Who will be looking after your property this holiday season?

The summers holidays are finally here, and most people have probably already planned or at least thought about a well-deserved break.

But before you start packing those bags, there are a number of important things to consider and plenty of planning to be done – such as who will take care of your home, water the plants and most importantly take care of your pets.

Hiring a house sitter when there are no family or friends around to take care of your property and pets, has become a popular option – not only is it is cost-effective, but it gives you peace of mind that your home, garden and cherished pets are well looked after in your absence.

Most home owners make use of house sitters for two main reasons. First, to avoid the stress and expense of kennels and catteries, and second to help ensure their property is safe, and everything runs smoothly just as if they were at home.

“Security is a top priority, leaving your property unoccupied for any length of time is risky as your home is far more likely to be burgled,” cautions Craig Hutchison of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

“It is advisable to contact your insurance service provider and your security company, to review your cover before you leave on holiday, to guarantee you are covered while away and to let them know you have a house sitter staying on the premises. Some insurers require that the policy holder notify them if they going to leave their house unoccupied for 60 days or more. This is viewed as a change in risk and insurers may apply an additional premium for the period that the home is unoccupied.”

Without regular maintenance your lawn and plants can die or suffer severe damage, so that reviving them could also come at a high cost. The largest cost saving may be related to emergency maintenance. House sitters are on hand to spot a leak or a burst pipe, broken fridge/freezer or geyser problems. They will be on hand to organise repairs in the event of a minor or major emergency, possibly saving you a lot of money.

When recruiting a house sitter make sure that it’s through recommendations from friends or from a reputable company offering professional services which will include in-depth screening and verification. Take your time and ensure you have investigated all options and do your research about the person and organisation. It is extremely important to end up choosing the right person for what you require as you need to completely trust this person and be happy with your choice, else you won’t enjoy your holiday.

Most will assume the responsibilities such as performing general maintenance and making sure that everything runs smoothly, but you might have some special requirements such as ensuring the person is pet friendly and even more importantly that your pets feel comfortable with the specific individual.

Be sure to give house sitters a checklist of what you require them to do. Here are some suggestions of items to include:

  • Perimeter checks.
  • Arming of alarm.
  • Electricity checks, fridge, freezer, geyser, pool.
  • Collecting of post and newspapers.
  • Opening and closing curtains and blinds.
  • Switching lights on and off.
  • Watering of plants, indoors and out.
  • Back wash pool and add chemicals.
  • Putting trash bin in and out.
  • Send daily sms feedback.

For pets:

  • Provide fresh food, water and treats daily.
  • Administer medicines, vitamins, or any other special needs.
  • Head to tail health checks.
  • General petting, playing or letting pets out of doors.
  • Indoor and outdoor clean-up of pet accidents.
  • Daily sms feedback with photo.

There are various cost options available, either overnight services or daily visits depending on your needs. Overnight services include living in your home whereas daily visits entail stopping by once or twice a day to check that everything is order.

“Whether you prefer to stay informed of any issues that may affect your animals or property, or opt for a complete shutdown of information, you will be able to go on holiday knowing that someone is there keeping an eye on things, and to send you the occasional picture of Max or Sokkies for additional peace of mind. House sitters should definitely be a consideration for your next holiday,” says Hutchison.