FAQs - For House Owners
If you've got a question about finding a House and Pet Sitter, or about membership and how it's ABSOLUTELY FREE - have a quick browse through this list. We've collated answers to the most common questions for House Owners.
Many different kinds of people sit houses - retired couples, singles, young families, professionals, artists, etc. There is no one stereotypical "sitter". Generally, house sitters are well educated, caring, responsible people with lots of life experience. The reasons people house sit are as varied as they are numerous. Some house sitters are people who need temporary accommodation while they are moving from one house to another. Many sitters see the benefits of living rent free, while others simply enjoy a change of scenery.
The sitters' responsibility is to live in and care for the house they are minding. This may include house security, house cleaning duties, garden and lawn maintenance, caring for pets, forwarding mail and phone messages, the occasional odd job, and anything else the home owner and the sitter both agree on.
Basically, it’s up to you. From our research most home owners and house sitters tend not to use a house sitting agreement and simply choose do discuss things verbally. However, it’s very important to discuss all aspects of the house sit before it's confirmed to allow everything to run smoothly and avoid any confusion, so we do highly recommend documenting everything discussed either within your My Messages area in your ‘conversation' with the other party, within an email, using a house sitting agreement or another form of documentation. Things that may need clarifying could be things like required pet care, garden care, who is responsible for paying for utilities etc.
House Sitters America offers a house sitting agreement template that you can adjust to suit your needs if you desire one.
You should find a sitter quite easily. There are no guarantees of course, but we have a large number of registered sitters who are actively looking for house sitting jobs. You will improve your chances of finding a sitter by posting a House Ad, and adding photos and some helpful information. This Ad is available 24/7 for viewing by sitters.
Absolutely. Many of our sitters get many repeat assignments - all the more reason for our sitters to provide reliable and responsible care for your home, pets and garden. If you've found a great sitter, get them back next time you go away.
We do this for security reasons.
Previously, we allowed all members to list their phone number in their profile, if they wanted to. We did this as a service to our members, and it worked beautifully for thousands of successful transactions.
Unfortunately, we experienced a security breach that resulted in a spammer registering as a Home Owner (for free) and making contact with a number of House Sitters, using their published phone numbers.
As a result, we have now disabled the ability to list phone numbers for House Sitters, but it is still available for Home Owners.
MAKING CONTACT - OUR MESSAGING SYSTEM
The truth is, there is very little value in being able to list phone numbers anyway - for most people.
Our internal messaging system has proven itself to be safe, robust and really easy to use. We have introduced additional security measures which now make it even more secure as a communication method. It is easily the safest way to contact other members, particularly for the first contact.
WHY DISABLE THE FEATURE FOR HOUSE SITTERS ONLY?
The reasons include:
- Experience: Out of tens of thousands of successful transactions between members, we have had zero security issues involving House Sitters spamming Home owners. We believe that this is mostly because Sitter registrations must be paid for.
- House owners can register for free. This means that, even though we only show phone numbers to logged in members, it is techinically possible for spammers to become members for free and proceed to view phone numbers and make contact.
- Phone numbers are inherently insecure: There is nothing we can do to protect members if they publish their phone number. We only allow it for Home owners as the risk of abuse is FAR less - and it is completely discretionary.
- Internal Messages are safer: With additional security measures, our internal messaging system is a far more secure communication channel.
We recommend that you DON'T allow your phone number to be published on your profile. We believe there is little real value for most members, and it presents a security risk.
WHO PAYS WHAT?
Yes! We do not charge homeowners anything to place a House Ad or to find a house sitter. They can even place multiple Ads (e.g. for different times), contact as many Sitters as they want - and do this for years - all 100% FREE!
The bottom line is it's all negotiable between you and the house sitter. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for your house and pets in exchange for free accommodation.
However there may be times when a homeowner will offer some money for the house sitting job. For example if the house is situated in an undesirable location, and/or the length of the sit is not really desirable (too short), and/or there are lots of pets to care for and jobs to do - then the homeowner may offer to pay the house sitter something or at the very least they might cover the house sitters utility costs (electricity, gas, phone etc).
Of course, there are also many professional house and pet sitters who actually do this for a living, and they will charge a fee for their services.
Remember it's all negotiable between the home owners and the sitter. You should be able to work something out that seems fair to both parties.
This is negotiable between the homeowner and the house sitter. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation.
However, there may be times when a homeowner may ask for some weekly money from the house sitter. For example if the house was situated in a desirable location, and/or the length of the sit was long and desirable, and/or there were no pets to care for and very little jobs to do.
Remember it's all negotiable between the home owner and the sitter. You should be able to work something out that seems fair to both parties.
Generally the house sitter pays for what they use. However if the house sitting position is not that desirable the homeowner may entice a house sitter by covering all the costs incurred by the house sitter, except perhaps phone calls.
Payment of utilities is totally negotiable, and should be discussed in detail before the sit commences.
House sits run smoothly 99% of the time. In the situation where something is broken or damaged by the house sitter, they will normally pay for the damage happily, if it was their fault. If the damage was caused due to the age of the house etc then the homeowner is usually happy to cover the cost of the repairs.
Some home owners like to use a house sitting agreement to prevent any potential problems. House Sitters America offers a house sitting agreement template that you can adjust to suit your needs.
REGISTRATION AS A HOUSE OWNER & PLACING AN AD
You should receive your login details via email within minutes of registering. If you have not received this email within an hour (and you have checked your junk mail folders) please email us and we will re-send you your details.
In many cases, it turns out that a small mistake was made when entering the email address - e.g. a letter missing.
To ensure that our emails get to your inbox, you should add these two email addresses to your "contacts" list:
Note: Some members with Apple email accounts (e.g. icloud.com) have experienced issues receiving emails, but we have been dealing directly with Apple to sort this out, and that's been fairly successful.
We generally approve House Ads within 2 to 4 hours, but it can take 12 hours or more at times of peak demand.
Remember that you are able to start contacting House Sitters before your Ad is approved.
As soon as you've completed your registration process you can start making contact with House Sitters. You don't need to have placed an Ad (but we do recommend placing an Ad to improve your chances of finding a good sitter quickly).
You can login to your homeowner account and either de-activate or delete your ad. De-activating means you can keep the ad for use the next time you need a sitter.
NOTE: You can also email us and ask us to delete it for you.
No. This is an old practice that has been superceded by the internet.
An email account will make this site MUCH eaasier to use, however, you CAN get away without one - just.
You will need to have an email account when you first sign up so you can receive your password but once you have registered you can choose to be contacted by phone if that's preferable.
But having an email account will make your experience much better.
ABOUT THE SITE
House Owners can register and place a House Ad for FREE.
Registered House Owners can contact any of the Sitters on this website.
If a House Owner submits a House Ad, it will be posted on the site after approval. Sitters then have the chance to contact the House Owner through the Ad page.
Contact is normally established via the in-house Messaging System.
Once a sit has been organised, the House Owner can inactivate or delete their house Ad. Inactivating the Ad means it can be reactivated at a later date if necessary.
It's easy! Homeowners can either place a free House Ad allowing our registered house sitters to contact them through our internal messaging system. OR they can scroll through the list of house sitters and directly contact those they feel are suitable. We recommend that homeowners do both to increase their chances of finding that perfect house sitter.
If you've sent a message to a House Sitter (using the contact button on the house listing) and haven't got a reply, this is usually due to one of two things:
- THE JUNK FOLDER: The email notifying you about the owner's reply may have been sent to the JUNK folder of your email program (these emails come from a different address to the admin address used for your account).
- THE HOUSE SITTER: Most House Sitters reply to all inquiries promptly, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes they forget, or are away from their computer for a while.
WHAT TO DO:
- CHECK YOUR MESSAGES: Note that you can always login to your account and check your Messages there - if the Sitter did reply it will appear here, regardless of whether or not you received an email notification.
- ADD US TO YOUR CONTACTS LIST: This will ensure that all message notifications get to you. The email address for message notifications is firstname.lastname@example.org
- TRY AGAIN OR MOVE ON: You could try sending another inquiry, or you could just assume the House Sitter is not interested, and move on. There are lots of fish in this sea.
Yes. You can send attachments up to a file size of 2Mb.
If you have found a wonderful Sitter, you can tell the world through a review on their profile page. The Sitter initiates this process by inviting a registered House Owner to submit a review.
The House Owner receives an email with a special link that directs them to an online submission page. The review is submitted and sent through to the Sitter for them to post on their profie page.
We allow the Sitter to control this whole process as we feel that "open" review systems, and "rating" systems are less helpful in this context and easily abused.
As you browse through house or sitter listings, you can collect a set of "Favorites" just by clicking on the star icon in the top right of the listing or profile page.
To view your favorites, click on the star icon just under the main site navigation (top right of the browser window) and you will be taken to a list of the members that you have selected.
To save this list, just login and the list will be transferred to your account pages.
To remove anyone from the list, just click on the star again to inactivate it. That listing won't be there next time you view (or refresh) the page.
A REPLY RATING appears on a member's search listing and profile / Ad page, as a series of 5 dots. This rates the member's responsiveness to (first contact) messages.
If a member has responded in a timely fashion to every first contact message, their REPLY RATING will remain at a perfect 5 points.
For every (first contact) message that goes un-replied, a point is deducted. To redeem a lost point the member needs to answer promptly to the next two (first contact) messages that come through.
Some things to note:
- First contact messages can't be archived or deleted by the recipient until they have been replied to.
- The Reply Rating only applies to first contacts. Non-replies to existing contacts don't incur any penalties.
- If a House Sitter is having trouble replying promptly, they can choose a "LIMITED CONTACT" status. With this option chosen, their profile is still live, and messages can still be sent to them, but the sender is aware that there may be a delayed response. Late replies from the sitter will not incur any Reply Rating penalties while this option is selected.
- If a House Owner wants to stop receiving first contact messages they can simply de-activate their house Ad.
Of course, if there is any valid reason that a prompt reply was not possible, we are able to restore Reply Ratings manually (at our own discretion).
We've chosen to make the Reply Rating fully "redeemable", rather than allowing a single mistake to permanently scar a member's profile. We feel that this is a much fairer and more realistic approach, with the emphasis on encouraging prompt replies, rather than just punishing non-replies.
Find out more: REPLY RATING
Our members occasionally suggest that a rating system would help them choose between candidates.
While ratings can be useful for some sites, they can also be very damaging in others. We have carefully considered introducing a ratings system, but have decided against it because we feel that it could have a negative impact on many of our members, which would be completely unwarranted.
• Subjectivity: Choosing a House Sitter is an incredibly subjective task, involving a mix of characteristics, experience and "chemistry". All homeowners have different standards, expectations and personalities. While one homeowner might think ‘0 stars’ another might think ‘5 stars’ about the same experience.
• Love: This site and the community of people involved are characterized by generosity, responsibility and respect. We value this and work very hard to affirm and maintain it. We feel that a ratings system has too many potential negatives for some members that would undermine the wonderful spirit of the site for no real benefit.
• Unreasonable criticism: It only takes one negative comment to destroy a House Sitter’s chances of getting any further sits. A house sitter could be trying their best, but if they don’t have detailed instructions they might disappoint an owner without meaning to. A rating would unfairly punish a sitter in this instance.
• Quality: It is genuinely hard to find a ‘bad’ House Sitter or Homeowner. The overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of sits that happen every year are fantastic exchanges that are wonderfully satisfying for all parties.
• Confidence: There are many things that help build confidence in a House Sitter, which we believe are actually more helpful than a rating. These include references, referees, endorsements, number of completed sits and personal history. And don’t underestimate the importance for homeowners to take time to talk with a potential sitter. This is a great way to have confidence in what the sitter can provide.
• Incentive: An argument for ratings is that it provides incentive for a House Sitter to perform well. We feel that good performance is already an outstanding feature of our AHS members. House sitters genuinely want to do a great job for their owner and homeowners genuinely want to make the sitter’s stay comfortable and enjoyable. Good character and common courtesy drive our members to "perform" well. We have other more practical incentives for sitters to perform well, these include receiving positive endorsements, repeat sits, referrals and additional references and referees.
• Skewing: ‘Ratings’ may help in choosing a camera: is it what was expected, did it arrive on time etc. These factors can easily be measured fairly. However, given the same sitter, five different homeowners could rate them very differently, so it is hard to see this as a fair measure. Sitters performing at the same level of expertise can be "marked" differently and if this is displayed on the site, it is not a fair assessment and not helpful for either the sitter or the owners looking for a sitter.
• Endorsements: To help in selecting a sitter, we have “Endorsements” from previous house sits. This is a feature that is becoming popular in many sites. It means that members can be rewarded with positive recommendations from other members, and it adds an important layer of credibility to a sitter's profile.
• Complaints policy: For those rare occasions when a Homeowner or House Sitter has experienced a problem, we are always available to hear complaints about members and we do take appropriate action. We have a thorough complaints procedure we use when needed.
Endorsements add a lot of credibility to a member's profile, and they reward and promote good citizenship.
To send an endorsement, or request one, the process is simple:
- Make sure the other member is listed in your “Confirmed Sits”
- Send / Request an endorsement
Confirmed Sits: The logic behind this, of course, is that you can only endorse someone who has sat for you, or for whom you have sat. Most conversations on this site start with the messaging system, so all "Confirmed Sits" come from My Messages.
Retrospective: You can send and receive endorsements for any sit that was initiated through the messaging system, even if it was months ago (providing the other member is still an active member).
We are known for our prompt and friendly service - we like to reply to all inquiries within 2 to 6 hours. During times of peak activity, however, it can take 12 hours or more but we do everything we can to manage this and keep the response time as short as possible.
We will respond to all genuine inquiries and we go out of our way to support all of our members at every stage of the house sitting process.