Listing Code Words?

I’ve noticed recently that applicants apply to listing clearly without reading the information on the listing. I was thinking of putting a sentence like ‘If you’ve read this, please write the code word Tomato in the listing’ or something of that nature.

Do people think this is a good idea or is it overly presumptuous? I feel like it also might help narrow things down to those that will actually read your home guide.


Have things really got to that stage? Why on earth wouldn’t a sitter read the listing thoroughly before applying? I know there is a time push to get your application in for the first five but that’s beyond it. No wonder we are reading about so many disastrous sits from both sides.
Yes a code word would tell the pet owner if the listing has been read.


Hi @kaylarose , this topic has been discussed:

Some people are fine with it. Others feel it is condescending. I think I fall in the second camp.


I’ve had many applicants where they have clearly not read my listing and some don’t even bother to read the welcome guide which is worrying to me. I started using a code word and only a couple of people in my last listing gave it to me. Both ended up people great choices!


I really appreciate your perspective and would never want housesitters to feel like I was being condesening or feeling above them. Would you mind letting me know why you would feel this way and whether you think there would be a better way of making sure people fully understand the requirements of the sit? Perhaps having a live discussion.

I just live in an area that attracts A LOT of applications so I am looking at ways of narrowing down the people who are looking for a ‘free vacation’ because I do get quite a lot of these unfortunately. I also recently had a horrendous sit experience which makes me nervous for when I want to use THS again in the future.

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Unfortunately it really has! For example, people apply without realizing that I have a turtle even though he’s explicitly listed and people also apply with families even though I explicitly state that my apartment isn’t suitable. It honestly has gotten pretty ridiculous and I just want to prevent people from coming with disregard for the very few requirements that I have.


Hi @mars! Thanks for sharing that post. This is a new one to me.

To agree with you, I think it is sometimes condescending. It reminds me of those FB posts like, “If you’re really my friend, reply back with where we first met. Otherwise I’m cleaning out my friends list.” If someone wants to clean out their list, then just do it. If you’re really my friend, why don’t you send me a non-generic message/text/heaven-forbid-phone call and we can catch up!

On the flip side, if a pet owner has had too many applicants who don’t read their listing, then I think trying something like this is worth it. Like @wendy_chicago’s case.

@kaylarose: It would make me feel better if you were in wendy’s situation and made that clear. Like, “We’ve had so many applicants who didn’t read our listing thoroughly. If you’ve read this, please write the code word Tomato in your application.”

Vs a pet owner who adopts the code-word idea as more proactive, um, paranoia. That’s their right, but that would personally irk me more. I suppose in the latter case, they have presumed a moral high ground relative to the sitter. Some trustworthy sitters (who read the whole listing) might take it personally and feel they are not being trusted, or that they’re being treated like children.


Hey Geoff! The main reason I am thinking about adopting this is I recently returned home from a horrendous sit where my pets were not well cared for and my apartment was a disaster. I’ve otherwise had so many positive experiences on this site and trust my housesitters a lot! I also receive way too many applications where people show a blatant disregard for the requirements I have explicitly laid out, which I think are all fair.

I am going to implement the code word and see how things go! I don’t think I will completely cancel out potential sitters if they do not include it, but it’ll be helpful in removing some less than suitable candidates. I definitely wouldn’t want someone to feel like I don’t respect them but I also want my babies to be in good hands where their welfare is the priority.


There’s been a lot of discussion on the forum about some sitters not reading the listings properly, which must be a nuisance for home owners.
I think it’s a good idea of yours and I applied (and got) a sit where the owner asked applicants to include “mojitos with crushed ice are the best” in applications! One of the dogs was called Mojito :blush:

You must know @ElsieDownie from being a regular contributor to the forum that a lot of sitters are applying for sits without reading the listing correctly. The 5 applicant rule may have something to do with it but I think there are also some sitters now on THS who are more interested in free accommodation than reading about and complying with the responsibilities listed by owners


Haha - thanks @Smiley! I like the idea of making the code word fun so it is a little less terse sounding and relates back to the housesit. I think I will make mine Renee - which a random pet psychic randomly told me my cat wants as her middle name. In addition to that my cat liked the Mommas and the Papas and Barry Manilow… I did not pay for this session - it was given to me as a gift from my more spiritual friend haha


I’m a sitter, and I have it in my listing. I was getting way too many “invitations” from people who thought I’d travel across the country for a long weekend.

Whether those homeowners were offended* or not by my code word, it doesn’t matter I don’t know, but the invitations stopped…which was my goal!

I am grateful to know that they’ve read my whole profile, and I’ve had only excellent sits with those homeowners!

*On the contrary, they have complimented me for being clever for doing it, and said they’re going to add one.

I think it’s a good idea, and as a sitter, I wouldn’t be at all offended. Anything that eliminates the time wasters has to be good.


As a sitter, I don’t mind a code word or phrase. I do consider the tone that HOs use. I steer clear of listings where they don’t sound friendly or welcoming and instead write as if they’re issuing orders or hiring.


TBH, I’m a sitter and I wouldn’t apply if I read that. You need to come across as being warm and friendly, sitters want a pleasurable and happy experience, don’t kick things off a sitters first impression of you by being negative and irritable.

My intuition makes me click certain ads over others, and you would have killed that positive vibe and energy by placing a negative thought in my head from the on-set.

I read everything we apply for. Just rule out anyone that hasn’t written a personalised message with their application to you, or if they have simply copied and pasted a message you’ll be able to tell within the first few lines of their message anyway.


@kaylarose very sorry that you have had a recent bad experience with a sitter. As a sitter myself I always feel that a sitter who does this lets down the rest of the sitter community.

Looking back at your last sitters profile, reviews and the communication that you had with them before choosing them ; can you see anything that might have alerted you to the way they behaved during you sit ?

If there is anything this might also help you on your screening process for future sitters .

All the best in finding your next sitter.

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We always roll our eyes when we spot that strategy in listings. My niece is a primary school teacher and uses it to catch her six-year-olds out.

It’s really not appropriate when interacting with adults


Having read your reasoning behind using a code word I personally would not be offended at all. As long as you word it in a friendly and/or fun way. And ofcourse it only makes sense to place this request right at the end so you know for sure the potential sitter has read everything.
It does appear to be the case that more people are applying hurriedly because of the 5 app limit OR for free accomodation as their main incentive.
In the first case I can admit to, at times, applying very quickly, before reading everything, to beat the deadline & save a space. But we always- in such cases- first write a short intro to us, explaining the need for speed, with the promise of a full application to follow. We then immediately study the whole listing carefully and apply properly (or cancel if, on proper reading, the sit doesn’t suit) We are not time wasters and can understand HOs who also don’t want their time wasted, especially with the hassle of the 5 app limit- pause/unpause.
We all have to do what we need to do!


We shall agree to disagree @Colin because it doesn’t bother me at all, depends on the way it’s phrased


Thank you all for your perspective! I guess thinking about it, I don’t really mind if some sitters choose not to apply because they don’t like the code word. I suppose it helps eliminate sitters who might share my slightly more cautious persona when sitting on this website. I’m a sitter myself and don’t think I’d mind in the slightest.

@silversitters I can’t say there were any red flags prior which is what makes me especially nervous. I think she must have just cleaned up excessively right before leaving past sits but leaving it in terrible shape prior.