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House sitting is a service offered to customers who are out of town or otherwise away from the home. House sitters may look after pets, plants, or just the home itself. House sitters help the community in a number of ways. They can ward off criminals by simply being in the house, and they keep cats and dogs from having to be put into kennels.
Who is this business right for?
This business is good for those who want to maintain people’s homes while they’re away. Ideally, house sitters should be animal lovers who know how to take care of a variety of different types of dogs and cats.
House sitting can also be excellent for those who travel a lot, and don’t want to pay for a place to stay. However, travelers need to be prepared to put in some real effort if they wish to make this their side business. To succeed in house sitting, a person also needs to spend a good amount of time in the house.
What happens during a typical day at a house sitting business?
House sitting duties vary depending on the client. Your schedule may include the following tasks.
- Feeding/walking pets
- Taking in the mail
- Sweeping/shoveling the walkway
- Watering plants
- Maintaining plumbing/pipes
- General home upkeep (e.g., dusting, etc.)
What is the target market?
The target market are those who are on vacation or who are away from the home for an extended period of time. For example, people who live in Florida during the winter will need someone to check in on their home while they’re away. Many homeowners simply want to have movement and energy happening in their home. Any property that sits unattended will become a magnet for thieves—even if it's only for a few days.
How does a house sitting business make money?
House sitters make money by charging a flat fee for their services. Usually, they charge per day, with the amount depending on the time and effort the house sitter will have to expend to complete all duties. So, a homeowner who has a two Great Danes and a cat will be charged more than someone with one plant to water.
What is the growth potential for a house sitting business?
The growth potential is good. This may be a competitive market, but it’s not as easy as it looks. People go out of town at every time of the year, so there's always a need for good house sitters. Those who prove themselves with excellent reviews and a loyal clientele will build up the trust they need to continue growing their client base.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful house sitting business?
Organizational skills will be extremely helpful for a house sitter, as will any type of formal animal training. Handling pets, especially unknown pets, can be an extremely risky job to take on. It takes a strong person (both mentally and physically) to do it right. Good house sitters also have to be extremely responsible. Ideally, they’ll have several backup plans in mind should Plan A fail.
What are the costs involved in opening a house sitting business?
House sitters have very few to no costs to open up their business. You may consider taking an animal training course to distinguish yourself amongst your competitors, but there’s no equipment to buy to get started.
What are the steps to start a house sitting business?
Once you're ready to start your house sitting business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your house sitting business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your house sitting business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a house sitting business?
Reviews are always going to be a crucial part of any business, but this is particularly true for house sitters. You are who your clients say you are, so it’s important to impress them at the beginning. If you’re just getting started, use people you know as character references—preferably people outside your family.
Once you start getting clients, much of your job will be about doing your homework. Ask questions before the person goes out of town, and work out a plan for emergencies before they happen. Ensure you understand everything the homeowner expects of you, and don't be afraid to speak up if you think they've forgotten something. Research unknown areas where you’ll be staying, so you’re not thrown off by a detour sign or an unexpected rain storm.
Imagine you’re being watched at all times to avoid doing anything that a homeowner wouldn’t appreciate. Don’t teach their pets new (bad) habits while they’re away. Also, consider going the extra mile. Taking their pets to be groomed, restocking the fridge, or polishing their silver may not even take you very much time, but will certainly make you stand out.
How to promote & market a house sitting business
To get the word out, you can either start your own website and promote it through paid advertising, or you can do physical flyers at popular places around town (e.g., coffee shops, etc.) Or you can pay an online service such as House Sitters America that will help match you up to the right clients. This subscription service will cost you about $30 a year, but it gives you ways to easily search and find clients from around the world who may need your services.
Reviews are the first thing people look at when it comes to house sitter for obvious reasons. Regardless of where people can find you online, whether it’s on a subscription service, a review page, or your website, ensure that the reviews are all top-notch.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Customers will keep using you when they come back and find their home as good as or even better than how they left it. Your communication skills should also be impeccable so clients always know what's going on.
How and when to build a team
You don’t necessarily need a team to house sit, though you can certainly consider hiring responsible employees should your client base grow. By building up your brand you may also be able to expand to other parts of your state/region.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a house sitting businesses, Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office.
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
A house sitter may want to require customers to sign a services contract. This contract will help ensure customers are getting the service they expect and you are aware of your duties. Here is an example of such an agreement.
How much can you charge customers?
The average cost of a house sitter is about $40 a day, with overnight stays costing up to $75 a day. Again, what you charge is dependent on the duties the homeowner requires. If you only need to stop by once a day to feed a cat and clean its litter box, then you'll likely charge less than the standard rate.
What are the ongoing expenses for a house sitting business?
Thankfully, there are few ongoing expenses for a house sitter.
- Website costs
- Subscription service fees
- Pet supplies (e.g., treats, extra leashes, etc.)
- Gas/car maintenance fees
How much profit can a house sitting business make?
While your business will likely boom around the holidays, house sitters can work on every day of the year. You would only need 5 clients at $37 a day to make about $170 a day.
How can you make your business more profitable?
House sitters may consider doing more of their work at their own home. For example, keeping several dogs when owners are out of town. This strategy cuts down on travel time, and allows more face time with people’s pets.