The Ins & Outs of House Sitting...

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In the U.S., if you want to take off on vacation, all you need do is notify the Post Office to hold your mail, tell your neighbors to keep a eye on your place, and board your pooches in a safe and secure facility until you return. 

Here in Costa Rica, things are just a tad different.  While crime is not staggeringly bad, there is concern you may fall victim to the casual break-in.  However, in Costa Rica, it is our responsibility to take steps to mitigate that problem.

In addition to protecting our own property, there is not a huge demand to board pets.  Ticos let them fend for themselves when they go on holiday. So before we leave, it's important we take steps to insure the condition of our home and pooches are the same state as when we left.  To accomplish this, we use the services of a house sitter. 

The role of a house sitter is fairly simple... they live in your house and maintain it just as you would if you were living there.  As in our case, the house sitter is also responsible for keeping an eye on pe and Ashka and treating them with love, affection and nourishment until we return.

House sitters come in two flavors... Fee Based and Freebie.  Depending on where you live can make all the difference between whether or not you PAY or not.  In our case, offering our house with it's pool and 5 minute walk to the beach makes it highly unlikely that we have to pay for a house sitter.

Freebie House Sitters

Last year, Fran and I met a couple who were house sitting in San Ramon for our old neighbors while they vacationed in Europe.  Star and husband Richard, to gringos who lived in the Heartland of the U.S., did a fantastic job watching over their place and taking care of their pets.  They even washed and waxed our neighbor's car before their return.  How cool is that?  We were so impressed with their service they were the first one's we called when we were thinking about traveling to the US.

I initially sent them an email saying we were "thinking" of going to the US in late October for 3 weeks.  Would they be interested in coming to Costa Rica and house/dog sitting while we did our thing.  Within minutes we got a reply...

"HELL YEAH!  Just tell us the dates and we'll get our tickets!"

Now that's what we wanted to hear.  Star and Richard have been in country now for a few weeks doing some preliminary vacation stuff and they will be here on the 19th of October.  That gives us a chance to acquaint them with the house, our neighbors etc.  They will even drive us to the airport.

Had this couple not worked out, we had several requests from other friends who were looking to volunteer for the job of watching our home and doggies for three weeks at the beach.

House Sitters For Hire

The first time we used a house sitter was when we lived in San Ramon.  We hired a gringo couple, friends of ours, who have a small business dedicate to this niche.  We were gone for four days, were charged $13 day and returned to a clean house and a happy dog.  What more can you ask?

It can be a daunting task, hiring someone to house sit for you.  You are putting all your trust into the hands of (potentially) a total stranger.  Whenever possible, know the person who will be house sitting for you.  But if you can't, here are some criteria that Fran and I use when making a selection.

  • Use couples (preferably)

  • 50 years of age or more

  • Non-drinkers or light drinkers

  • Non-smokers or very discreet smokers (outside only)

  • Have rock solid, verifiable, local references

  • Pet lovers

Although we trust our gut instinct and sometimes you can tell if someone IS or IS NOT right for the job, it is mandatory that you have the opportunity to chat with any prospective house sitter on the phone or in person before you engage their services. 

Establishing Ground Rules

We allow a house sitter free run of our home.  If you trust someone, you generally don't need to place things under lock and key.  A good house sitter will be respectful of your privacy and generally provide for their own consumptive needs.  Identify daily tasks you need performed.  In our case...

  • The pool pump needs to run for about 4 hours each day.  It should be turned off by 10:30 am before the electric rates jump up.

  • They are free to use Air Conditioning but since we have split units (one in each room) only use the AC in one room at a time.  Also, we request that temperature is set no colder than 24C (75F).

  • Sitter is free to use our car for trips to the market and other related errands

  • House alarm is to be set if they are leaving for more than 1 hour

  • Pets are to be cared for in the same manner in which we treat them.  This generally means a daily trip to the beach.

Preparing for The House Sitter

  • Create a list of names and phone numbers of key contacts they may call in the event of an emergency. 

  • Introduce your house sitter to key neighbors

  • Provide code for house alarm and instructions on how to activate/deactivate it

  • Leave instructions on how to use TV and internet (if necessary)

  • Establish an agreed upon hiding place to leave your key in the event you house sitter leaves before you return

  • Place keys and flashlights in an easy to find location

  • Prepare any instructions regarding pet care needs including vet contact data.

  • Make sure you have adequate amount of food and medicine for your pet during your absence

  • It's a good idea to have house sitter arrive at least 24 hours before your departure, thereby allowing a smooth transition to their role.

  • Create a list of nearby restaurants if sitter is unfamiliar with the area


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