September 26, 2022

Description of Job
• Make regular visits to a vacant home to check on doors, windows, heating
and plumbing systems, collect mail or packages, and make the home
appear occupied.
• Contact the homeowner in the event of an emergency, or arrange for emergency service without further authorization, if necessary.
The Need
Some people are comfortable going away from home for weeks at a time and
simply locking the front door, holding their mail at the post office, and stopping
the newspaper. Others want—or need—more protection and security.

In many neighborhoods it may be common practice to ask a neighbor to look
in on your home when you are away. Unfortunately, not everyone knows their
neighbors well enough to ask for this sort of help, or it may be a situation where
homes are too far away from each other for a neighbor to be of much assistance.
The job of the vacation house watcher includes regular visits to the home to
look for obvious signs of problems—broken windows, open doors, frost or
humidity on the windows, and exterior damage. The client may also give you a
key to the house and ask you to check the interior.
Other tasks include taking steps to make the house appear occupied. These
would include turning on different lights in the house, or adjusting timers within.
You could move garbage cans or lawn furniture from one place to another each
time you visit.
By charging for your services you will be accepting a great deal of responsibility; make sure you have a written contract that lists specific tasks and gives you
permission to enter the home. You will likely be given a set of keys and possibly
the entrance code for a burglar alarm. (Ask your client for a temporary code, or
ask that the code be changed after you have completed your assignment.)
You need to be flexible enough to increase the number of visits you make to
a home in the event of a severe cold snap or storm.
Make sure you know where your client is going. Obtain a telephone number,
cell phone number, and e-mail address. You should also obtain the name of
another family member or a friend of the client who is specifically authorized to
give permission for repairs or special services in case of an emergency. The agreement should also list the name of your client’s insurance company and local agent.
Be sure to limit your activities at the client’s property and within the house to
those that are appropriate and approved. As tempting as it might be to host a pool
party or watch the Super Bowl with some buddies on the big-screen TV, you
could be opening yourself to an expensive liability lawsuit.
You should not take a job that endangers your safety or requires you to travel
at times or to locations that make you uncomfortable. Your agreement should
also include language stating that in case of a general evacuation in the area
because of a storm, fire, or other reason, you will follow the instructions of
Know the Territory
You should get to know your client, and allow the client to get to know you, in
order to establish a level of trust. Ask for a full tour of the house and point out

anything that bothers you, such as unlocked windows or doors, unlocked safes,
or guns.
Ask to be introduced to neighbors so that they know you will be visiting the
property; you can use the opportunity to advertise your services to them at the
same time.
How to Get Started
Post ads and business cards in community centers, stores, and newspapers. Ask
friends and family to let others know of your availability. Ask for referrals from
satisfied clients.
Collect references from satisfied customers.
Up-front Expenses
The principal up-front expense is advertising. You will be reimbursed by your
client for any out-of-pocket expenses.
How Much to Charge
House watchers would likely charge an hourly rate for visits to the house. If the
location is at some distance from your own home, you can ask for reimbursement
for mileage, or request payment for your time in driving to the client’s property.
The best arrangement is advance payment for expected time, plus an agreement for payment for unanticipated time and expense in case of an emergency.
Your agreement should specifically state that the client will directly pay any
outside contractors, such as plumbers, electricians, or carpenters, who come to
the house for emergency services.
Legal and Insurance Issues
Special notes: Discuss with the attorney any prior legal problems you may
have encountered, and seek advice about whether they need to be disclosed to

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