Expressing expectations to homeowners

Hi there!

A few less-than-ideal situations have me wondering how other sitters express their expectations of cleanliness and organization to owners?

We always expect to put some elbow grease into a sit and are more than happy to leave a home cleaner than when we arrived. Unfortunately we have had to fully clean homes on more than one occassion. We’d rather be spending the first few days breaking the ice with the pets and taking the edge off the stress they are already feeling with their humans leaving.

Any advice is much appreciated!

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Dear @AlohaAina, welcome to the forum!

How about including something like this in your profile: “For personal and health reasons I/we have to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. You will appreciate the level of care I will give to your home, and respectfully ask that we discuss during our interview how I can keep your home at that high level.”. I suspect that folks who know they’re not at a high level will not select you with something like that while those who are would be tickled pink to find you!

We do a similar kind of screening for homes that use heavy scents and ask our sitters to avoid using them (due to allergies) … that’s never been a problem or cause of friction.

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Hi @AlohaAina - I can totally relate to what you are saying. I’m not sure you really can express your expectations as it’s so awkward and also people are usually really poor at ‘self-assessing’ how clean their homes are.

I like things clean, don’t wear shoes in the house, etc so I find my standards are usually a lot higher than the people I sit for. This means I put in the effort when I arrive to clean up because I will enjoy my stay far more that way. The number of times I have bleached mouldy showers, vacuumed up generations of cobwebs, or even cleaned a window so I can enjoy the view… it’s a rare thing not to do it.

Most of the petsits have weekly cleaners, but the homes are still pretty dirty. (A cleaner coming for 2 hours a week can hardly perform miracles in a 5 bedroom house) So even people with cleaners is no sure sign.

What I do is I only do sits of 2 weeks or longer. That way I at least get to enjoy the fruits of my labour. After a day or two of arriving and cleaning up I forget all about it and can enjoy being in a new place, with beautiful surroundings and some wonderful animals for company.

I guess I grin and bear it - and try and find sits where the good (beautiful location, nice sounding people, sweet animals) will outweigh the bad (3+ hours of cleaning after arrival).

Would be interested to hear what others say…

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Hi BruceT,
That’s a wonderful suggestion.
I was thinking of putting something in the application so it would be right up front but haven’t found a way to word it as nicely as you have.

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Hello @AlohaAina It seems to me that you may need to be more selective about the sits you accept. I think it’s better to put in the time to screening than cleaning. I have only had one sit that was less than my standard at home (and I’m told by friends that I’m picky), but I knew what I was going into at the time and it was a compromise as the pros outweighed the cons.

Some thoughts on how to improve your success on this point:

  • My profile shows that everyone says I’m picky, but that means I will keep their home clean. That attracts homeowners that have similar standards.
  • Not being able to see your profile, it’s difficult to say where you may need some tweaks. I would not say, for example, that I leave a home cleaner than when I arrived. Fine if you do, but it may attract those undesirable sits. Instead, I would say that homeowners can expect to return to a home as clean as when they left.
  • I REALLY screen the photos on the listing, and suggest you ask for specific ones if they are not posted - that is, all living areas. I won’t put specifics here, but photos can tell you a lot.
  • For you, I would suggest a video call each time, and ask to view the home on a video call. I would not give them advance notice of that.
  • Read the reviews of previous sitters. Look for what’s said, and not said, about the home.
  • Finally, don’t ignore your red flags.

If you do a thorough screening beforehand, and don’t accept less than your standards, chances are the majority of your sits will be clean when you arrive.

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Hi @Snowbird,

You raise some excellent points! I am revisiting my profile and applications and will definitely keep what you’ve said in mind.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts

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Hi there @Isitusit,
Thanks for the suggestions.
Agreed…cleanliness is very different for everyone!
The positives of each sit have always outweighed the negatives and we always expect to do some cleaning when we arrive. Unfortunately in this case it went well beyond my wildest expectations.
I’m just wondering if there’s a nice way to open discussion ahead of time.
I’m sure TH sends out guidelines for HO as they do for HS so wonder what they say.
Thanks again for your reply!

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You think it’s best to give the HO no forewarning that you’ll want a video tour during an upcoming video call? I think otherwise.

If the HO straightens things up for the video call, they will probably do the same for the sit. If they have no forewarning and show you a pigsty, you may be put off even though it wouldn’t be that way for the sit. If they are expecting to have to show you around in the video call and it still looks sloppy, you’re getting an accurate picture.

I try to keep my home very clean and I love to go to a clean home but I don’t expect perfection. As long as it’s reasonably clean and tidy I’m happy. I kind of like being able to give them back a place that’s cleaner than when they left (within reason).

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How I have found to hate the expression of leaving a home cleaner than when you arrived! Here I am not talking about filthy places but nice and tidy ones.

I am sorry, but has anybody ever thought about how home owners, who left a very clean home for the sitters must feel when they come back to an even cleaner one? Do you crawl into spaces to find dirt and eliminate it?
I always leave a very clean and tidy house but there’s certainly one or the other spot in an old house which could have been scrubbed more thoroughly. It’s lived in not a museum!
I would feel inadequate and ashamed that I didn’t spend more effort into cleaning before the sitters arrived.

Why does it have to be CLEANER than before? I would never do this when everything was reasonably clean on my arrival.

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This is one of the reasons why I exclusively apply for sits hosted by expats. As an expat myself, I know how things work and what to expect. But should something go wrong - we can always put blame a cleaning lady :wink:

@mars I don’t think I explained myself well enough. Let me start by saying I am making suggestions for a person who feels they are constantly going to homes and are consistently having to give them a major clean. In that case, I think their radar has to be up for the level they are looking for.

We know that we all do things differently, and I’m someone who is uncomfortable when someone offers to tour their home on the video call. I have never asked for a tour, and doubt I ever would. My reason for that is that by the time I get to a video call, I have already satisfied myself as to the level of cleanliness and neatness of the home. I assess the photos in great detail, and reject many on an overall gut feeling. Like many of us, I use various ways to determine whether I would be comfortable in the home. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy - just that I have to feel comfortable. That requirement is already ticked off my mental list before the call.

I do stand by what I said about not giving notice. The reason being is that if someone cares enough to be selected by the sitter, they will do a general cleanup/tidy up in the area where they will do the video. I don’t expect perfection either, but I do hope that this video call is important to them and that they want the sitter to accept them. Hence the reason someone who I would match with is someone who would straighten up that area anyway. The video call is scheduled, so it’s not like a drop-in visitor.

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I also don’t like the statement about leaving a place cleaner than when I arrive. It sounds condescending plus a HO could see you as a way to have their homed spring cleaned.

Our expectations are right up front in our profile where we say we have a very clean and tidy home, are non smokers and expect to stay in similar homes during our sits. We then reiterate this in our application by saying we are very house proud, and we treat our clients’ homes the same way as our own home, keeping everything very clean and tidy. We do wish to stay in a clean, tidy, smoke free home on our sits.

In closing off our application we say we would like to arrange a video call with the HO so that we can meet them and their pets and have a tour of their home to ensure that we are a good fit for each other before agreeing to the sit.

Where we think the pets might have free run of the house we say in our application that we don’t allow pets to sleep on our bed so if this is something they are used to then please don’t choose us as their sitter as it wouldn’t be fair to the pets to have their routine turned upside down.

If you link your sitter profile to your forum profile you will get heaps of constructive feedback that will help you.

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As a homeowner arranging my first house-sitter, I just arranged to have the home deep-cleaned before the sitter arrives.

I appreciate you bringing up this topic.

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This is how I wrote about the subject in my profile.

"I had some very good experiences with “Home exchanging” and my house is tidy and clean. I will therefore make sure yours is kept to your standards. "

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I have never mentioned about the fact my house is kept clean nor that I like to go to a clean house. As @Snowbird has said, I would carefully check out the photos as you can tell a lot from those. At the end of my initial application I always say that if they’re considering me seriously a video call would be great. I very much doubt owners would clean especially for that so you would get a good idea of the home’s condition. I agree it’s not a good idea to say you’d leave the house cleaner than when you arrive as that does sound quite rude, but I say I will respect your home and leave it as I find it, sometimes even better! - making a bit of a joke. If when I’m at the house and think about doing some chores such as their washing/ironing I would send them a message asking if they’d like me to do those chores.
Owners get a message before sitters arrive asking them to thoroughly clean/tidy their home.

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We don’t express any expectations to HOs, since we have more of a “take it or leave it” attitude. We have been in only a few homes which were not clean enough for our standards and we can just decide not to come again.

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It’s a minefield and I understand completely where you are coming from. There have been some great recommendations here and I confess, even after several sits I find it difficult to be forthright with the homeowner and make some of the statements others have mentioned here about my expectations. We have had several reviews with comments about ‘leaving the property cleaner than it was when we arrived’ but I certainly don’t advertise that - partly for fear of offending and also because I don’t want to attract homeowners who want their house deep cleaned. We’ve had some properties that we’ve arrived at that have certainly not been to the standard we would hope, but everyone lives differently. We’ve made them comfortable for us and left them clean on departure but I confess I have never gone to the lengths of deep cleaning anywhere that I felt needed it. It’s someone elses home and as long as I respect it and leave as I find it (or better) then I am comfortable with that. As others have stated I now choose carefully and will certainly be considering some of the comments here on future applications.

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@Pawtastic.
We are a couple who like to leave a place cleaner than we find it. It may not always be so but we do it simply because we appreciate:
1, the HO entrusting us with their home & pets
2, the effort the HO put into the sit before we arrived.
3, they probably have a long journey back, will be tired & its one thing less for them to worry about.
Its just our way if doing what we can to thank the HO. Its certainly not at all intended to upset.

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No owner ever wrote on a review about me that i left their home clean or cleaner, no sitter ever insisted about the cleanliness of my own.
Does this mean they found it not clean or not clean enough ? I wonder…

On my side, I don’t give a damn about spider webs or dust on furniture BUT i hate moist in showers, grease in kitchens, or dirty matresses !

I would hesitate to take away huge spider webs in a cellar or to clean window panes I found dirty, I would be frigthened for sure to humiliate the owner ! As somebody says, we are sitting in a living home, not a set for a decoration shooting ! And as an owner, I’m not expecting a sitter to behave like a housemaid !

What I know is I try to be very critical towards my own home : doing for sitters what i would not do for myself every week (check the inside of cupboards, the electrical switches as finger prints can be seen sometimes on them, use vinegar to wipe out limestone s on bath or sink taps…) what my own help does not pay attention to !

But when you welcome guests, friends or sitters in a home shared by animals, you’re pretty sure you may find their hair everywhere, even when all fabrics on sofas and beds have been washed…
I much prefer a nice home, cosy, with a lot of charm, than a perfectly cleaned one with no soul inside !
When I see a listing where “cleanliness required” appears in the title, I don’t apply.

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If it has been nice and clean when you arrived why has it to be even cleaner when you leave? It’s not about the cleaning itself. I appreciate it very much if sitters leave the house tidy, it’s the “cleaner” I don’t like.

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