January 21, 2015 – Lately the phone has been ringing for pet sits…without the pets! We list house checks for vacationers in our business ads and websites and at this time of year we get a few calls. Insurance companies want someone to look-in on a property every couple of days, or at least twice a week, to keep the coverage active, and it’s a great, simple extra income for your business. In this and the next installment, we’ll give you a few pointers on doing vacation house checks to get you started.

One of the bonuses to checking on a home with no pets is when the weather turns bad you aren’t compelled to get there that day. Another plus is you can charge a rate that’s at least equal to a cat visit. We thought about charging less, but there is still travel time both ways, and some days you are there a few extra minutes to gather papers and mail and shovel the walkway from snow.

Be Clear on What You’re Contracting For

People ask for strange things beyond the normal house check when you say you’ll keep an eye on their home. Be careful to outline exactly what you will do for the price, and what you will need to charge extra for. This list is a start…you’ll discover other things depending on your region and the time of year. Remember that if you are looking after animals too, doing this extra work could have a severe impact on your time with them. We’d love to hear from you so we can add to the list for other pet sitters to have on hand!

We’ll go into more detail for each in the next articles:

  • An outdoor check of the home and yard.
  • An indoor check of each room and their windows.
  • Changing the lighting and window coverings to give a lived-in look.
  • Ensuring the sump pump is working if it has been raining or the snow is thawing.
  • Watering indoor plants. (Trickier when they shut off the water.)
  • Watering outdoor plants.
  • Grass care or watering.
  • Shoveling snow from the walkway.
  • Shoveling snow from other areas around the home.
  • Pool and hot tub/spa care.
  • Yard poop pickup.
  • Trash to the curb (Just the first time since they’ll be heading out.)
  • Mail and newspaper pickup.
  • Aquarium care and feeding the fish (oddly not considered pets sometimes).
  • And along that thread…asking for many of these house things when they want you to look after their cat.
  • Handling emergencies – and who handles payments up front.
  • Will anyone be dropping by – contractors, grown children staying a few days.

Also look at… Double-Duty…Making the Vacation House Check – Outdoors

Two of the important points to consider here is the time factor – which will vary pending on how often you might have to add chlorine to the pool, for instance, as opposed to times when you’re just doing a walk through. And the other is the amount of risk you are willing to take – as in, if you add too much of one chemical or another and the pool goes green…what do you do and who pays for it.

We’ve been doing house checks for years with no incidents. Some of them are part of the package when you look after a cat or dog anyway, so why not take them on alone for almost the same money. They are good points to keep in mind when you are doing a pet sit, though, because again, they can increase the time of the call by quite a bit if they want too much done. You have to be clear with the client on this.

Do check with your pet sitting insurance to make sure you are covered, but most cover you unless you are planning to do the type of house sitting that includes living-in. These are completely different to what we do, and the duties and insurance are completely different also.

Today was day 21 in our 365 days and we have our multi-dog family here until tomorrow – then back again two days from now. We still have a few dogs on our route with tummy upsets from getting into the trash (not on our watch) – and we had a client at home today who forgot to cancel. Some days you’ll just walk in on them and everyone is surprised! You’re always really glad when you do that at a reasonable time and you’re not running late. (Of course…I once showed up on an off day. I was daydreaming and completely forgot. I let the car drive me to the house after my previous call, opened the door, and as soon as the dogs came to see me with curious expressions I knew it was the wrong day! The client arriving at the door a moment later confirmed it. Geez. Nothing like walking-in on someone in their own home!)

But we have fun, don’t we?

[Photo courtesy of Karlien DuPlessis - Dreamstime Stock Photos]

Other articles in this three-part series…

Double-Duty…Making the Vacation House Check – Outdoors

Double-Duty…Making the Vacation House Check – Indoors