After talking about the pets that come with the house sit, there's more to say about the house itself too. How big is it? Does it conform to your standards of cleanliness? How much 'maintenance' is there to do?
Of course the length of the stay does influence the house work you'll be responsible for. The longer the sit, the more you'll have to keep an eye on things in and around the house and the more different tasks you may have to do.
During your interview with the home owner(s) you can get an idea of the 'level of cleanliness' and character of your future house sit house. This can vary of course and everyone has his/her own comfort level. Our own rule of thumb as house sitters is that we always want to leave the house as clean and well maintained as it was when we moved in (or cleaner when possible). If you're looking for a short break or a long weekend away, you may want to give it a miss if you do find the place looks quite filthy to your standards.
For longer sits I guess it matters less. A not so clean house gives us some extra work when we move in as we'll start with a good clean of the whole place. But then at least there's no stress for us at the end of the sit as our final clean up will easily leave the house so much fresher and neater than before our stay. The home owners usually notice this and appreciate it.
I have to add that most home owners put some effort into making us feel welcome and they tend to leave us a spotless house.
So do we clean everything ourselves?
We've had all kinds of arrangements with home owners.
During most sits we do the cleaning ourselves; however, we've also had home owners who wanted to keep on their regular cleaner whilst we were there.
Sometimes we paid for the cleaners ourselves, other times we shared the costs with the home owners. 'Our' home owners usually wanted to share costs if there were several indoor pets or whenever we were using only a part of their (big) house.
And what about the gardening?
A house sitter usually waters plants and mows the lawns, but 'bigger things' (like trimming hedges etc.) are probably better done by the home owners or a professional. It's important to discuss all the expectations and possibilities beforehand. This includes adding to your contract what has to be done, when and by whom. If you will be using professionals, also add their contact details, hourly rates and who will pay them (sitter or owner).
Will the owner clear some cupboards or drawers for my clothes and personal belongings?
We've found that most home owners clear a couple of drawers and some space in their wardrobe for us. I usually ask about this during the interview as some personal space to store things allows us to keep the house much neater during the sit. (And that keeps me happy.)
It's also practical to have empty night tables in the bedroom and to have the bathroom cleared of all the owners' toiletries and toothbrushes. Usually the owners do pack their stuff away and if for some reason they don't, we do it. We always take a photo of how they left the room(s), which allows us - at the end of the house sit - to put everything back exactly they way it was.
What about the bed linen and towels?
So far all home owners have welcomed us to a freshly made bed upon arrival.
We prefer not to use their best Sheridan sheets - and we tell them beforehand - and we tend to use the same set of bed linen for the whole sit. I just have to be a bit organised with the laundry and get the sheets washed in the morning so we can put them back on the bed at night.
The same goes for the towels: we'll only use a limited number of towels and stick to those. This way the home owners don't have to 'share' everything they have with us.
You can always discuss to bring your own bed linen, pillow covers etc. We always take our own pillow protectors and mattress protectors as we usually do long sits.
Talk to the home owners to get to know their preferences and ask them to put away the things they'd rather not let you use.
Is this the right house (sit) for me then?
Asking the right questions before committing to a sit gives you a very good idea of what to expect.
Make sure you get a tour of the house beforehand, as what you see then, is usually what you get.
Make good written arrangements about duties, expectations and the related costs.
If you are a bit wary of other people's sofas or beds, take your own throw, bed linen, towels, mattress protector or pillow protector.
And remember, there are no set rules in house sitting, everything is negotiable. Don't hesitate to take the lead in communicating clearly with 'your' home owner.