Hello @renee_9605 and welcome to the forum and the TrustedHousesitters community. I’m going to add @ellenaj into my response, given she’s in a similar situation.
I will need to generalize, as there are a few posts that address your questions. These posts overwhelmingly reinforce to listen to your gut, don’t ignore red flags, act as promptly (but carefully) as you can, and be respectful of other people’s time. It’s a balancing act, with no right answer to your question.
Much will depend on the time until your sit, how you manage your time and tasks in life, and at times how specialized your needs are for your home and family. In today’s current shifting balance of listings vs sitter availability, you do need to realize that you run the risk of an applicant having accepted another sit, the longer you wait. However, accepting a sitter that you’re not totally confident about is ignoring the gut instinct, which can be an issue.
@renee_9605 you mention an applicant you would certainly be interesting in speaking with. If so, then ask to speak with them (phone or video), and give them a sense of whether they are your preferred applicant or not, as this is helpful to the sitter.
@ellenaj you’ve said you accepted the first sitter you felt comfortable with. That’s your gut instinct kicking in that they are a good fit. That’s good. Although some owners wait for more applicants, it’s not always needed.
If you have applicants you know you will not choose, then decline them, preferably with a polite note, rather than merely clicking the decline option. You don’t need to give an explanation, but a polite thank you is appreciated. Don’t feel guilty about declining someone, as you are working through applications to find the best fit for the care of your pets and home, which is so important. By declining, you also provide a definitive answer for the sitter.