01.House minding agencies
Why get a housesitter?
Ever had that sinking feeling as you leave home to head off on holiday? Will the house be secure? Will the garden survive? Will the pets be safe and will your neighbour remember to feed them?
Enter professional house-minding companies. These organisations have hundreds of potential fido feeders and plant pamperers on their books who are available to live in and care for your home while you’re away. The idea is that you get someone to mind your place for little or no cost and the sitter gets rent-free accommodation.
Please note: this information was current as of July 2008 but is still a useful guide today.
How house-minding agencies work
Most house-minding companies we contacted provide a kind of directory service over the internet for home owners, with either a list of prospective housesitters or an option to advertise to attract housesitters.
Other companies, for a small fee, will provide a matching service between the two parties. However, it’s usually the housesitters who pay to be listed with the agency in the first place.
While house-minding agencies and directories can help you get in touch with housesitters, it’s important to note that from there on the arrangement is totally between you and the person you choose.
The idea of having a complete stranger in your home can be a little daunting when you consider the possibilities. Follow this checklist to give yourself the best protection you can.
Try to leave a reasonable amount of lead time — say six to eight weeks — in order to find and engage a housesitter.
Once you’ve found a potential candidate, try meeting them first in a neutral place such as a café, to protect your privacy. It’s advisable to meet several times so you and your sitter are completely clear on what you’re expecting from them.
Ask for a variety of references, such as from previous housesits, employers and personal references, and make sure to check them out. Another thing to consider is a police check, which you can ask the sitter to provide.
If you’re comfortable with them, meet them again at your home. Show them around to familiarise them with what needs to be done.
Provide a list of written instructions and emergency contact numbers.
Prepare a house-minding agreement in writing. Most of the companies we spoke to have draft house-minding agreements that home owners can customise, complete and sign off together with the sitter. If you want to be doubly sure, get your solicitor to check it over or draw it up for you.
Ask for a bond, which should be held by a third party.
Check with your insurer whether you’re still covered with a housesitter in your home — and whether they’re covered.
Arrange for a friend or a neighbour to drop in occasionally to check on the house.
Provide a contact email or phone number and ask the sitter to contact you regularly or if there are problems.
This is a list of contacts for some house-minding companies in Australia. To find others try an internet search for ‘housesitting’ or ‘house-minding’.
Phone: 1800 61 64 63
Phone: (02) 9913 1844
House Sit World
Phone: (07) 5482 8008
Happy House Sitters
Phone: 1300 780 809