to tend to, which should not be a problem. What I am wondering, is there a good checklist of items the house sitter needs to know and what sort of things do I need to provide for them. Shut off valves, emergency numbers, where the board with a nail in it is to fend off intruders, etc. Looking for things to add to the checklist for the house sitter to be.

It's a close friend, so the contracts I keep finding online do not apply very much. And, unlike a babysitter, it's gonna be more long term with no small bubble of life to care for. I just want to make sure I have all the information for the house sitter handy that might come up. My door jams already have fallout shelter stickers on them (yeah for old houses!), but am looking for other situations.
posted by jeribus to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've "babysat" a house before, and It sounds to me like you already know what you think should be paid attention to.

Maybe you should try this:

Walk into your house and pay very close attention to every little thing you do. Every time you do something, write it down. Write down also every quirk you know about everything you do. Like:

Does that one light-switch act funny, and do you have to flip it three times to get it to go on? Yes? Well, tell the person that they have to do this, but it's not such a big deal (if that's the case), since you've been doing it for years.

Then (keeping in mind that you're already walking around your house with a notebook marking down your every common movement):

When you're walking around, and you notice some loveable quirk - like the loose knob at the bottom of George Bailey's staircase - make sure that you tell the person who's taking care of your house that it's all right if it comes loose.

The best thing you can do, though, is to give your friend a walkthrough of the house. Take them over there and show them the entire place, wiring and plumbing and all, from beginning to end.

My parents' house has a toilet in it that doesn't flush all the way unless you dump about a liter of water into it while it's flushing. They call it The Chaser! This is the kind of small detail you have to remember to tell your friend about, and the kind of thing you might forget to tell your friend unless you give him a walkthrough.
posted by interrobang at 12:45 AM on March 30, 2004

Vet phone numbers

Your landlords number or the number of a handyman in case something goes tits up

If this is a close, trusted friend, can you leave a credit card so he or she can pay for emergency things, like a vet visit or a plumber?
posted by jennyb at 6:28 AM on March 30, 2004

label the remotes with sticky notes and leave a button by button list of how to switch between the cable/vcr/dvd player and surround sound crap.

oh and the list of places that deliver to your house.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2004

You might as well point out the location of all of your bongs, dildos, and/or other illicit belongings. They'll find them sooner or later.
posted by internook at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

If this person doesn't know your pets very well - you might want to give him/her an idea of their quirks and behaviors.

I was dog-sitting for a friend. Woke up in the middle of the night to find the dog staring at me. Thought it was weird, shoved him away and went back to sleep. A little while later I woke up to him jumping on the bed and looking at me again. When I tried to shove him off, he peed on me and the bed. Nothing wakes you up faster than getting peed on. So - after letting the dog out, I had to clean up the mess (sheets and blankets into the washer, egg crate into the trash, me into the shower) in the middle of the night. Nothing pisses me off (no pun intended) more than not getting a good night's sleep. Had I known that waking up to the dog staring at me meant that he had to go outside, all of that could have been avoided.
posted by MsVader at 8:38 AM on March 30, 2004

I have a caretaker that lives at my house for half the year. The list that I have contains most of the items people are talking about. Jennyb's question about money is a good one... how much do you want your caretaker to pay for if there is some urgent event? If they don't have the money, leave some for them or a credit card. Other stuff I include:

- neighbor quirks - we have a neighbor with a gun who is harmless but shoots guns off of his porch some nights
- systems - or how to restart the furnace or the hot water heater if they fail, how to flip a breaker, how to relight pilot lights, how to turn off gas, water, power
- things that you expect to go wrong or break - if there is stuff that is already in disrepair, note it so your caretaker doesn't think they busted it
- ground rules for pets - should your caretaker freak out if the cat/dog wanders off, or does it do that occasionally? is a little extra food okay, or not okay? are you training the pets in any way that the caretaker might be able to assist with, or at least not undo?
- rules for cars/phone/guests/food [can they drive your car, sleep in your bed, have sleepover guests, make long distance calls, eat the frozen steak, smoke your stash? anything off-limits?]
- how to maintain the place - where does trash go? do you compost or recycle? leave on a light at night?
- locations of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and things that might break and make a beeping noise
- phone numbers of anyone you can think of particularly someone who might be deputized to make decisions for you if they needed to be made [if this person = your caretaker, then no problem]
posted by jessamyn at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2004

- neighbor quirks - we have a neighbor with a gun who is harmless but shoots guns off of his porch some nights

Great example of something maybe not immediately obvious that the housesitter will appreciate knowing about beforehand...

Excellent suggestions above. I would add: leave out any kitchen utensils/appliances that aren't intuitively placed. We just housesat and had to do some serious rummaging to find a few things we needed in order to make dinner.
posted by widdershins at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2004

If you're going to be gone over trash day and you can't go another week without pickup, you may also want to let them know what day that gets collected and where they need to put the cans to get them picked up.
posted by aine42 at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2004

Great suggestions. My sister runs a house/pet-sitting service and I've done it a few times as well.

Assuming you trust your vet (and if you don't, get a different one), you should leave your credit card number on file with them with clearly-written and signed instructions to perform whatever is necessary (or whatever you're willing to pay for) for your pets in the event of an emergency. Make sure the housesitter knows this has been done, and make sure they have the vet's phone number and directions. If your vet does not do emergency care, you will need to leave the phone number and address for the nearest emergency vet clinic, and make some kind of payment arrangements with them (call them up and explain the situation, they will likely have a solution for you - a letter which has your credit card details which states "I hereby authorize [vet clinic] to perform emergency care as needed up to the amount of $foo and to use this credit card for that purpose, and that purpose only" or something like that is usually safe and acceptable). Make sure you're clear about what the pets can and cannot have, and be sure to leave an adequate supply of food and whatever else they need and a list of which foods and treats they get and where the sitter can purchase more if need be.

LEAVE FOOD IN THE HOUSE (a truly nice home owner finds out what the sitter likes). It's very difficult to enter a sitting situation in an area you may not know very well and have to sort out where you buy milk and coffee on the very first day.

Leave all important phone numbers on the fridge along with a brief, general description of a "normal" week (as suggested: trash pickup, recycling pickup, when the postman comes, names of friends who might drop by unannounced so that your sitter doesn't get scared to death). And don't forget a copy of your itinerary and phone numbers where you can be reached! Have a good trip!
posted by biscotti at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2004

This would be a good time to get some basic safety items, if you don't already have them. A fire extinguisher and a first aid kit in the kitchen can be crucial when there is someone cooking regularly but without a lot of familiarity with your appliances. A safety chain on your door can help your housesitter feel safe in case there is an unexpected knock on the door. Be sure to show your sitter how to turn on your porch/outdoor lights.

You should also consider leaving behind a written authorization for your housesitter's presence in case there should be a problem which brings authorities (of any sort) to the home. Something simple which states that X person who normally resides at X address will be in residence at your home with your permission during your absence, with a phone number where you can be reached for confirmation, could be the difference between housesitter being treated with caution and housesitter being treated with extreme suspicion.

Also, if you have a security alarm system, be sure to cover everything which will set it off, including doors, windows, motion detectors, and panic buttons. (We had a housesitter who unwittingly tripped the alarm when she mistook the panic remote for the remote control for the ceiling fan.) If you've got alarms which will sound for fires, floods or CO2, indicate what those indicators sound like and what to do should they be tripped.

Also, consider creating a limited access login for your housesitter on your computer, so that they can use everything but can't access your personal stuff. Even if it's a good friend or if you feel you have nothing to hide, curiosity is a nasty beast and it's best for everybody to just cover all bases.
posted by Dreama at 8:28 PM on March 30, 2004

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