You’ve arrived at your holiday location. You are finally relaxing with a drink in your hand, as you stare out at the sunset from your hotel or villa. All is good with the world.
Except a sudden thought springs to mind.
“Did I turn off the water?”
“Did I leave the backdoor unlocked?”
“Did I remember to switch off the iron?”
Or you may start to worry about your pets. Are they settling in at the kennels or cattery? Are they disturbed by their new and unfamiliar location? Did you make it really clear about their special diets?
We’ve all been there. Leaving for a vacation can be a stressful time and it’s easy to forget things that are normally second nature.
As house sitters we’ve seen this situation from the other perspective. We know all the things that can go wrong and we are prepared for all eventualities. We are there to make sure that your vacation starts and ends as it should – by you relaxing and enjoying yourselves while we deal with any problem that might arise at the property or with the pets.
Our last house sit in the UK was a great example of why you should seriously consider using professional house sitters to care for your property and pets.
Let me explain.
What could possibly go wrong?
It was the first evening of our house sitting assignment in a beautiful older Victorian property on the outskirts of Birmingham. We had settled into our temporary home and were curled up on the comfy sofa, having figured out how play a movie on the big screen TV.
Our new furry housemates, Hodge and Millie, were still a little unsure, but had finally climbed up to join us, snuggled down and tentatively accepted us as new members of the family.
But within minutes we became aware of a mysterious “drip-drip-drip” sound from the understairs cupboard. Unclear of what it could possibly be, we got up to investigate.
Horrified we found a steady stream of water dripping from the light fixture on the ceiling inside the cupboard. Water had soaked the roof around the light, and pooled on the floor and in the many shoes and bags stored in this small storage space. But where was the water coming from?
The first job was to shut off the electricity to the light fixture. Turning on the light could cause all sorts of electrical issues, not to mention being very dangerous. Fortunately, before they had left, we had asked the owners where the fuse box and water valves could be found. We quickly isolated the circuit that included the affected light.
This should always be an important part of your handover – we use a checklist to make sure that we don’t forget to cover the important points like this. It’s easy to forget the things that don’t generally cause a problem.
How good are your plumbing skills?
We took a quick look at the layout of the water system, checking both inside and outside the bathroom and sink locations. It didn’t appear that any of these pipes ran above the stair cupboard. That left only one option. The radiator pipes that connected the small radiator in the hallway on the first floor would almost certainly run above the top of the stairs, in the space between the floorboards and the ceiling below.
Once we found the source, it was a simple job to isolate that part of the heating system by turning off the radiator and closing the appropriate stop valve. That section would still be full of water, but with an appropriately positioned bucket, no further damage would occur.
Keep everyone informed
We emailed the home owners, apologizing profusely for interrupting their holiday so soon after it had started. We explained exactly what had happened, what actions we had taken, and even sent a couple of photos of the damage.
This was their first experience as home owners using the service of house sitters, and we felt bad that we had encountered a problem so soon after their departure.
However, they fully understood the challenges of living in a 100 year old property. They in contrast were extremely grateful we had been there to deal with the situation promptly and efficiently and that they wouldn’t be returning in the middle of winter to a potential plumbing disaster.
As they were only away for just over a week they decided to leave the problem until they returned, having confirmed with us that the temporary fix would not cause a further problem.
A little commonsense and practicality go a long way
We dried out all the shoes and clothes, left a bucket under the drip, which stopped very quickly once the valves were closed, and left the door open to allow the small space to dry out more thoroughly. We kept a regular check on the cupboard and avoided using the light for the duration of the house sit. Happily we had no further problems.
Our home owners were so pleased that their house and cats had been cared for while they were away. They had saved a fortune on cattery fees. Their cats had been comfortable and happy in familiar surroundings with very little change to their routine. But most importantly in this case, their house had been saved from what could possibly have been very extensive and expensive damage had the leak been allowed to develop for a week or more.
Weigh up carefully the risk of leaving your property empty
If you are a home owner, and particularly if you have pets, you should definitely using the valuable services of a house sitter next time you go away.
We understand that it can be a concern to leave your property and pets with a stranger, but really it is possible to carefully vet your house sitter. If they are professional, you will be able to refer to and contact any number of references, and often, because of the transparency of the community, you’ll find plenty online about their lifestyle to reassure you.
They honestly won’t feel like strangers for long!
House sitters – take time to develop your DIY skills
If you are house sitters, then consider developing your DIY skills so you can easily deal with any of the common issues you may come across when looking after someone’s highly valued home.
In our online “How to get started in house sitting” course on Udemy, we have a section dedicated to improving your house sitting skills, plus resources and books to help you develop your knowledge. If you can widen your skill set to include pool maintenance, off-grid systems and land management, you will open yourself to any number of luxury properties in amazing locations.
You’ll also learn how to avert most common household problems.