House sitting: what is it?

Whether with your family, partner or friends, summer is the perfect opportunity to travel, relax and rest. The only downside? Leaving your home empty for a short or extended period of time. House sitting, a popular concept amongst home owners, helps ensure your home remains protected and reduces chance of theft. 

Does house sitting offer guaranteed security? 

Originally an American concept, house sitting is the exchange of home services and “guardianship” between individuals. The aim is for another person (the house sitter) to look after your house or apartment during a short or extended period of absence. However, the house sitter does more than just watch over the home, they also care for the owner’s pets (dogs, cats etc.) and carry out other household tasks such as: 

  • Watering the plants
  • Airing the home
  • Keeping the home tidy and clean
  • If a farm, looking after all the animals

 House sitting goes beyond finding a temporary guardian for your home as it allows the space to remain lived in during periods of absence. There are even professional house sitters that you can hire.

What are the advantages of house sitting? 

  • Go on holiday to a different region or country: House sitters receive free accommodation in exchange for their services watching over and upkeeping the home, as well as looking after any pets. With homes available all over the world, it’s a unique and cheap way for people to holiday not just in their home country but foreign ones too. Thanks to the offer of free accommodation, those with limited finances can now afford to travel to countries previously out with their budget.
  • Peace of mind, even at the other side of the world: Knowing their home is not empty, thus deterring criminals and burglars from breaking in, offers home owners peace of mind while on holiday. It’s also an ideal solution for pet owners wishing to stay at a hotel or use transport that doesn’t accept animals. They receive the comfort of knowing their dog or cat will be taken care of by the house sitter every day until they return.

Where to find a trustworthy house sitter? 

If you are a home owner and are tempted by the idea of house sitting, there are several websites and specialised agencies dedicated to arranging this service. Depending on if you use a website or agency, the process can vary.  

Agency: if you don't have enough time to research house sitters yourself, an agency can be a great solution. Trust is important, you must have confidence in the agents to find the ideal house sitter for your needs. Many of the agencies are specialised in one type of profile: retirees who have previously owned a pet.  However, it is possible to find agencies offering a variety of characters.  The profile selection and screening of potential house sitters of course carries a higher price, making an agency the more expensive option.   

Website:  you are the one who posts the advert and handles the received applications. There are a lot of adverts posted on these sites therefore you must make your advert stand out from the crowd and clearly state your expectations. To select a trustworthy house sitter, you should encourage conversation with the applicant by asking them questions and checking the previous reviews on their profile.  Be as vigilant as you would be on any other social network site.

This is a particularly good option if you are already comfortable using similar websites, have the time to vet the applicants yourself or if you struggle to give up control and trust agencies. You will normally have to pay a subscription fee to these types of websites. 

An example of such a website is Nomador, a reference site for accommodation all over the world that facilitates contact between home owners and house sitters. By subscribing to their website, house sitters can access owners’ adverts and apply to as many as they please. 

House sitting: how to sort insurance? 

Once you have found the ideal house sitter for your home, it is important to check you are covered by insurance. As a home owner, a multi-risk policy is usually enough. 

As a house sitter, it’s important to have civil liability coverage.

What are the alternatives to house sitting? 

  • Couch surfing: an equally popular concept, couch surfing allows travellers to sleep for free in host homes all over the world. It’s an interesting option, providing the host with company and the opportunity to meet new people from around the world.
  • House swap: this allows two home owners to go on holiday at a reduced cost. As suggested by the name, the two individuals spend their holiday at the other’s home. The only potential downside is having to offer your own home in exchange. However, being able to swap homes with people all over the world is certainly an interesting solution.
  • L’Opération Tranquillité Vacances: this initiative was first introduced by the French Home Secretary nearly 50 years ago. It allows those on holiday to receive free police patrols outside their home to check for signs of break-in.

These are all practical alternatives to make travelling both easier and cheaper. However, unlike house sitting, they don’t account for those with pets at home.  

Don’t overlook home security 

Although house sitting is an effective solution for looking after your home, it’s by no means an appropriate substitute for a permanent home security system. Break-ins can still happen, even when someone is at home. 

The installation of connected security devices is essential to avoid and prevent such events.   

Netatmo offers a range of products dedicated to home protection:

  • Smart Outdoor Camera with Siren
  • Smart Indoor Camera
  • Smart Door and Window Sensors
  • Smart Video Doorbell