Mutually beneficial exchange

I was going to post this in an existing thread, but since this has been coming up a lot recently and is often shut down due to being off topic, I thought it warranted its own thread.

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what THS is. Maybe it’s mostly from new members or potential members that aren’t that familiar with THS. My view of THS is that it is a place for people to connect. People who are looking for in-home pet and house care can connect with people who love pets and are looking for accommodation in a location that they would like to visit. THS is not an agency that provides house sitters. It is just a platform to connect people. It’s up to homeowners and sitters to work out the details in a way that is acceptable to both.

This entire site is based on the concept of mutual exchange. However, recently I’ve seen a lot of homeowners who view it as if they are ‘hiring’ unpaid help. Of course, there are bad sitters and bad HOs out there, but I fully believe those people are a very small percentage of the membership. However, I see even otherwise good homeowners who don’t view this as the mutually beneficial exchange it is supposed to be.

I wanted to give an example of a mutual exchange not related to housesitting to provide an additional perspective.

I’m a statistician. Let’s say I want some legal work done, maybe reviewing contracts and other legal paperwork. I talk with an attorney, and it turns out their firm is looking for a statistician to analyze and interpret data and make data-based recommendations. We decide to just trade services and together we determine a mutually beneficial arrangement based on the scope of work involved on each side. Most people would not view this as an employer/employee relationship in either direction and neither side would be considered ‘the help’. It is two equal sides making an exchange. And, if either side wanted to add on additional work, that would change the terms of the agreement and it would need to be renegotiated.

I view house sitting in exchange for accommodation EXACTLY the same way. I am exchanging a valuable service for accommodation in a location to which I would like to travel. There are expectations on both sides. The HO has expectations about how their pet and home are cared for and I have expectations about the work involved and about the accommodations to be provided. This doesn’t work if both sides are not respected and considered equals.


I agree with you overall, but think that using an example related to professional services is part of the problem THS is facing. Many sitters balk at the term ‘interview’ in the application process, and there are increasing stories of HOs treating sitters like free labor - all of this ties back to approaching THS as a job, while also not being comfortable about treating it as a job.

Honestly, I prefer working with sitters who do NOT petsit for money outside of THS. I think it just muddies the water of exchange. I know that I have much higher expectations in situations that I am donating services for which I am normally paid. I also hold myself to the standards I would meet in my profession. I think it’s unrealistic with THS to escape that dynamic. I also have experience with someone I was trying to attract as a paid client who found I had a connection to a volunteer organization, and the relationship got very weird - there have been THS stories I’ve heard that sounded very similar, with HOs trying to badger local paid sitters into accepting a THS sit instead - just yikes all around.

If I can get a bit woo on y’all, exchange situations like work (mostly) outside of capitalism*. It works best when both parties think they are getting the better deal [see update to this below] - and of course, when they are holding up their end of the bargain to boot. There is also a sense of generosity needed from everyone involved. That’s not to say that every sit is perfect, but the overall balance should be positive for everyone.

The biggest issue comes with growth - without growth, it’s difficult to maintain the needs of the community in terms of technical support, and being able to offer sits in more locations. OTOH, when growth of a platform becomes a priority, the focus becomes quantity of users, and quality goes down because true exchange is so far outside the norm, culturally, that it will only ever serve a small percentage of the population (see: couchsurfing, airbnb, lyft/uber). I think there are still plenty of great opportunities for sitters and HOs whose priority is exchange, but there’s definitely a bit more work involved now to sort out good sits and sitters, where the exchange is properly understood by everyone.

Again, I ultimately agree that the focus needs to be on the mutually beneficial exchange. These are just some thoughts I’ve had rattling around during my time using THS and reading the forum.


Hi @systaran
I think there’s been an influx of new HO and sitters recently that don’t understand THS. As you say some HO treat the platform as a hiring staff platform. I recently got approached to do a ‘sit’ by a new HO that didn’t want me to stay in her property but to travel to her property twice a day for 4 days to feed her cat. That would have taken me about 4 hours each day and cost me £50 in train fares per day!
Another sit I was asked to feed the cats at 5 intervals throughout the day with fresh meat and walk the neighbours dogs 4 times daily for at least an hour a day!
I’ve also seen a number of new sitter posts asking what they get paid for sitting via THS.
So maybe THS advertising is off?


Hmm, I think things work best when both sides think they are getting equal value. Personally, I provide the same level of service for whatever I’m doing, whether it’s paid, traded, or donated.


You’re right - I see how saying both sides thinking they are getting the better deal is also contributing to the problem, as it can lead to people thinking about how they should be getting the better deal and then figuring out how to work the system, rather than putting in the work themselves to ensure the other party feels the same.

I just want THS to be a happy place, where homeowners are thrilled with the pet and home care they receive and sitters get to experience wonderful new adventures and spend quality time with adorable pets! It’s inevitable with the enormous growth there will be some growing pains but hopefully it can get back to what it should be.


I appreciate your analogy of mutual exchange, and it’s clear that this is the ethos upon which THS is built. It’s certainly a compelling way to view the relationship between homeowners and sitters, as a platform for equitable exchange rather than a service provider-client dynamic.

Your description of THS as a place for connection resonates with me. The platform offers a unique opportunity for homeowners and sitters to engage in an arrangement that benefits both parties: homeowners can travel with peace of mind, knowing their pets are cared for, and sitters get to experience new locations while enjoying the comforts of a home.

However, I’ve come across several instances and anecdotes that have left me concerned about how consistently this spirit of mutual respect and exchange is upheld. Stories of pets dying without the homeowner’s knowledge or homes not being cared for to the agreed-upon standard are worrying. These cases, while hopefully rare, suggest that sometimes the terms of the exchange are not being met, which naturally calls into question the reliability of the mutual exchange.

The principles you’ve outlined are the ideals to strive for, and yet, they highlight the need for clear communication and understanding from the outset of any agreement. This ensures that both homeowner and sitter enter into the exchange with the same expectations and a shared definition of what constitutes a fair trade of services.

There is a delicate balance to maintain. Homeowners must not view sitters as unpaid help but as partners in a mutually beneficial arrangement. By the same token, sitters must honour their commitment to care for the home and pets as agreed. It’s an exchange of trust as much as it is one of services and accommodation.

Moreover, I’ve noticed discussions around entitlement which suggest that sometimes the expectations are not always aligned or reasonable. For example, if sitters expect homeowners to provide food or additional amenities, it can muddy the waters of this mutual exchange. It’s essential for both parties to be clear about what is being offered and what is being received, to avoid these misunderstandings.

In my view, a successful house-sitting arrangement, much like your example of trading services between a statistician and an attorney, depends on a foundation of respect, clarity, and professionalism. It’s this professional approach, within a non-professional setting, that safeguards the integrity of the exchange. It is why I’m vocal about these concerns — to ensure that THS remains a community where trust is both given and earned, and where the mutually beneficial nature of the exchange is protected.

As I contemplate joining this community, I’m heartened by those who approach their commitments with the gravity they deserve.

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I can definitely see how people would be put off by reading the forums. I’ve seen posts discussing appalling behaviors from both sitters and homeowners. I think it’s important to keep in mind that those are not the norm. People are much more likely to post about something bad than something good (maybe we should all start posting about our great sits). If the vast majority of sits did not go well, this site would have gone under years ago. I just think that with all the recent growth we need to make sure everyone understands that this should be an equal exchange and that THS is not an agency supplying sitters.


I agree. I regard THS as very closely related to the sharing economy. For me it is more related to hospitality exchanges like couchsurfing etc than to Airbnb. In hosting and in pet care there are intangibles that do not have price tags.

Yes, it needs generosity. People should not worry about exact reciprocity, not be bean counters, for example replacing food item for item. Or this obsession with cleaning.


I agree. I’m a former Couchsurfing member (mostly host). When I discovered THS, I was super happy because it seemed to be in a similar spirit, only better, because both sides benefit here.

Now after more than a year of pet sitting, and two sits where I was badly taken advantage of, I can see that THS has its flaws. But the idea behind it is still wonderful.


Totally right. I now did about 15 sits. All were great. I even go back to sit for them when possible.

I just met fine people, great pets, mutual understanding. And we respect eachother.
The HO I meet, want me to have the best time in their house and with their pets.
And I want them to have the best holiday or family visit they have, without having to worry about pets and house.
From both sides I discover that we want to give eachother more, then to receive.

And since I read the forum, I myself get more and more uncertain. Asking the question: Am I just lucky? And when does it goes wrong for the first time? Do I have to take more precautions when applying for a sit?

I love the spontaneous, respectable character I have experienced till now. And hope the items on this forum will not be a forecast for how it will be in the future.

P.S. I am not a native English speaker, so I hope I didn’t make to much mistakes in expressing what I wanted to share…:innocent::joy:


I was a sitter for about a year before my first bad experience. So I got a good run. I think it’s most important to listen to your gut feeling, ane not jump into things too quickly.


Where are you from, if you’d like to share?
I’m not a native English speaker either, but I’ve been living in Ireland for more than 11 years, so it’s like my second native language now.

An interesting analogy. And yes THS is simply an introductory service. My 2c. As soon as either side puts a notional “value” on their side of the exchange the whole thing starts to unravel. The whole thing is too nuanced to be a binary value.


@Oztravels I wasn’t referring to putting a monetary value on the exchange. My point is about determining an exchange that meets the needs of both sides. I’m not putting any kind of ‘value’ on either side. Just saying that it should be a mutually beneficial exchange that both sides are happy with.

@systaran :clap:

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Nice to meet you. And ofcourse you can ask. I am from the Netherlands.

@systaran :clap:

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Probably the best post I’ve read! Thank you!

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I hope this is the correct thread for my issue. I’ve read it through and I believe we’re on the same page.

As a HO I just had my first sit. I believe I found a good, experienced sitter for my week away. English is not her native language, so meeting her on Zoom was important to be sure we could communicate. I asked her to review my Welcome Guide beforehand so I could get her feedback. She said it was fine.

During our meeting I asked her to come the afternoon before I was to leave since I had an early morning flight. We agreed that I would pick her up at the station and then the next morning she would use my car to take me to the airport. Same for my return. She would pick me up at the airport and I would take her to her terminal.

When I picked her up we went to the grocery store so she could buy the items she needed for her particular diet. I had also left her some food that she could eat. The sit went fine. My pets were happy and the house was taken care of.

Then came the day I flew home. She decided to park my car in short term parking. I tried contacting her several times with no response. I even had her paged through the “white courtesy phone” and messaged her on THS. After an hour I got scared thinking that she had gotten in a car accident. Just before she boarded, I received an email telling me where she had parked my car and the keys were in the consol. By this time I was in tears. The next day she emailed me saying she was sorry we didn’t connect. She said she had a lovely experience and enjoyed taking care of my pets.

When I posted her review I said she took good care of my pets and house. I gave her 4 stars (because of her not being reliable). When she reviewed me she said that she enjoyed my home and pets but it was not an “authentic” house sitting experience and felt more like a boss-employee relationship. I emailed her and said that I was sorry that she felt that way. As it was my first sit I would love to learn how to improve and wanted to know what an “authentic” house sit looked like. No response, so here I am hoping you all can give me some guidance. Sorry to be so long winded. I’m trying to include anything that might be construed as boss-employee. I’m also afraid that her review might scare away future sitters.