Choosing a house or pet sitter for the holidays

Over the summer, when a lot of us Kiwis head away for a break, we often leave our homes and/or our pets in the care of friends, family, or professional house or pet sitters. But before you hand over the keys, here’s a few things to consider.

Are you covered?

House sitters often enjoy all the comforts of home in exchange for making sure everything on the home front runs smoothly in their absence. However, if you engage a house or pet sitter and they steal anything or clean out your home while you’re gone, or damage anything, it may not be covered by your insurance.

Natasha Morgan, Founder of My Home Watch and Home Security Expert says, “If a house or pet sitter, family member, friend or neighbour you choose doesn’t live up to their billing, it can ruin the entire holiday experience for everyone. We hear stories about this daily from our customers.”

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton told in August 2018, “Accidental loss and damage are covered as standard but all insurers will have exclusions for deliberate damage and theft caused by people lawfully on the property, including house sitters and their guests, so be aware who you are getting to house sit.”

It really does pay to check your insurance policy for what is and isn’t covered and if you are in any doubt, contact your insurer for clarification.

6 things to look out for when looking for a great carer for your property and pets

  • First impressions count. Experience, skills, and qualifications should be considered along with your gut feeling!. An individual with experience and good skills will be able to look after the home better. They will also be equipped to handle challenges and find solutions to problems. Even the best-maintained homes can throw surprises and they should be capable to handle them.
  • Love for pets. Look for a person with a genuine love for pets. Caring for a pet involves extra responsibilities and it is important that the carer is up to the challenge. Apart from providing food, water, and companionship, they also need to be comfortable with general pet care, and, if required, administering medication.
  • Reviews or references. Ask for references and contact the people providing the references for peace of mind. Always look for companies with good reviews.
  • Flexible with dates. Things don’t always go to plan on holiday so if the house sitter is able to be flexible with dates they will be more able to cater to any changes in your schedule.
  • Great communication skills. Choose someone with good communication skills so that you can be reassured that you have left your home and pets in good hands.
  • Consider a professional service that’s insured.

Tips for peace of mind when you’re away

  • Ensure that your house or pet sitter understands exactly what your expectations are. For instance, are they allowed to help themselves to food in the cupboards? Are they feeding the pets once or twice a day? Are they bringing in the mail or putting out the bins? Do they know where to feed the pets?
  • If your sitter isn’t able to meet your pet(s), ensure that they have a description so they aren’t feeding the next door neighbour’s cat!
  • Written instructions are helpful as a reminder for the sitter.
  • Lock away valuables and move breakables into safer positions.
  • Make sure you have stocked enough pet food plus a bit extra so you don’t have to rush out to get food as soon as you get home, or there is enough if you get delayed.
  • Ask for the mail to not be put on the kitchen bench or dining table where a huge pile of junk mail can be a heads-up to a prospective burglar looking through the windows that you are away.
  • Ask a neighbour, family member or friend to also keep an eye on the house from time to time so that you can address any issues early on. Give their contact number to the sitter in case they are unable to contact you.
  • Remember to check your messages regularly while you are away.
  • Investing in surveillance cameras is a good way to keep an eye on your property while you are away as many of the modern systems can be accessed by smartphones.
  • Ensure that if you are posting holiday snaps on social media while you are away that you are only sharing them with trusted friends and family. Maybe just wait until you’re home to share.
  • Show your house sitter where your emergency supplies are kept – just in case.

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ, with content provided by My Home Watch.

Read more on Kidspot:


  1. SarahBlair 06/01/2019 at 10:17 pm

    There are really good tips here,many things that I would not have thought of myself! Im always concerned when we go away and have thought about getting a house sitter in the past, now I think that I could look more seriously into it with less reservations about having a stranger in my home!

  2. dawnblyth 06/01/2019 at 10:14 pm

    A friend of mine does this regularly in the North island, house and pet sitting. I’d imagine she would get references from each sitting job that could be used for the next job. I think checking these references would be key to getting a reliable person.

  3. Shelz69 06/01/2019 at 12:39 pm

    I think researching your potential pet sitter is a must as well. You will find that most pet sitters if you found through a service or the internet have a history of reviews. I know of a couple of people in my area and that is all they do, you can see from their facebook post and website that they are reliable and experienced. I would rather have someone in my home looking after my pets than send them off to a boarding kennel. I also have security cameras installed so would be able to check on things when ever I liked. Of course I’d need to let the sitter know there were cameras.

  4. Alezandra 04/01/2019 at 8:43 pm

    We house/pet sit our friend’s home a couple of years ago. It’s not all fun and games coz you feel like you have to be extra diligent in taking care of your friend’s belongings (we had our 2 year old with us). We weren’t really given any rules of what not to do but we just wanted to make sure we tidied up after ourselves and left everything to it’s original place.

  5. Shorrty4life1 03/01/2019 at 4:53 pm

    We don’t have any pets. But this was a great read and will definitely be sharing with my pet loving brothers and sister.

  6. kymmage 31/12/2018 at 1:12 pm

    It would worry me having a stranger in my house. I’m not sure I could get past it. We use a pet motel for our cat. I’m not sure she is happy there but she is safe and fed and that’s the main thing. We have friends who will swing by for our mail and an alarm system.

  7. felicity beets 30/12/2018 at 6:36 pm

    Really good tip about asking for mail not to be left on bench – had not thought of this but makes perfect sense.

  8. Mands1980 20/12/2018 at 8:42 pm

    This would definately worry me getting a stranger to look after the house especially as this article mentions insurance won’t cover you if they burgle you while away. We try put the cats in a cattery and get neighbours to check our house.

  9. MuddledUpMolly 19/12/2018 at 4:49 pm

    Thankfully we live next door to my in-laws so if either household is away, we feed each other pets. I can’t imagine allowing a complete stranger into my home for any period of time. It is good to have this article though for people who need to use a stranger’s service.

  10. Bevik1971 19/12/2018 at 1:00 pm

    I would only get someone I know well to house or pet sit for us – if we couldn’t get someone we know then we wouldn’t go away haha. We don’t have a pet yet as we live in an apartment in the middle of town, however I would need to get someone we trusted with our pet and our belongings. We do have a couple of close friends who have offered to sit for us though if we needed them to 🙂

  11. Micht 18/12/2018 at 7:46 pm

    One of the reasons we are apprehensive in getting a pet just yet…it would mean going through this and allowing a stranger in our home as we have no family here and its too expensive and unsafe for pets and some shelters… interesting to note that insurance wont cover anything you have allowed people in or near..

Leave A Comment