Pet-and-house-sitters on the increase – could smart-tech help owners relax on holiday?

Guest article by Robert Knight

An increasing number of Brits are relying on ‘pet’ or ‘house-sitters’ to give them peace of mind when they’re away on holiday, according to a study.

Researchers who polled 2,000 UK adults found two thirds depend on friends, family and neighbours to check in on their homes while they jet off on their sunshine break – and 35 per cent admit they can’t relax unless they know someone is keeping an eye on their property.

The key reasons we turn to house-sitters are to pick-up the post, water plants, keep pets fed – and provide regular status updates.

Commissioned by Hive, a leader in smart home technology, the research also found around three in 10 would be able to enjoy their holiday more if they could check in on their home remotely.

And more than one in three would feel much more at ease if they could rely on a ‘virtual house-sitter’.

Tom Guy, global product director at Hive, said:

“Getting away for the summer holiday is something we all look forward to, but as our research shows, we often jet off wondering if everything is well back home.

“Fearing we have forgotten to switch things off, or worried about unexpected events like a leak, leaves many unable to relax, forcing them to rely on others to check in.

“Smart home technology gives another option, creating a ‘virtual house sitter’ who can watch over your home, update you of anything untoward, and allow you to check in as often as you want from a far – giving you priceless peace of mind.”

It also emerged the thought of leaving their homes unattended for prolonged periods is simply too much to bear for half of those polled.

Among the biggest worries we have when we go away are ‘did I lock up properly?’, ‘is my pet okay?’ and ‘I hope my plants are alive.’

Other anxieties include ‘did I put my out of office on?’, ‘did I shut the windows?’ and ‘did I set the house alarm?’

One fifth have left for a much-deserved holiday only to turn back due to worries such as leaving appliances switched on or not locking the front door.

And 16 per cent haven’t been able to shake such fears during their getaway – resorting to calling someone back home to check everything is okay – however, four in 10 feel bad asking somebody to check in on their dwellings – and many others have nagging doubts over how reliable they will be.

These include fears the front door will be left unlocked, items will be damaged, things will be left on or off – and even that the house-sitter will go through their belongings.

Swansea pet sitter Lisanne, whose company, Dawggone Walkies, says her pet sitting service offers peace of mind for owners as well as allowing pets to stay in their own homes when their owners are away.  She explains that staying in touch with owners with brief messages helps them enjoy their holiday better:

“Often my clients want me to keep an eye on their homes as well as their pets.  I will visit the house as frequently as they ask me to, but normally at least twice per day.  Some families like me to stay overnight, although obviously this costs a lot more.  As well as knowing their pets are safe, I can keep an eye on the mail and on the security of the house.  I usually message the owners briefly with pictures of their pets while they are away, it helps owners relax, they can see that they are happy and being well looked after – that in turn helps them relax about other worries, too.”

However, hi-tech devices can help too.  Almost one fifth said tech, which alerts them when there are unexpected movements or sounds would help put their minds at ease.

Automated lighting which ‘mimics’ how we use lights on a day-to-day basis would be just the ticket for 21 per cent – and one in 10 would feel more relaxed if they had tech which lets them know if there is any unusual water flow in their homes.

Tom Guy added:

“Smart home technology allows you to check in on your home and control lights, heating and appliances to come on and off at the click of a button, wherever you may be, all through your phone.

“This removes the need to rely on anyone else to look after your property – or worry about your house sitter having a snoop – but even if you do still prefer to have them check in, you can make sure everything is okay in between their visits.”