If you’re a pet owner, you probably have a go-to routine for taking care of your dog when you go out of town. Chances are, you’re familiar with all of the dog boarding options and you may have even tried house sitting before.
But what do you do if your next trip out of town is going to last for longer than usual—maybe weeks or even months?
You may want to look into long-term house sitting. But how does it work?
What is long-term house sitting, exactly?
House sitting is when someone asks someone else—a house sitter—to stay in their home while they’re away, sometimes for a cost. This is usually because the homeowner has something that needs looking after in the home, be it a pet, a plant, or a pool.
Long-term house sitting is the same thing, only it typically lasts for longer—anywhere from a couple of weeks all the way up to several months.
Many homeowners ask friends and family to keep an eye on their homes and pets while they’re away. When you’re gone for an extended period of time, however, that turns into a pretty big ask.
This is a situation where a professional house sitter may come in handy—especially one who specializes in long-term house sits.
What does a long-term house sitter do?
Obviously, a long-term house sitter watches a home for a long period of time. Rather than arriving with a weekend bag, they’re basically moving in for a while, but that’s not all they do.
Alexandra Davis is a long-term house sitter who works with her husband Ryan. She says their average house sitting job is about five months long. The couple house-sits full time, and uses it as a way to see the world. “My husband and I have been house-sitting across South, Central, and North America,” she explains.
The job details for a long-term house sitter depend on the expectations set by the homeowner. They can be asked to do anything from bringing in mail to mowing the lawn, watering flowers, shoveling sidewalks, and even grocery shopping. Davis even mentioned a family who had a farm and needed a house-sitter.
And if you have a pet, long-term house sitters serve an even more important purpose. They take care of your furry family members while you’re far from home, no matter how long you’re away.
“All of the house sits we have done include pets, usually cats or dogs. It’s rare for us to find a sit that only has a home, and when that is the case, it’s usually to maintain the property, a pool, or for security,” Davis adds.
Is a long-term house sitter a better choice for your pet?
You have a lot of choices when it comes to pet care solutions while you’re away from home, but the American Kennel Club favors professional pet sitters over boarding facilities.
“They are great for households with multiple animals, special needs animals, or if an owner prefers that their dog stay in the comfort of his own environment,” they explain.
This is especially important if you’ll be away for a long period of time, as too many consecutive days in a kennel could be stressful for your dog.
A long-term sitter may also be a good choice for your home, since having someone on-site adds a sense of security and ensures home emergencies are found and handled in a timely manner.
Also, keep in mind that long-term house sitters aren’t just for dogs. They’re a useful service for anyone with pets of any kind, including cats, fish, and other small animals—some of which don’t have a lot of boarding options available.
What’s the cost of a long-term house sitter?
The payment of long-term house sitters tends to be a little different than with short-term house sitters. In a short-term situation, a house sitter working through an online service like Rover would usually be paid per day.
In a long-term situation, paying per-day would soon end up being quite costly for the homeowner, so sitters and homeowners often work out a mutually beneficial agreement. Most often, the house sitter stays for no fee, and the homeowner pays utilities while they’re away.
Essentially, the house-sitter in these situations works for room and board and gets an opportunity to live someplace new—with enough time to actually explore and feel at home.
“We don’t charge for our house sits,” explains full-time pet sitter Zac Stafford, who travels the world with his wife by providing long-term housesitting services. “It’s a sharing economy, especially when there are a few pets to take care of.”
Monetta Dardanis, a professional house sitter from Denver, Colorado, says she doesn’t charge to house sit but does ask the homeowner to pay her transportation costs if they’re not local.
“I travel light, so an inexpensive ticket is not a problem for my clients,” she says.
How to find a long-term house sitter
Hiring a long-term house sitter is a great idea, but it will only work if you find the right person for the job.
After all, you’re inviting someone to live in your house—for a while—so it’s extremely important to find someone you can trust. This isn’t the time to count on newspaper listings or that guy who’s advertising on Facebook Marketplace.
While both sites offer references, which are very important when deciding on a house sitter, they both leave background checks and other security safety checks up to the homeowner. That can be overwhelming for many people—especially for homeowners who don’t even know where to start looking for that information.
Another option is Rover. While they specialize in short-term house sits, it’s also a great place to find someone more long-term, though you may have to reach out to a few sitters before you find the right candidate.
With Rover, you can rest assured that every house sitter listed on their site has completed a general background check, which gives you the peace of mind you need when you’re leaving your home and pets in the hands of a stranger.
And you don’t have to take Rover’s word for it—you can also read reviews left by previous clients to help you decide if a house sitter is a good match for you.
Tips for a successful house sit
Once you’ve found someone you think is the perfect house sitter, it’s important to have a face-to-face meeting to make sure you both feel comfortable with the arrangement.
If the sitter is local, set up a meeting in a public face. If they’re not, a video call may be a good option.
This meet and greet (which is free when you book through Rover), is a good time for you to lay out any expectations you have for your sitter while you’re away. If you don’t get a good feeling about a potential sitter, it’s time to move on to the next candidate.
When it comes to long-term house sits, the interview process isn’t just for you. It’s also a good chance for them to get a good feel for you—and your pets.
According to Davis, she and her husband may turn down house sitting jobs where the pets don’t appear to be trained well.
Stafford doesn’t have any complaints about pets, but says he may turn down a long-term house sitting job if the scene is too chaotic, if he doesn’t mesh well with the homeowner, or “if we feel that we would never be able to make the homeowner happy.”
Finally, there’s no reason to wonder what’s happening with your pet while you’re away.
You can exchange messages and photos with your house sitter as often as you like, ensuring you know what’s going on at home. More than likely, they’re having a great vacation, too.