Whether your house is empty because you're in the middle of selling and moved out already. Or perhaps you've relocated for a job and don't want to sell up just yet. Either way your empty house is better left occupied. A flexible arrangement to consider to cover for thiseventuality is house-sitting. Born of my personal experience as medium-term house-sitter , here are my ten top tips to prepare a home for house-sitting so the arrangement works gloriously for everyone concerned.
No 1. Rubbish. The local council should be notified to continue collecting the rubbish if they have got out of the habit of doing so, especially when you are paying Council Tax. Make sure there are sufficient bins for your house-sitter if you’ve taken them all with you, including recycling facilities. And leave instructions about the collection schedule.
No 2. Services. When gas, electricity, oil-fired equipment is switched off and/or doesn't run for a period of time, sometime it forgets what it's supposed to do and doesn't work when switched back on again. You’ll need to show the house-sitter how to operate them and that they are fully-functioning at handover.
No 3. TV. Most general house-sitting arrangements include the provision of a TV so you may need to reinstate a TV licence for this property if the house-sitter needs one. That way the house-sitter has some company in what is likely to be an unfamiliar location where they don’t have friends and family close to hand.
No 4. Broadband. The same goes for internet access which is a basic facility that should be provided and allows the house-sitter to stay connected to you and the world at large. A terminated Broadband contract can be lengthy and messy to re-establish irrespective of the supplier. If you don’t need to take the number with you, leave the line intact and continue to pay for it. This is usually cheaper than supplying your house-sitter with a mobile subscription and a dongle.
No 5. Financial arrangement. There's a fine-line between being a house-sitter and a house-keeper. The house-sitting arrangement can be an unpaid placement with no formal duties. The house-sitters presence is a big discouragement to would-be vandals and thieves. I recommend therefore you calculate what’s this is worth to you on a monthly basis to protect your home and weigh this up against the ongoing running costs of keeping the property occupied. CCTV alone is not as effective as a home that’s occupied and has a house alarm when the house-sitter goes out. Human and pet life in a home add inestimable value to the vitality of a home and cannot be replicated in any other way.
A typical scenario is that the home-owner continues to pay for the utilities and services (including TV licence and Broadband aforementioned) since a couple of occupants are not going to consume the same as a fully occupied house. Because it is an unpaid position, the house-sitter may need to continue working unless they are retired and this should be clear to both parties at the outset.
No 6. Clean. Remember what it’s like after a long holiday when dust appears and settles as if from nowhere. To prepare the empty home for your house-sitter make sure it’s recently had a thorough clean. This is very important too if you want to encourage a house-sale.
Following a professional clean, you are well-advised to leave sufficient well-functioning cleaning equipment and materials so the house-sitter can maintain the living areas they are occupying daily. If you have a very large property it would be unfair to expect the house-sitter to maintain it and a regular visit from a cleaning professional may be required.
No 7. Empty. Clear every nook and cranny of stuff and don't leave any debris. It is not the responsibility of the house-sitter to get rid of it for you and neither should they be expected to live with it. You will magnify the chances of your house selling enormously if your physical and psychic energy have well and truly left the building. It will also leaves space for the house-sitter to do their job with ease.
No 8. Furniture. What to leave, what to take. The house-sitter may have furniture they can and want to bring to home-stage your home. If not you will need to provide it. At a minimum the windows need to be dressed in most rooms which will also help with the security of the home.
If the house-sitter doesn’t have any you may need to provide bedroom, kitchen and lounge furniture. If you’ve taken all the furniture with you and the house-sitter is not bringing any with them there is always the option to hire some in to home-stage the property for sale.
No 9. Pets. It's unlikely you've left your pets behind but you might prefer to do so in the short term if you are planning to return at a later date. Things like a pond of carp or an aviary of birds don't relocate easily so be prepared to provide clear instructions on their daily maintenance. You shouldn’t however expect the house-sitter to do messy pet cleaning jobs; you’ll need to employ a specialist for this.
No 10. Garden/grounds It's not the responsibility of the house-sitter to maintain the garden/grounds beyond sweeping a few leaves or removing obvious weeds. However, it's in your interest to maintain the homestead because first impressions matter most if you’re selling. So you may need to consider employing a groundsman to come regularly and give them a clear brief that can be supervised by the house-sitter.