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Hiring Housesitter Is a Smart Move

For many of us, summer is the ideal time of year to take extended trips away from home. It’s also the perfect time of year for burglars to go on the prowl for easy break-in opportunities where their activities won’t quickly be detected or reported.

Hiring a housesitter to check in on your home while you’re away is a great way to ensure your home is well-cared for and secure in your absence. Many pet sitters offer housesitting services or a combined service for homeowners leaving their pets behind. Most professional housesitters charge between $15 and $50 per visit, depending on the distance traveled, length of the visit, and duties required. Visits can range from as little as 20 or 30 minutes to staying in the house overnight.

“Some people don’t think these kinds of services are out there and they contact friends and family members, but it can be a burden oftentimes,” said Summor White, who co-owns Sitting Comfortably Pet Care with her husband, Shaun, in Kansas City, Mo. “We keep their home alive and we keep their pets alive.”

Most housesitters offer services to give the appearance of someone living in the home, such as bringing in mail, newspapers and packages; taking out the garbage; turning off and on different lights and opening and closing various window treatments. Many housesitting professionals recommend homeowners take with them or secure any valuables, especially those that can’t be replaced, but otherwise make their homes appear as if they are still occupied by not covering furniture or cancelling mail and newspapers.

“The first thing we do is check the mail, newspaper and packages because, even though people stop those, we still sometimes find those things there,” said Linda Edwards, owner of Nana’s Pet Sitting, LLC in Charlotte, N.C. “We’ll pull out their trash and recycling and bring it in. When we go in the house, we search every room and look in the bathrooms for leaks. We flush toilets and don’t leave the bathroom until the water stops running. We’ll water plants; alternate the lights. We check every single door in the house and make sure all the windows are locked as well.”

Hiring a housesitter can add a level of security to your home in more ways than one. Not tending to your home for an extended period of time could be a recipe for disaster, should an emergency occur. In addition to a regular presence of someone entering a leaving the home, a housesitter can also identify and act on potential safety or costly issues, like a leaking pipe, power outage or fire hazard.

Edwards said because of severe storms that regularly hit the Charlotte area, she’ll check for downed trees and storm damage. Edwards said she once went into a client’s home and found the gas turned on at the stove. White said one of her clients experienced a flooded basement while away, but the housesitter was able to contact the appropriate contractors to minimize the damage.

“We were able to handle the situation, while keeping their stress level down simply because we were there every single day checking the home, ensuring everything was in order,” White said. “That’s an extra step a housesitter can take care of instead of the homeowner coming home five or six days later and everything is completely ruined.”

Homeowners considering hiring a housesitting professional should thoroughly check the person’s background, read reviews and check references, and ask for proof that they’re insured and bonded.

Before heading out on your trip, be sure to provide the housesitter with a list of emergency contacts and service providers, the names and phone numbers of anyone else who has access to the home and other pertinent information, like where the electrical breaker panel and water shutoff main are. A qualified housesitter should ask for this information up front.

White said her staff leaves clients a list of times they enter and leave the home and what took place during the visit. They also provide email updates during their visits.

“If they have a mobile device, they’re able to receive real-time information as to how their home held up and how their pets did through the day,” White said. “You want to return home to a happy home, as well as happy pets and a happy lawn and garden. A lot of extra benefits come with having a pet sitter or housesitter.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.