Before engaging a House Sitter,
there are four options to consider.
Four different ways to sit a house.

House Sitting
four important options

House sitting means temporarily caring for a house while the homeowners are absent or for any reason unable to take care of the property themselves. Usually, that includes services like garden sitting and pet sitting. House sitting can be offered privately by individuals or professionally by businesses and it can be arranged that they live in the house or rather carry out regular inspections and services. But what exactly are the benefits of the different ways to sit a house?

  • Private house sitting
  • Professional house sitting
  • Live-in house sitting
  • Regular security inspections

When is house sitting useful?

The holiday planning is done and there it is again, the queasy feeling, what might happen to the house while nobody is home and it's left unprotected? Even worse if you have animals living on the property because they need to be fed and taken care of daily. Not easy, different animals require different care. Depending on the time of absence, plants and lawns need to be watered. The lawn may also need to be mowed. The letterbox should be emptied regularly and important letters maybe even forwarded to the owner. To top it all off, meter readings for gas or electricity may be coming up and access is locked. And at worst, environmental conditions such as storms, floods or fires may require immediate action.

Good if you have reliable friends or family members, but what if they are living too far away, don't have the time right now or you do not want to feel guilty because you have to ask for a favour again?

Private House Sitting

In return for free accommodation and sometimes a small payment, private house sitters agree to take care of the property, house and animals.

The solution could be a private house sitter, someone caring for your home and temporarily living there during the time you're away. Private house sitters are individuals, often one or two people, who sit homes more as a hobby. In return for free accommodation and sometimes a small payment, they agree to take care of the property, house and animals. The fact that someone is actually home is particularly beneficial if there are demanding animals which need to be looked after at least twice a day.

On the other hand, during the time the house sitters live in your home, they have access to your entire house and personal belongings, they use electricity, gas, water, internet and one item or another may even break during the time. Besides sitting the house, they also pursue own interests, they may go on daytrips or have a regular job during the day. For property maintenance and pet sitting, the private house sitter uses existing equipment and supplies. Here it is important to discuss what to do in emergency situations and what to do if something unexpected happens, for example the garden irrigation system no longer works or the food for animals runs out.

Professional House Sitting

It is becoming increasingly common for professional house sitters to carry out regular inspections — so-called house watch services.

The alternative to private house sitting is professional house sitting. Professional also means they want to be paid. In return, however, a corresponding commitment and quality home care can be expected. The agreed tasks can largely be the same as those of the private home sitter and need to be discussed with the owner of the house. The professional house sitter is usually more flexible in terms of availability and also agrees to sit houses which are less attractive - maybe because it's only for a few days or the house to sit is located in a rather remote area.

A key difference of professional home sitters is, they don't have to live in your house. In fact, it is becoming increasingly common for professional house sitters to carry out regular inspections – so-called house watch services. That means visits to the property, where attention is paid particularly to unusual and unwanted changes. It is checked whether gates are closed, windows and doors tightly locked and that there is no pest invasion. Especially after storms and heavy rain it is checked if there are any visual defects or damages. Emptying the letterbox and maintaining the property are also important to give the impression that someone is home. And another advantage of the house watch service compared to residing there; no additional costs are generated for energy and water consumption.

The frequency of visits to the property depends on the covered tasks. If inside and outside security inspections have priority, one or two visits per week might be enough, but if animals are involved, it may even require two visits a day.

Live-in sitting vs. security inspections

For many homeowners the main reason to engage a house sitter is the security of the building and that the home looks lived-in to discourage break-ins and burglaries.

In general, it is possible to sit a house by living there or to carry out regular visits and inspections. Both options can have benefits.

On the one hand live-in sitting means someone is there at least several hours a day/night even if they do day trips or go to work during the day. And because they're already paid by having a place to stay, they often agree to services like watering plants and caring for pets for free. Especially looking after and spending quality time with pets is easier for a house sitter who lives there.

On the other hand a house sitter, who carries out regular security inspections may visit the home once or twice a day, perhaps less if no pets are involved. They do not sleep in your bedroom nor use your belongings and appliances or consume energy. Property maintenance, pet sitting or walking the dog can be included as required and the actual payment with this type of home sitting may lead to an increased caution and mindfulness in dealing with your property.

For many homeowners the main reason to engage a house sitter is the security of the building and that the home looks lived-in to discourage break-ins and burglaries. Can a house sitter who drops in just once a day or less provide the required security?

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), 66% of unlawful entries occur through unlocked or open doors and windows. And a lack of security measures around the property is one of the first things burglars check for when selecting a target.

The biggest mistakes and reasons to be targeted are:

  • Unlocked or left open gates
  • Unlocked doors and windows
  • No vehicles parked in the driveway
  • No lights turned on in the evening
  • Houses that appear unoccupied
  • Lawn not mowed for a while
  • Valuable items on display
  • An overflowing mailbox

The AIC mentions that burglars want to avoid confrontation and attention, so having a noisy dog or a working alarm system (no dummy) are the two most effective deterrents. However, break-ins even happen while the homeowner is visibly occupied with outdoor chores. They knock on the door and if nobody answers, enter the house. The majority of burglaries take less than 5 minutes up to 15 minutes. Surprisingly, burglaries are reported most frequently between 12pm noon and 6pm and least frequently between 12am and 5am. This is due to people are more likely to be away during the day.

So to answer the question, there is no way to provide 100% security. Even someone who lives there cannot prevent a break-in if it happens during the day when they're out or if they've accidentally left a door or window open. On the other hand, important security precautions can also be applied during regular house checks. However, it is pretty obvious that a lived-in house has still better chances to appear like someone is home.

Last updated: 30 Mar 2019
House & Property Care