What to Give a House Sitter?

When someone does you the favor of house sitting, it’s only polite to reward them. Learn the 3 easy ways to decide on the gift.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #167

Last week, my brother (who lives in my neighborhood) asked me to watch his house for a few days, while he went on a family vacation. Although he had a house sitter coming to stay for the whole week, he still needed a few days of me walking his pug, Frankie, feeding his fish, and watering his plants, before the house sitter arrived. Aside from Frankie’s need to ambush every other dog on the block, I was happy to help out.

What is the Proper Gift for a House Sitter?

After his return, I caught up with my brother and his family and was pleasantly surprised when handed me a t-shirt and a stuffed animal from a famous store in Martha’s Vineyard for my daughter from his vacation. I was very happy – and not only because my brother showed the proper etiquette toward someone who helped him out, but also because the shirt was cool, too. I asked if he got his house sitter something as well, and it turned out that he very kindly rewarded them with a gift basket.

Seeing his generosity made me consider the proper protocol for a house sitter gift.  Does it depend on how long they sat? What they did while sitting? The state of your house upon your return? The list goes on and on, but when a manners question arises, I tackle it full force.

So here are my 3 Quick and Dirty Tips on the proper gift to give a house sitter:

Tip #1 – The Short Sit

The short sit, is basically what happens when you ask someone to get your mail and feed your fish over the weekend. This is a two-day thing, which only involves the person (usually a neighbor) going maybe 10 minutes out of their way to help you. The short sit is by no means “unimportant” but when it comes to house sitting, this is one that doesn’t involve much time. However, thanking someone with a proper little gift, for their very little effort, is not only caring but also essential.
Whether it’s a box of salt-water taffy from the beach, a jar of homemade jam from the country, or bottle of bbq sauce from a classic rib city, giving a house sitter a small gift is always a good sign of manners.  Now you’ll notice that I said a bottle, a jar, a box (singular), NOT boxes, jars, or bottles (plural). This is an example of when something little can say a lot.

Tip #2 – The Mid-Stay Sit

The next step up from the short stay is the mid stay, which involves slightly more energy and time from the house sitter. Take what I did for my brother. Granted, walking his dog, watering his plants, and feeding his fish were not earth-shattering activities, but they did involve me being there twice a day or more.  For Frankie, I had to leave my house in the morning and twice at night, drive over, give him a good walk, feed him, and make sure he didn’t eat any other pets. I had no problem doing all this, but still, it was something that called for a bit more house sitting attention.

[[AdMiddle]This is the type of activity that warrants an upgrade on the gift. Don’t go all out – this is not a wedding present – but the gift should be something that showed time and effort. My brother’s gifts were thoughtful and particular to the place he visited, but not ostentatious. The mid-stay gift should (like in Tip #1) be a regional favorite of the area you visited. It makes it more unique and memorable. Anyone can buy a hat, shirt, or stuffed animal from the mall, but when it’s from a special place, it leaves a special place in your heart… Awwwww.

Tip #3 – The Full-Time Sit

This is for the big time house sitter – the kind that leaves their house to watch over yours. This is the person who took over for me after I was done at my brother’s house. My brother’s friend moved into the house and stayed for 5 days to walk/feed/monitor Frankie, feed the fish (who my two year old niece named, appropriately, Fish), water the plants and make sure everything was well kept while he was out. Most of the time, this sort of full-time house sitting involves a fee. And that’s what my brother did. However, even though you are paying someone, it’s still proper to reward them with a gift for their time.

So, what is the proper way to say “thanks for making sure my house didn’t catch fire/implode/get ransacked by thieves”?  When someone moves into your house to do a laundry list of chores, you must reward them for their time and effort.

As before, keep it regional because it’s more unique. And with that, try a fruit basket, or gift basket of items from where you visited. Every city – regardless of how “touristy” or not – has its own wares that are particular to the town.

Whether a person is getting paid or doing it for free, house sitting is never easy. It involves changing your lifestyle for a certain amount of time to help out a friend or family member. When this happens, properly show your thanks. After all, it may be you that gets called on next.

Do you have a great story about house sitting? Post all the details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips.