Advice for first time owners

Hi there, would love to receive tips for first time owners and users of Trusted Housesitters. We’ve already through quite a lot of the posts on here and learnt a lot. What are the things you wished you’d done and didn’t do?

We are incredibly apprehensive about having someone sit our home and take care of our pets whilst we’re away. We are only looking at those with multiple 5* reviews. We contacted one lady with 5* reviews who is local and she is interested in sitting for us.

However, is it okay to ask to meet her in person at our place so she can meet us and our pets before we accept her request to sit? We live in the same city so it should not be hard to meet.

When we do meet, what do you usually do? Is it just to her a gut feel for the sitter and see how they are with our dog? We haven’t contacted many sitters as she was one of the first ones and is interested. We don’t want to shop around if someone is interested, if you see what I mean, as I don’t think that’s fair.

I’ve also read on here that some owners like their sitters to arrive the day before they leave and stay the night. This might be stressful for us as we’ll be busy packing and getting ready to leave - we have young kids - but I also see how it might be better for the sitter if they are already there when we leave. I suppose we’ll ask the sitter what she prefers.

Is there anything else we need to think about? How many sitters do owners usually contact before they settle on one? We are worried about having a negative experience and want to do our best to mitigate this.

Any advice gratefully received.

Please be aware that, until there isn’t the new and blind review system is implemented, nearly ALL sitters have 5*.

Our sitters, who took great care of our two cats for 3 weeks, didn’t have any reviews, let alone 5*. I chose them anyway, because they wrote in their application, that they used to be home owners on THS until their cat passed away. It’s always good if someone knows the other side.
Additionally their own home, which I could clearly see during our video call, was so nicely decorated and clean, that I knew they would take excellent care of our home and pets and I was right.

As long as the reviews aren’t 100% truthful, because sitters fear less than 5*, they are quite useless.


In a way you are very lucky to have found a local person for what I’m assuming will be a longish sit. Most people prefer to sit away from their usual stomping grounds, as a different way of traveling. Having said that, you may not always have this option, but I believe you should feel better about the exchange that is house sitting after a positive first experience.

I’m not a HO, but as a sitter I’ve always wanted to have a video-call to see if I clicked with the HO.
In your profile you should make sure to describe your pets’ personalities, quirks, needs, etc. in great detail and post accurate photos of your home. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi, I’m not sure what you mean by reviews not being less than 100% truthful. Surely the HO provide the reviews and would be truthful? I totally appreciate that there are going to be amazing sitters out there who haven’t reviews yet but, as first time users, I suppose it was a starting point to start with those with multiple reviews.

Whilst we are using the site as HO, we’re actually hoping to be sitters ourselves at some point to experience it from the other side. Also because we think it would be nice to hang out with someone else’s pet! So I fully appreciate that we won’t have any reviews yet and hope someone will give us a chance too!

Thanks. Yes, we are lucky to have found a local person though we live in a big city so actually there are lots of people who are temporarily living in our city who quite fancy living in different boroughs. We are also fortune enough to live in a nice area where there’s lots to do. I’ve asked the sitter if they’d like to meet in person so they can meet us and our pet. I wasn’t sure if this was a done thing to ensure both sides click but it seems, from your experience, this is done if both parties can meet.

Our photos are accurate. I’m a little worried that sitters expect a hotel standard home. I like to think our home is clean (we will also get the cleaner do a deep clean before the sitter arrives) and comfortable, but it’s a lived in family home and not an AirBnB.

Good tip about detailing quirks our pet has. I’ll make sure we add more detail. I wasn’t sure where to add that but I’ll put it in the sitter responsibilities section.

Hi, for our first sitter we both talked on video call and then met her. I think it’s fine to ask people, they may or may not be able to do that. Probably for your first sit you may wish to have someone with experience for your type of pet (e.g. dog), and obviously see if you feel it’ll be a good fit for both. Maybe ask them if they’ve experience of something going wrong and what they did. I think it’s also important to say how you’d like to be communicated with during the sit - personally, after many sits I really do prefer a daily photo and a little update on the animal and how things are going, via what’s app. You don’t have to offer people to come over the night before, that’s up to you - I used to, but tend not to now, but am flexible (basically got out of the habit over the pandemic years, although we enjoy meeting our sitters). Just some pointers, people should understand if you have concerns and worries and be ready to allay them and be flexible, especially if they have experience. I am sure you’ll find a great sit and have a great holiday!

Hi, it wouldn’t be ok to have a sitter travel to your home ahead of the sit without having already confirmed the sit. It costs time and money to do so and for an experienced sitter that wouldn’t be necessary.

The main part of this exchange is trust and you must try very hard to have faith in your skills to choose a good sitter in the first instance. Our 5* review record did not come easy.

you should really have enough information to make a firm decision on if you want the person to sit for you. They have their profile, reviews, application, video call etc.

From a sitters perspective you would actually be more of a gamble - a new nervous owner with no reviews and no idea of how the details of a normal exchange would go. We are always very apprehensive with new owners and requiring an upfront visit without already committing to the sit would make us very worried that you had other unrealistic demands on the sit itself.

After confirming, we occasionally have met the owners ahead of the sit because they invited us over for dinner and we did the show around and they gave us the keys so that we could arrive after they left on the sit days.

You’ve been very lucky to reach out and find a local sitter - it’s very hit and miss that way. Usually you put an advert up and people can apply.

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If you read through the posts in forum, you will see that this definitely isn’t the case. This is one of the reasons why the new review system is going to start soon.
Look at 100 sitters’ ratings and you will see that 99 of them have 5* reviews. This simply cannot be so. This would mean nearly ALL sitters on THS are perfect. Since when are ALL people perfect?
I rather rely on my gut feeling when I read applications and during the video call. I have never been wrong so far.
What I want to say is, don’t rely on the 5* only. Use also your instincts and read the profile and application carefully. Make a list of questions you want to ask for the video call and look for red flags.


Hello there and welcome!

I have helped many first–timers become desirable hosts, and it is important to get that first sit right (and to earn your own first 5-star review!) Here are some suggestions to get sitters more interested in applying.

You should be sure to take your photos in the daytime, as bright sunny rooms make it more desirable to spend time looking after a home and pets. Also, a picture of a very tidy bathroom, including the shower, would be great. (Two photos per pet is plenty, by the way - and maybe a group photo if you have several pets, to show that they all get along.)

Include some more details about your neighborhood, such as what cafes/breweries, restaurants and grocery stores are nearby. Do you have any membership like to a museum or a gym, that the sitter can use while you are away?

Make your sit seem more enticing with a few little generous perks & treats: a special softdrink in the fridge, some individual snacks. Identify those as gifts, in your welcome note.

Go to the dollar store, get some nice smelling soap, little things like makeup remover packets, extra toothbrush/toothpaste, and a travel size shampoo/conditioner, etc… and a decorative basket. Make that available to the sitter. (Intended as “Take What You Need” as opposed to "This basket and everything in it is a gift.) Take a photo of the welcome basket and add it to your profile before the photos of pets.

If you are asking them to come to your home before your trip - even if you are in the same city - don’t treat it like a job interview. Instead, frame it as you are inviting a friend of a friend over, and extend the same hospitality.

Remember during your conversation, that the housesitters are choosing you, as much as you are choosing them!

I hope these suggestions are helpful and get you lots of interest.


We sit as a couple. There is no need to have anyone arrive the day before if it doesn’t suit you, as it needs to fit both sides. Typically this is requested when people are travelling from further afield, but not always.

Trust your gut, your instinct, your heart, you will know-know when you’ve found the right person, and at that point it’s less about their profile and more about the feeling. If you think you’ve found the right person already… you probably have! Agree to things quickly if you can, before someone else nabs them.

Some on here don’t pop in beforehand but some do if nearby, and yes you can ask to meet the pet sitter beforehand but only do it if you think someone is perfect for you and tell them they sound great but you’ve never done this before so they understand your request for them to pop in and they will understand (ie don’t interview multiple sitters, it’s a waste of time, you will have a great vibe/connection with one in particular). However, we ONLY visit beforehand if we are going to be in/near your area, otherwise we’d be out of pocket, without an actual agreed pet sit.

As for the comment before about sitter reviews not being 100%, I don’t quite understand that, I could understand if it were the other way around (sitters reviews of HO’s), but not home owners reviewing sitters. Sitters are rated on cleanliness, pet care, etc, I have no idea why a home owner would not rate that accordingly. So I’ve no idea what that’s about.

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There are lots of examples to be found here on the forum. It’s no secret that also sitters aren’t rated truthfully. Scroll through various threads about this and you’ll see that I am right.
This is only one of the threads just recently about this topic.

Unfortunately it’s true @HappyDeb we’ve sat for HOs that complained about their previous sitters but had given them 5 stars anyway. When we asked why, the reason was mostly “we didn’t want to upset them” or “get a nasty feedback comment” albeit they now regretted it. It does happen as @Pawtastic says


Advice regarding 5 stars…read the reviews and judge by the reviews not the number of stars. Look for things like ‘our home was clean when we came back’, ‘spent alot of time with our pets’, ‘responsible, reliable’.

Another piece of advice is regarding trips where you will be flying. Give your sitter you’re return flight information and consider that flights do get cancelled.

We always build in a cushion of 1 day on the return of an international flight and do one of the following:

  • Book the sit through that extra day and - pay for a hotel for them if the extra day is not needed
  • We stay locally in a hotel that extra day

Always ask the sitter if they have the flexibility to stay 1 extra day if you are not doing the above.


Personally, given that it’s an exchange, and that sitters have been ID checked everywhere, and background checked in the US, I’d feel funny about asking someone to come over BEFORE confirming. It feels like a lot of hoops. The video chat and back and forths via messaging/email should be enough to establish comfort. You should feel comfortable with your choice when you make it, and if something is nagging at you, either go with your gut and move on, or ask the sitter a hard question or two about your doubts. However, if the person is willing to come over before confirmation that is their choice. I have had local sitters come a few days before the start of the sit to pick up the keys and go over stuff. While HOs and sitters are NOT supposed to cancel after confirmation without an “extraordinary” reason, if you were tentative because you wanted to make sure (for example) that the sitter was capable of handling your pet, you could arrange for a meet up after confirming and then cancel – by mutual agreement – if the sitter in fact could not handle your pet, or for some other reason that you both agreed created a problem moving forward. Frankly, as someone who has used neighbors, friends, independent “professional” sitters, and sitting services as well as THS, I’ve found the THS sitters to be the most conscientious and nicest. I really do trust the sitters in my home and with my pets, and go out of my to make sure they’ll be comfortable and have a good stay.

Regarding numbers of people to interview, this also depends on the number of applicants which could depend a lot on your location. I’m in a location where I get an unlimited number of applicants, so I try to only interview people who don’t have red flags and who where it really is to just check out the logistics, and chat for comfort. If you are having trouble getting applicants and only have three, I still wouldn’t interview someone I had big reservations about before the interview. The interviewing is more to confirm a good impression from the application than it is to give someone a second chance.

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Hi there. We joined THS during the start of the pandemic, when travel plans were very tentative and sometimes cancelled. So we wanted to stick with local sitters that had a home within a short driving distance rather than someone relying on air travel and such if any unavoidable cancellations happened. While none of our trips were cancelled, they were cut short in one instance, so with the sitter’s agreement, we returned home a few days early, and she was able to return to her home a short distance away.
A local sit (achieved by stating that preference in our write-up when posting dates) also gave us a chance to meet before either party agreed to the sit, which was important to us.
A pre-approval meeting allowed us to see how the sitter interacted with our cats, which gave us much more confidence leaving them behind. It also provided the sitters an opportunity to meet us and learn about our expectations (such as early-morning feeds and daily reports) and our home’s idiosyncrasies to see whether she/he/they were willing and able to take all that on.
It has worked out in every instance, and we’ve enjoyed many repeat sits from our ‘family’ of sitters, only now looking beyond our list due to their changing circumstances. I contact applicants, one by one, deciding on each one before moving to the next, and doing so as soon as possible so as not to waste their time.
In our case, choosing local sitters has meant not having to host them the night before. We are in such a frenzied state in the days leading up to a trip that I’m sure we’d scare off any sitter who was forced to share space with us at that time. Instead, we meet ahead of time, often covered off in the pre-approval meeting. I now also have a printed list of points to cover as I walk through each room, explaining how things work, etc.
Things I’ve learned: be honest about what is important to you. I’ve found over the years that accommodating our cats’ preference for early-morning feeds and access to all rooms is important for me. So are daily reports. So now I make sure the sitter is comfortable with those things from the start.
Things to remember:

  1. Be as clear as possible about your pets and your expectations in your posting and in your pre-approval meetings, no matter how crazy it may sound. It will allow sitters to make an informed choice of whether to apply.
  2. Prepare a list for yourself of your pets’ and your home’s characteristics to cover off during the walkthru. I use this with every new sitter.
  3. Ask the sitter about any preferences or needs they may have. For example, one sitter prefers we empty out the fridge and freezer as much as possible. Another appreciates us leaving any perishables for her to enjoy. Always better to ask.
  4. Leave enough essentials (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.) to cover your days away.
  5. Put together a house book (in addition to the online welcome book) that includes emergency numbers for friends, neighbours, the vet; appliance manuals; info on where to find things.
  6. Leave detailed instructions on your pet care.
  7. Put away or point out any items you don’t want the sitter to use. You might not realize how sentimental you were about that beer stein from Oktoberfest until you learn it was accidentally broken.
  8. For us (and this is a personal choice and not at all expected by sitters) leave a card of thanks and a gift certificate for something the sitter can enjoy. Based on their interests, we’ve left gift cards for groceries, a local restaurant, a coffee shop, a wine shop or a book store.

Make sure you allocate space for the sitters food that they will be buying, also space to put their clothes (we unfortunately experienced this)

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You should only ask the Guest/Sitter to stop by in person if 1. There is a time and day that is convenient for them 2. They want to 3. It’s for longer term stay; 3 weeks or more. They are not being paid. Asking them to take their free time is a big ask. Asking them to stay the night before is typically due to their traveling long distance and you said the person is local in this case. Would they be comfortable staying in your home the night before your departure?

A Zoom call should be sufficient. Send them notes/welcome guide prior so they can ask questions and make sure you’re all on the same page. Ask them about their animal care experience, if they work from home, if they have a car, etc. Don’t ask too many intrusive personal questions. Don’t ask for their ID. It’s a conversation to see if you like and trust one another.

Reading this forum would make anybody apprehensive. But this is where people go and write on the rare occasions when things did not go that well.

Write a full and comprehensive listing with great pics, clear responsibilities and a real sense of who you are and what you want in a sitter @Bippysan . Take your first five applicants and look at their reply, their profile, the detail of their reviews and book a video call with the standout one. Trust your gut. Ask them everything you want to and encourage them to ask you questions too. If it helps, choose sitters that are close by so you can meet up. If they’re not that close then meet half way and take the pets with you (we did that in Switzerland and it was a great plan and more of a compromise travel wise) This is about connection, communication and trust. Best of luck to you :raised_hands:t3:


Hi there @Bippysan !
My first ping when reading your post is that you are incredibly apprehensive about having someone sit in your home and watch your pets - My 1st question would be, what is causing you the most concern?
-Is it their experience in pet sitting & whether or not they have the skills to care for your pets?
-Or is it having a stranger stay in your home?

Having been a sitter for many years (prior to being on this site) - I would say if you fall in the latter group and mainly the apprehension is having a complete stranger stay in your home - my 2 cents would be to try to find someone local who you can hire/book again and again, so that they are no longer a stranger. This is the pro of having local sitters (whether they be on TH or paid local sitters.) So you have someone you know and trust not only with your animals, but also tending to your beloved home. Entrusting your house with someone is no small handover IMO.

Having been a local sitter most of my time, an in person meet & greet is crucial for BOTH sides. You guys need to feel safe with this person and YES 1000% it is mostly an instinctual or gut feeling that this is a safe and trustworthy person. If you feel like anything is even slightly off or wonky, I would pass for your own peace of mind. This is your home and pets we’re talking about, so you want to feel absolutely at ease while you’re away, not always concerned about what’s happening at home. The sitter should be resonant to your energy (ie - not off putting to your baseline) be confident and at ease with your pets and home and have enough experience to ASK YOU certain pertinent questions also at the Meet.

Likewise, the sitter should be vetting you all. This is not a 1 way street IMO either. They should be making sure THEY feel safe and at ease in your home (lived in as it may be) to stay there for the duration, sleep there, eat there, etc. Feel confident and comfortable in the pet care required, etc.

I think it’s ok if your home is lived in - as long as the photos you post are accurate reflections of the state of your home. Most sitters just want something clean, that they don’t have to tidy and wipe down upon arrival. But this is also on them to discern & ask to see either in the meet or on video. I ask this in every video chat - a house tour - to make sure that what I’ve seen in the photos matches the actual state of the home.

Insofar as the sitter arriving prior to your departure, I believe that if you’ve already had a Meet and esp. if they live local, that is totally unnecessary. I find it actually less dramatic and hectic for me to arrive a few hours after the owners depart - giving them time to pack and depart with ease, allowing the home to settle, then arriving later. If the pets have already met me, it’s totally fine. However, when doing TH sits where I have not met them in person, I have found that arriving with enough time for an in person meet & orientation is more favorable to me personally, but I think that is a personal preference. I like to connect with the humans whose home I will be living in, get a IRL feel for them, and also I think it helps the pets to see us both together before I just arrive - a stranger - to their home and start taking care of them, you know? I think if the pets see me with their family and that all is peaceful, it will help them process me as the new person/sitter. But I don’t think that needs to be a nite before. I’ve arrived various times with only a few hours before the owners left. They just make it a priority to be packed & ready to go early, and carve out 1-2 hours for my orientation and it’s all gone very well! No need to host someone local for sure, esp if you’ve already met! Same goes with the end of the trip - I always leave a few hours before their arrival back home, so as to allow them to come home post-travel and not have to worry about tending to me.

Lastly, unless you feel super stellar about this 1 sitter after your meet and greet, like it was a very aligned match for sure - I wouldn’t hesitate to interview a few candidates! People do that all the time with sitters - on TH or paid local sitters - to find the right match for their pets and home. It’s worth the time and as long as you’re transparent with the sitters that it’s a process, I think that is fair.

Good luck out there!