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Ask the Experts: What To Do When A Housesit Is Not “As Advertised”

“False Advertising,” or purposefully exaggerating the desirable qualities of a property while neglecting to mention the potential pitfalls, is not a common occurrence in the Nomador community. While it can be tempting for a homeowner to upsell the location or size of a home in order to attract a sought-after sitter, most responsible owners understand that in order to find someone qualified to take on particularly persnickety property, honesty is always the best policy.

However, if a housesitter arrives at a home to find that his or her expectations were misled (perhaps the location feels unsafe or the home is unclean), it could lead to an uncomfortable situation. That’s why we’ve asked five of our favourite experienced homeowners and housesitters to weigh in on What to do when a housesit is not as advertised.

Pete Heck, Housesitter

In terms of arriving and it’s not what you expected, I think it’s a matter of discretion. Obviously what’s best is to have a little Skype interview or video conversation with the homeowners prior to arrival to gain a good sense of that the property and pets are like before you arrive. That said, we’ve shown up for a sit where the property wasn’t very clean, but you have to be able to determine whether it’s unlivable or a simple tidying up once the homeowner leaves will bring it to your standards. And then from there, you have to communicate with the homeowners what’s happening.

Josie Schneider, Housesitter

Up-front communication is key. During your conversation with the homeowner, it’s important to ask a lot of questions and perhaps even ask them to turn the computer around to show you their home. It’s also important to remember that “advertising” can be very subjective. So the way a homeowner describes their home or area might be very different from what you’re picturing in your head. Due to my expectations I may be disappointed when I arrive, but after a day or so I can often get used to things or understand that it’s a cultural difference in the way people keep their homes. Perhaps a neighborhood appears dangerous at first, but I quickly find that it isn’t.

If there is truly something that’s not acceptable, for example they are in the midst of a major home renovation that wasn’t disclosed, then that cannot be ignored. And we’ve had that happen! In that case, communication again is key. You’ve started a rapport with the homeowner, and you must be upfront with them. If there really is a point where you feel you have to leave the housesit, it’s best to stay until a solution can be found, whether that be a substitute or other agreement with the homeowner.

Leigh McAdam, Homeowner

When it comes to location of the house, it’s incumbent on the housesitter to do some research to gain a realistic understanding of where it is -- to verify whether it’s in the midst of the city or out in the country. Google Earth is an exceptional tool, as well as Google Maps, where you can zoom down to street level to see what the surrounding area looks like.

Dani Heinrich, Housesitter

Even though I did research a recent housesit by looking it up on Google Maps and researching how long it would take me to get to the city using public transportation, it turned out what the homeowners and google maps told me were not accurate. A bus that was supposed to come never showed up, and I ended up very frustrated because a commute they told me would only take an hour ended up being about 90-minutes each way. So in that case relying on what I could find online was not useful, but since the homeowners themselves did not use public transit, it would have been helpful for them to do some additional research locally to ensure this would be a good fit. I was their first housesitter, so when they asked for feedback I was very honest about how more accurate transit information could be useful to future sitters, and they completely understood.

Mariannig Ferrari, Homeowner & Housesitter, Founder of Nomador

It is very interesting to hear these different perspectives. As part of running the Nomador platform, we have been in direct touch with problems when they arise for more than ten years. We have seen a lot of different circumstances, and we almost always come to the conclusion that when we are speaking about different expectations, the key, like everyone said, is communicating in advance. While we often focus on teaching homeowners how to select the right housesitters, it is also important to speak more to housesitters about how to select the right housesitting opportunity, because something that might be right for you might not be right for someone else.

We can also offer a helpful tool to simplify communication by providing examples of the right questions to ask a homeowner before arriving. Because this checklist is provided by the platform, it can prevent a housesitter from potentially offending the homeowner and help ensure that most important issues are addressed well in advance. Housesitters can even go over the checklist with homeowners once they arrive to address any problems or unfinished items before the homeowner leaves and seek out viable solutions.

This is Part 1 of a series in which we “ask the experts” about their experiences with some common - and not-so-common - housesitting issues. Many thanks to our housesitters and homeowners for providing valuable insight!

Pete Heck, HeckticTravels.com
Josie Schneider, HouseSittingTravel.com
Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com
Dani Heinrich, GlobeTrotterGirls.com
Mariannig Ferrari, Nomador.com

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