13 Things Your House Sitter Needs to Know Before You Leave Town

Leaving your house sitter with the key information they’ll need will make their job easier, and keep your stress to a minimum when you’re away from home.

By Deirdre Mundorf | Updated Jun 13, 2023 2:33 PM

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Whether you’ll be traveling for work or taking a fun vacation, hiring a house sitter is a good idea. House sitters can help keep a home maintained while you’re away, collect mail and other packages, and make a home look occupied to reduce the risk of burglary.

Before you grab your suitcase and head out the door, though, you’ll want to make sure you provide your house sitter with all the information they’ll need while staying at your house. This can help make their job easier, but will also allow you to travel without the added stress of trying to answer questions such as where you keep your extra towels or who they should call if something stops working or there is a water leak.

1. Emergency Phone Numbers

Dialing emergency on a smart phone

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Make a list with all the phone numbers your house sitter may need in the case of an emergency. Your cell phone number should be first on the list, but also include other numbers that they could call right away, rather than bothering you or wasting time. Some important numbers to add to the list may include:

  • The utility companies
  • Trusted contractors/handymen that could help with any needed repairs
  • Your neighbors
  • A friend or family member who lives nearby
  • If you are a renter, contact information for the landlord or leasing office

2. Locations of Your Water Main Valve and Electrical Panel

Home electrical panel

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If there is a major water leak or an electrical problem in your home while you’re gone, you don’t want your house sitter to waste time trying to call you to find out where the water shutoff valve or electrical panel is. Be sure to provide them with the location of both of these. If your house sitter will be doing a property walk through with you before your trip, take a few minutes to point out how to operate/shut off each device.

RELATED: Mistakes You Make Every Time You Go On Vacation

3. Alarm and Gate Codes

Person inputting a code on a keypad

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If your home has an alarm system, you will want to be sure to give your house sitter your alarm code so they can get into the home, and arm the the alarm when they go to bed each evening. Some home security companies may allow you to set up a temporary code that will expire after a certain period of time, or more likely, you can program in a code at your system’s control panel. If you have a smart door lock or live in a gated community, be sure to set the sitter up with those codes too.

4. Wi-Fi and Streaming Passwords

Wifi password on a refrigerator magnet

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How can a house sitter make themselves comfortable, particularly if they’re staying overnight, without access to your home’s Wi-Fi? Write down the password for them and show them where the Wi-Fi router is in case it needs to be reset. If you have any online streaming accounts that you’ll be letting the sitter use when you’re gone, be sure to leave those passwords as well.

5. Recycling and Garbage Pickup Schedules

Many trash and recycling cans lined up on a residential street

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If you don’t want to come home to a stinky mess, your home’s caretaker will need to be apprised of the trash and recycling schedule and procedures for your area. Let them know which day(s) refuse is collected and where they should place the trash can and recycling bin on those days. Some homeowners associations have strict rules about how promptly cans and bins should be removed from the street after pickup, and where they should or should not be stored. If this is the case in your neighborhood, be sure to share these regulations with your house sitter.

RELATED: 20 Surprising Things You Can’t Recycle

6. To-Do List of Indoor Tasks

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Be sure to clearly lay out any tasks you want your house sitter to complete in your home. Household tasks could include cleaning, watering plants, collecting the mail, and turning on certain lights to make it look like someone is home. Compose a list of these tasks and the days/times they should be completed.

7. Necessary Outdoor Tasks

Lawn mower on grass lawn

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In addition to indoor tasks, you may also have a few outdoor jobs that need to be completed while you’re away. These could include watering or mowing the lawn, picking fruits or vegetables from your garden, and cleaning or maintaining the pool. Write down and clearly explain any of these outdoor tasks that you will want your house sitter to do.

RELATED: How to Keep Your Garden Happy While You Are On Vacation

8. Ground Rules for Use of Your Home

Man reaching for something in the back of the refrigerator

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Is it cool for your house sitter to raid your wine cellar, or swim in your pool? If you have any special rules you want your house sitter to follow, be sure to articulate them clearly. You may want to explain your policy regarding them bringing guests over, if they’re allowed to eat any of the food you have in your refrigerator or pantry, and whether you want them to remake the bed or do the dishes before you’ll be back.

9. Out-of-Bounds Areas

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There may be areas of your home that you don’t want your house sitter to enter or see. If this is the case, be sure to explain which rooms, cabinets, or closets they should avoid. If you’re determined to keep them out now that you’ve piqued their curiosity, consider locking the doors to these locations.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Padlocks for Home Security

10. Where to Find Extra Supplies

Pantry full of cleaning and paper supplies like hand sanitizer, toilet cleaner, and toilet paper

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Where do you store extra paper towels, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, pet food, linens, and anything else that they may run out of while you’re away? These instructions could save your house sitter an unnecessary late-night text if they can’t find what they need.

11. Any Quirks About Your Home

Person with index finger on toilet flush

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Every home is different and has its own quirks. Letting your house sitter know about your abode’s peculiar characteristics can make their stay easier and less stressful. For example, are there any door knobs that stick, toilets that run if you don’t jiggle the handle just right, windows that don’t open, or light switches that will shut off the TV?

RELATED: 36 Easy Ways to Protect Your Home From Break-Ins

12. Important Information About the Neighborhood

Man in wheelchair shopping at supermarket

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If your caretaker isn’t local, be sure to share any important local or neighborhood information. This information may include the closest grocery stores and restaurants, instructions for using community facilities (such as the pool or tennis courts) and, of course, the best pizzeria that delivers.

13. The Date and Time of Your Return

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Finally, be clear about when you will be returning home, and give the caretaker as much notice as possible if your travel plans change. If they will be leaving before you return, leave clear instructions about where they should leave the key, and anything else that needs to be done before you get back.

Looking for a way to organize all of this information for your house sitter, so it’s all in one place? Dozens of Etsy merchants offer downloadable house sitter templates that can help keep your home running smoothly while you are away.