If you're leaving your home in the care of a house sitter, it's a good idea to have a checklist of things you need to do before you leave. Please feel free to use this one, or modify it to suit your purposes.
You know how hotels and motels usually provide a folder of local information and phone numbers for the convenience of guests? Why not create something similar for your sitters, so that all essential information is in the one place and easy to find? One that you can use over and over again. Here are some suggested inclusions.
Your House Sitting Agreement
If you and the sitter have a written agreement, place a copy in the folder. The agreement may already contain some of the information listed below.
Your contact information
Leave your sitters a phone number and/or email address where they can contact you, or leave you a message.
An alternative contact person
If you have a friend, neighbour or relative close by who can deal with questions on your behalf, ask them to fill that role for you. Then leave their contact information in your folder. You may also want to give them a spare set of keys.
These may be rules imposed by your own landlord or body corporate that the sitter should know about. Or they may be rules that you yourself want the sitter to observe (like keeping the noise down to stay friends with the neighbours, not having overnight guests, not using a particular room or rooms, not using your best china, the liquor cabinet etc.)
Let your sitter know what night to put out your garbage and recycling bins.
If you're going to be away for some time, a mail redirection is probably in order. Otherwise, explain to your sitter what you want done with your mail, and newspapers (if applicable).
Under the principle "it's best to have them and not need them," you might like to include the phone numbers for Fire, Police and Ambulance services. Also leave your local doctor's address and phone number.
Include some brochures about local attractions, a town or district map, and some information on shopping centres, cinemas and the like. A train or bus timetable may also be useful. You can get most of these items for free at your local Tourist Information Centre.
Nieghbours, relatives, friends
It's a good idea to tell people who are close to you that you have a house sitter coming in during the period you'll be away. This avoids unnecessary concerns and embarrassments.
If you have a mower man, cleaner, gardener etc, either suspend the service, or advise them that you'll have a sitter in for the period of your absence. If you have newspapers delivered, either cancel them, or ask your sitter not to leave them outside.
Your insurance shouldn't be affected, as long as your house remains occupied. However, it's a sensible idea to inform your home insurance company of your arrangements.
Make a list of your valuables, including any identifiers. Then put them in a secure place, preferably under lock and key. Do the same with breakable items that you'd hate to lose. Keep your list with your private papers.
Clean and tidy your house and yard, especially if your house sitting agreement requires the sitter to leave the premises in the condition in which they found them.
Either clean out your fridge and cupboards of anything that might spoil while you're away, or give the sitter permission to use them or chuck them.
It's quite in order to place certain rooms out of bounds (e.g. your main bedroom and ensuite, your formal lounge and dining rooms) if they're not essential to the sitter's needs.
You may want to cancel your newspaper, magazine, cable TV, DVD rental and similar subscriptions for the period of your absence. The same applies to deliveries of organic vegetables and dairy products.
Phone and Internet
If you want to phone home while you're away, receive updates from your sitter, or send or receive emails, you'll need to keep your phone and ISP in service. If so, arrange with your sitter as to payment for their private long distance calls and Internet access.
If you've got a large-screen television set with three or four remotes, it might be a good idea to show your sitter how they all work, or at least leave instructions.
Use of your vehicle/s
Decide if you're going to allow the sitter to use any of your vehicles. If so, explain any quirks, special requirements or restrictions. Make sure they know how to turn off and reset any alarms, plus where you keep and how to operate any remote controls.
Motor vehicle insurance
If they will be using your car, check your insurance, and if necessary add the sitter's name to the policy. Confirm in writing that the sitter is responsible for any repairs and damages caused by them, and any insurance excess.
If you want your car started once per week, or to have leaves, dust and bird droppings removed, either include this in your house sitting agreement, or notify your sitter by a written note and have them confirm that they will do this.
Advise your sitter who has spare keys.
Make sure you clear some wardrobe and drawer space for use by the sitter.
Leave out bed linen and towels for your sitter.
Provide basics like soap, toilet paper, towels, tea towels, tea bags and fresh milk for your sitter's arrival.
If you live where parking is restricted, advise your sitter of the best place to park. If necessary (and possible), organise a visitor's parking permit for them.
Gas and electricity
Show your sitter where the meters, fuse boxes and cutoff switches are, and how to operate them. Take meter readings before you leave and when you return, if your sitter is going to be responsible for their own usage.
Heating and air conditioning
Explain how to operate these systems, or leave their instruction books in your folder.
Washing machine and dryer
As for heating and air conditioning.
Vacuum cleaner, duster, cleaning products
Explain where you keep your cleaning equipment, any known quirks, and how often you'd like the vacuuming and dusting done.
Leave instructions for the care, watering and feeding of your indoor plants.
Is your sitter expected to mow the lawn? If so, ensure your mower starts, and leave some mower petrol, together with any special instructions.
If your sitter is expected to trim and tidy the garden, make sure the relevant tools are accessible.
Similarly with your pool: leave the equipment and chemicals where they can be accessed, and include instructions for their use.
Give your sitter clear instructions on how to operate your alarm system, as well as any special door and window locks. If you want the sitter to have their own code and password, arrange this with your security company.
A few preparations like these can help everything run smoothly while you're away, and give you that extra peace of mind that will make your holiday all the more enjoyable.