Home Security and House Sitters
Taking an end-of-summer vacation? Or maybe you’re moving your college freshman into the dorms. There are a lot of home security considerations when leaving your home, and maybe beloved furry family members, while you take a trip. How do you keep your home secure – and how do you secure your home in preparation for a house sitter?
Having actual people in your home is a great way to secure your home while you’re on vacation. Your home is lived in – like you never left. And criminals won’t take unnecessary risks; a home that appears empty is a much better target than one that is lived in.
Asking a trusted family member or friend to stay full-time while you’re gone will probably give the highest level of p peace of mind. You know and trust them, they’ll keeping your home cared-for and lived in. Should a problem arise, they’ll be there to help find a solution. Additionally, you don’t need to stop your mail, install light-timers (not a problem if your home is a smart home and you use your app to set your timing devices), or board family pets.
But what happens if everyone’s busy? Boarding multiple pets can be expensive and may be traumatic for the pets. And a hiring a house sitter may mean trusting someone you don’t know well or don’t know at all in your home. That can be a scary thought.
Finding a good, trustworthy house sitter (or house and pet sitter) is the first step. Ask your friends and family first; sometimes word-of-mouth is a great way to find a resource. They may recommend a co-worker, their dog walker or personal trainer, but there is still a connection to this person.
You can also check websites of organizations that pair people with house sitters. House Carers, Nomador, and Trusted Housesitters are among some of the online house sitting services. These sites have processes to verify sitters, often requiring a driver’s license and personal references. But online services like this still have their gaps in legitimacy. Even if you find someone who looks like a good house sitting candidate, do your own due diligence.
- After reading the sitter’s profile, check any social media platforms they may have listed or be associated with.
- Make sure the profile is thorough. If the sitter doesn’t care enough to put in time to post a good bio, they probably shouldn’t be in your home.
- Meet with your house sitting candidates. Depending on your time, pre-screen with a zoom meeting; then invited them to meet in-person. You will get a better feel for the person meeting in-person. The have a formal introduction to your home with your chosen sitter.
- Listen to what the sitter is talking about; are they asking about your housekeeping and home routine, how to care for your pets? Are they interested in how best to take care of your home while you’re gone?
Spell Things Out
Make sure you explain your home routine and your expectations accurately. Do your pets need special medications at specific times? Do they get along or do they need to be separated? Do you need your plants or yard watered? When describing your house sitting needs, give complete expectations; you want to find someone who wants to do the job and discourage people who aren’t the right fit for you.
Leave thorough instructions for your house sitter, especially details like your pets feeding and /or walking routine; passcode to your alarms systems; password to access wifi; how to operate any HVAC system; parking area. Designate a specific bedroom for your house sitter, if you can. This gives them their own space while they stay in your home. And it will also be helpful should you decide to set up surveillance cameras in your home. Many home-sharing hosts leave printed and laminated instructions to ensure your expectations are clear and answers are easy to find.
Other important information to note:
- Pet’s normal vet name and contact information
- Emergency pet care facility contact information
- Emergency phone number of a local person
- Medical care, urgent care and dental care in your area should your sitter need it
- Internet provider contact information
- Any gas, water and power or electricity information
Home Security Inside Your Home
Setting up video cameras in various places in your home can help keep inside your home secure. Often pet cameras or other simple wireless cameras that you control via an app on your smartphone are handy for this. With a higher level audio-enabled surveillance camera or video system, check state laws regarding wiretapping and privacy. Also, avoid placing cameras in places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as the bedroom they will be sleeping in, or bathrooms.
Protecting Your Stuff
Even when you’ve found a great house sitter, protecting your belongings while you’re gone is a good step to take. In the instruction document you leave for your sitter, specify any rooms or areas that are off-limits.
Store valuables in a safe, or in a box; store the box in a closet that the house sitter won’t be sleeping in or is off-limits; in your locked garage; in an off-site storage locker if you already have one, or some other place that the house sitter shouldn’t access. Items to consider are things like family heirlooms, sentimental items, antiques, artwork, cameras or other electronic devices, etc. Make sure you secure your life and financial documents in a safe or similar place as your other items.
Keeping your House Sitter Safe
Whether a friend or relative or a house sitter your hire, keeping them safe is important. A home that looks unoccupied becomes an easier target for thieves or burglars.
- Test your outdoor and flood lights to ensure they are in good working order.
- Test your smoke detectors.
- Clean and tidy your lawn before you leave.
- Continue trash and landscaping services as part of a normal routine.
- Advise your sitter to take in any newspaper and mail.
Whenever your go on vacation, give yourself peace of mind, keep your home and pets protected and your house and pet sitter safe. Whether your house sitter is friend or family, or a new friend you’ve hired, taking these suggested precautions will allow you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest.