How does the exchange of keys and pet info happen?

I have just finished my profile, and this is the first time I have considered using a house sitter, so I have one probably very obvious question.
We live in a rural location, and we are planning to go abroad for a holiday.
How does the exchange of keys/pet/info usually happen ? Does the sitter stay the night before ? How does it physically work ?


Hi @clarehas
Much will depend on what arrangements you have made with your sitter, if you are departing early hours then you may wish to suggest they arrive the evening before perhaps offer them dinner and get to know them for a few hours knowing that when you leave they are already in situ.

If you are leaving during the day then its normally easier for the sitter to arrive an hour or 2 before you wish to leave.

I have found both options work perfectly well and only once in 22 sittings were the keys left under the flowerpot which meant I never met the HO which was a little more awkward.

I recommend you meet them if you can and spend 60-90 mins for handover, I’m sure you will feel more confident about them having met them before you leave.



Whenever possible we always have the sitters arrive the day before we leave so that we can introduce them to the dogs, show them round the house, answer any questions they may have and have a meal together. We also ask that the sitters do not leave before we either get home or are at least within a few miles of home. This has worked very well for us…


Thank-you that’s very useful to know. I’m not even ‘live’ yet, but already thinking of problems !

Best Clare

A warm welcome @clarehas to both TrustedHousesitters and our community forum. You’ve arrived at the best place to get lots of advice from our house sitting members so I’m going to leave you in their very capable hands, as I can see that great feedback is already coming through!

Do enjoy connecting with other members and please let us know how your search for a sit progresses! All the best, Vanessa

Welcome @clarhas :-). Ideally you and your pets will have a chance to meet the sitter(s) in person beforehand. This can happen sometime before the sit. After this some homeowners prefer sitters to come and stay a day or two before hand in order to acquaint themselves with the home and pet routine. Some homeowners prefer sitters to come on the day of, with a personal handover, or in rare cases to arrive after the homeowners leave. This is not so strange if there are no pets involved. We have arrived after homeowners have left when there are pets involved but in all cases we spent time together before hand. We have also had homeowners offer to put us up in nearby lodging the night before as they were going to be fully occupied packing etc., and did not want the distraction of sitters in the home at that time.

We live in a rural area of the Big Island of Hawaii. We pick up the house sitters at the airport the day before we are due to leave and drive them back to the house. That gives us time to talk with them and also show them things along the way. We introduce them to our dog and show them around the yard and also take them to the nearest town and show them where the important things are such as the bank, the hardware store, the trash dump, etc. Since the area is so rural, we feel that it is important that we take the time to introduce them to our way of life. Not your typical suburban or in-town sit.


Some homeowners leave a key in a hiding place, some have a keyless home and they give the sitter the code, and some meet in person beforehand.
I’ve also sat in a rural area where they never felt the need to lock the door, so no key needed… and I’ve had homeowners who want me to be a regular sitter who’ve made me my own key.
So, it varies!

I’m not interested in staying overnight with a homeowner in close quarters during a covid surge, so I avoid that situation.
But meeting for an orientation before the sit, or for a couple hours at the beginning of the sit… that’s common.
(For key return, some homeowners ask that you leave the key inside the house when you go, some ask that you put it back in the hiding place.)


We live in a rural area, and we also have quite a few animals (outdoor ones as well as dogs and cats). We always ask them to arrive the day before we leave so that they accompany us on our routine rather than just have to follow written instructions. This also means that we know our dogs are comfortable with them before we leave (which is crucial to me) and it also helps to cement the trust between the two parties. We have dinner together (with some wine if they drink!) and get to know each other a little. It has never been uncomfortable (and I am quite shy when it comes to social gatherings), and tends to create a solid foundation for us being more relaxed when we are away, and in the sitters feeling more at home in our house. We do have ensuite bedrooms, and as i think sharing a bathroom is probably the most uncomfortable thing for everyone as strangers, then that probably helps ease some awkwardness!


@Vanessa-Admin (just for clarification): So you agree that the very common practice described by my HS colleagues above, is perfectly alright and the sitter can arrive a day earlier and sleep over while the host family is still there? As I see that you did not protest against the advice given here, and everybody seems to do it anyway. Perhaps this should be taken into account when you edit the THS rules the next time.

Hello @Romana and I hope I can assist in part with the clarification you require.

As a house sitter who has been full-time (and still is) my partner and I, along with many other sitters, do handovers where there is a stay overnight involved, especially if travelling from afar. Since the pandemic, overnight stays have been (and in some cases remain) a safety concern and we would always respect that - times have changed.

We have done a lot of remote, off-grid sits, with multiple pets, and find that the time spent with the owners not only forges amazing friendships, but more importantly allows time to fully understand the workings of a property, and the routines of the pets. We have often enjoyed long walks with both the owners and the dogs, and a friendly meal, not only at the beginning of a sit, but also at the hand-back.

But on reading all of the posts you’ve just put up I wonder if there’s confusion about handovers and overnight stays. From what you are saying it seems (correct me if I’m wrong) that you are seeing the handover as the sit start date and therefore that according to the THS guidelines, it goes against the third party regulations?

My understanding on this as a sitter (I don’t get involved with setting T&C’s or rules), is that the sit starts when the owner’s leave and finishes when they return. If you decide to stay a night before or a night after this is perfectly acceptable if agreed by you both. Here’s the definition from the website :

We will pass your observations over to the product team and to membership services to let them know your concerns. Thank you again for your observations and feedback - it is appreciated. All the best, Vanessa


I joined trusted pet sitters last year and had the most amazing experiences. I always ask for the sitters to arrive a day early so I can show them the route I take to walk my baby and also to show them everything in house without feeling rushed.


Hello Vanessa, thank you for your very quick and profound reply. So, one of my question has been indeed answered: It is okay if the sitter arrives a day before the home owners leave - and it is indeed the common practice.
However, what confuses me is that the rule in the link you refer to (What is a sit handover?) says that the sit starts and should be advertised with the starting date when the sitter arrives and while the home owners stay there for another night or even longer. How does that conform with the “strict rule” that no third parties must be in the house during the house-sit?
As I wrote in my other post, the only legal way around it would be to be considered a private guest outside of the sitting arrangement during that night (and any other nights before and after while you share the accommodation with your hosts) and a sitter only during the time when the home owners are away. From your reply it seems that you see it the same way. However, the THS handover rule as quoted below, completely confuses me. It contradicts the “no third party” rule and brings the whole legal definition of the house-sitting period into a very shady area. It would be good if someone who is involved in setting the rules, would reply to this question!

Quote in this regard from the THS rules: “For example, if you would like a one-day handover and plan to depart on the 3rd of the month, be sure to write this in your listing and also set the start date for the sit to the 2nd of the month.”

@Romana … as mentioned I have now passed this over to the wider team so that they can further clarify your concerns and provide the answers to your outstanding questions. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

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Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started we’ve done contactless key exchange. We prefer video chat and video house tour rather than arriving a day early, getting a tour and staying with the owner or in a hotel. We exchange the key through a key lock box. I know that is not ideal for some owners, who would like to meet in person but it keeps everyone safe.

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Hi @BunnyCat I’m glad that is working for you, unfortunately I would never consider leaving our dogs with anyone we had not met in person and I would not be happy leaving them in the house while we went on holiday not knowing whether the sitter would arrived on time or at all, (through no fault of their own)…


@Foldor13 I agree that contactless key exchange is not everyone, but it could be done if needed. Hopefully things get back to normal (pre-pandemic). As far as arriving and leaving on time, communication is the key. We always share our departure time, progress and estimated time of arrival.