Sits without house guides

Has anyone ever arrived at a housesit and there’s no house guide or any form of written instructions, but only verbal?

What do people make of this approach?

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Yes, we have - mostly off TH, though. It depends: if it’s straightforward, and I have all the info I need / can message with any queries and get a prompt response, no problem.

Sometimes HOs give a lot of verbal / visual information and it imagine sitters can easily take it all in and remember it all - probably because it’s all so familiar to them. If we get a purely verbal run-through, I now ask them to pause, and video it to refer back to (learnt that the hard way!)

It is in the H.O. interest to give as much information as is possible. Anyone who doesn’t cannot complain if things go wrong!!

I find less and less people are using the guide (or any guide) these days. Out of my 8 THS sits this year only one used the official guide and maybe half of the rest had something written down. In one case where the owner had been very bad at communicating (boy do I regret accepting that sit for many reasons) I requested the guide and the only section they completed was the address…

Most of the HO with THS have either the official version or a printed one at their home.

For those that don’t, I am very clear with the HO that if I don’t have a written set of instructions that we can’t be held accountable for things we didn’t know about. But during a handover visit, we record the things they tell us.

It’s usually HO using a sitter for the first time or someone who isn’t worried about sitters. But food instructions, medication, and anything critical I ask them to write down for us. If they can’t do it right then, then I ask that they send us a message with the instructions within 48 hours. Most things can go 48 hours without any emergencies.

I’ve never had a HO refuse so I don’t know how I’d approach that.

Quite often actually. It doesn’t bother us. We have a list of questions we need/want answers to and just fire them at the owners :grinning: I write the answers in my notes on my phone as we go through the list and double check with them if we got everything right. Takes 15-30min depending on the sit.

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Hi @RR12345
Yes when I started on THS but now I explain that having a welcome guide on or off THS helps both of us and further sets out expectations.
I had an owner that didn’t provide such and came back after a month and I’d missed watering a plant that was hidden in the master bedroom (that I generally never go in unless to retrieve a pet!). The HO said they thought I’d check every room. They still left me a 5 star review but this could have been avoided if they’d clearly stated the indoor plants that needed watering in a welcome guide.


I take notes from the video chat if there’s anything notable. Or if they’re giving me the tour once I get there, if we overlap. Also, if their welcome guide is thin, overly complicated or messy, I create a cheat sheet for myself and have them review it, to make sure I got the highlights.

For an off-THS sit the home owner produced a series of videos explaining how various appliances worked - that was far more useful to me than a lot of written information. However having written information about pets routines, walking schedules, food etc is of course useful in addition to this. I just wonder whether the Welcome Guide template is just too complicated and repetitive that some owners just give up trying to complete it. Maybe it needs an edit to make it more user-friendly?

I had a sit that had no guide, but instead, upon arrival, I was ambushed with a binder loaded with pages and pages of complicated horticultural instructions unique to over 50 unique species for maintaining 100’s of potted tropical trees and plants in their green houses. It was far from a simple task for a professional horticulturist, and certainly not for a housesitter. I would not have taken this if I had known this in advance. In addition, the accommodations were absolutely deplorable hoarders emporium. It was a 3-month dark winter sit. I was freezing too, as the temperature was at 15 to 18C. I wish I could have cancelled and left, but I couldn’t due to arranging some personal bureaucratic procedures awaiting federal government documentation sent there. It was painful and makes me angry that six months later I got an eye-opening review from her, which does not tell the truth, suggesting I am not clean or organized and terrible with plants. When I left, her house plants were lush and full, the basement (my living quarters) was detailed, and all the windows in and out were never so clean! I questioned her and now say I was ‘over-watering’ because she had lost some tropical fruit trees. It was the best example of modern-day slavery I had ever seen so far. THS needs to protect sitters from cheap, unaccountables seeking exploitation! A week later, THS should have an automated follow-up email survey to check in on the site.

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Welcome@ndpaolino to the forum.
This sounds like a very unfair house sit - with addition responsibilities and state of the home not disclosed in the listing. If this was a THS sit did you contact member services at the time ? What was their advice ? Did you leave an honest review after the sit ? Is the HO still a member?

almost all of my 39 hosts at THS have used the Welcome Guide but a few created their own guides in MS Word or other apps and they also printed out a hard copy for me.

I think a couple of hosts created no guide at all but tbh I can’t really remember for sure.

Thank you. I have since added more details to my rant, so please reread my rant. Normally, anyone would have left, but I could not leave the house or change addresses as I was awaiting complicated Swiss documentation, which finally arrived two days before my departure. In fact, in the middle of my sit, my mother died. Last-minute changes meant I had to fly to Canada. The host was very disgruntled that she had to pay someone in the meantime… I did contact the THS and had no success, saying that I can write a review too which as of yesterday had done… Yes the host is on this platform.

I totally agree with you. I do not go in every room during a sit. I only go in the common areas such as the living room, kitchen, bathroom, patio & back yard. As a matter of fact I close all doors that I am not using & I do not touch Ho’s food, I provide my own meals. I also do not sleep in the beds. I find a comfortable couch and I use that & of course the t.v. until I fall asleep. :laughing: I’m sitting locally right now so I do not have to take many things during my sits.

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Yes! The HO kept saying she would get the Welcome Guide to us and never happened. Day of arrival, only thing written down was the wifi password. Didn’t have a local contact number or a vet name/number and too boot, the one cell number I had for them was useless as they lost their phone during the trip. We started to get worried as they weren’t answering our texts, then a neighbor showed up giving us another cell number to use. I made sure in my review to let future sitters know there was no welcome guide. I feel it’s part of being a responsilble pet owner to make sure your sitters know how to care for your pet & what to in case of emergency.

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I’ve never encountered getting no welcome guide, though I’ve gotten them close to the sit a couple of times. If I didn’t get one as a sit drew near, I might tell the HO that I wouldn’t be comfortable sitting without emergency contacts and such. That presumably would nudge them to produce a guide before I got on a plane. (I’ve flown for all of my sits.) But so far all of my HOs have been reasonable and produced guides.

You also might want to read reviews before accepting sits. For my sits, sitters have written about how HOs had offered great guidance, recommendations and such. Like at my last dog sit, the HO gave me a well-marked map book for walks, along with a thorough welcome guide that included emergency contacts for not only the dog, but plumbing and electrical emergencies. And they showed me where the turnoffs were in case of say a gas leak. This home was only seven years old and had no issues — the HOs were just being responsible.

My current sit, for a cat with no current health issues, has included the contact numbers for a local friend and vets in case of emergency.

For another recent sit, for a cat, a HO sent me a video welcome guide. And that was even though I was planning to arrive 24 hours ahead and get a tour and guidance in person before the HOs left.

Something that helps me land sits with responsible HOs:

I never look past the first photo for starters. Instead, I read their listing carefully and I read previous sitter reviews. Why that helps: I don’t get distracted by visuals and talk myself into sits because they look appealing. It’s easier for me to read between lines and look for signals, good and bad. If anything sounds off, I just skip the listing without ever looking at the rest of the photos.

I look at the other photos only once a listing and reviews sound solid.

I figure all the above saves me grief.


Great way to go about things @Maggie8K . Saw a listing today in an attractive place but read the responsibilities that included feeding the cats 4 times day at regular intervals throughout the day and an hour to an hour and a half of daily garden watering. Not one for me.

We’ve sometimes found HOs to list house/ animal/garden care tasks, but not complete the section about local amenities - which tells us something straight away.

I always require a written guide of some kind, because my memory is crap! If they don’t want to provide it after I warn them that “I don’t remember anything unless it’s written down,” then I simply must bother them constantly during the sit with questions. Maybe some people don’t mind this, but I think it’s such a waste of time.

(Side note: One HO was so sweet, she hand-wrote a beautiful set of instructions with illustrations and everything. It was the nicest guide I ever saw.)