Publié le by NmNomador
Handling repairs while house-sitting
Before we began traveling, we were homeowners for 25 years and during that time one rule remained true: things in houses break. It could be as simple as a knob on a kitchen drawer or as complex as a gas leak requiring an immediate repair.
During our house-sitting assignments we’ve come across both of these issues and more. The house-sitter should be prepared to handle minor issues that arise, but also needs to know who to call in case of a major problem.
House-sitters catch problems early
Things breaking in a house reveals one of the major advantages for a homeowner having someone house-sit for them. For example, once we watched a home for three months while the owners were literally on the other side of the world in Australia. During our second week, the freezer broke and the food inside was melting and leaking onto the kitchen floor. If we hadn’t been house-sitting, the owners would have returned from their three-month journey with a huge mess to clean up, to say nothing of the smell. But because the homeowners had people watching their house, the crisis was averted.
This situation also demonstrates the importance of being able to communicate with the owners while they are away. Even though they were in Australia, we were able to resolve the problem through e-mails. They were so organized that they even knew the name of a place to buy a new freezer. We purchased it on their behalf and, because we were currently occupying the house, were able to arrange for delivery and set-up of the new appliance.
The benefit of having a house-sitter while traveling became abundantly clear one winter when we were watching a home in the U.S. We smelled what seemed like a gas leak and contacted the homeowner. They called the local utility company who came out, confirmed the leak, and fixed the problem immediately. If we hadn’t been occupying the house, the consequences could have been severe.
Homeowners provide resources
Preparing a house-sitter requires more than just providing a set of keys. The homeowner should equip the house-sitter with information for dealing with most potential emergencies as well as minor hiccups. Some things to consider:
- The name and phone number of all utility providers including: gas, electric, water, telephone, internet, cable TV. The account numbers and passwords should also be documented in case the house-sitter needs this information to verify the account with the utility.
- Names of contractors that the homeowner uses. These could include plumbers, electricians, handymen, and carpenters.
- Contact information for local emergency services: police, fire department, ambulance. For a long-term house-sit it’s a good idea to let the local police department know that someone else will be occupying the house.
- Provide the house-sitters with access to a basic tool kit so simple issues like that wobbly knob on the kitchen drawer can be fixed on the spot.
- The name of a local locksmith. Despite their best efforts, once in a while the house-sitters do find themselves locked out. It’s also a good idea to leave a spare key with a friendly neighbor.
- If there is a security system for the house, the security company should be contacted so they know someone else will be occupying the home. In addition, the house-sitter should know the password for the account in case they inadvertently set off the alarm.
Fortunately, major problems are rare, but being prepared is the key to avoiding them in the first place—or keeping minor annoyances from blossoming into serious issues. Usually everything works normally and the house-sit is a trouble-free experience. But in those rare cases where something did go wrong, because the homeowners had prepared us for potential emergencies, we were able to catch problems early. We could get back to enjoying our house-sitting experience and the homeowners needn’t return to find any nasty surprises like a rebellious freezer.
Larissa and Michael Milne
Larissa and Michael Milne have been global nomads since 2011.
They chronicle their journey at ChangesInLongitude.com. The Milnes also write the weekly “Field-Tested Travel Tips” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer and online at Philly.com. They’re also really good at changing light bulbs and calling repair people.