Never home alone: UrbanSitter connects parents to reliable, crowd-sourced sitters

By Joann Jovinelly  | November 20, 2012 - 10:25AM

You’re all set for the big moving day. The boxes are sealed, the cable is cut, and the only thing remaining is the excitement of setting up your new digs. Oh, wait a minute. Did anyone think of a strategy to safely occupy the kids during what will likely be a six-hour marathon of madness? Hmmm, not exactly. 

Enter UrbanSitter, the latest subject of our Real.Est.List spotlight series, and the newest salvation for over-worked, and over-taxed New York parents. UrbanSitter is a crowd-sourced (and user-vetted) babysitting service that assists in that age-old task of finding the perfect babysitter. 

Basically, these guys utilize the vastness of Facebook, linking user profiles to the social media site and all its interconnected glory, to help parents find qualified sitters within their own circle of friends and relatives (or friends of their friends and relatives). 

How it works

Once you set up a free account, you can browse available sitters by the dates they are available. You can read profiles of your prospective sitters (which they write themselves), see which of your friends or family members have worked with them before, read reviews written by other parents, and even glance at third-party background checks in some cases. 

UrbanSitter says the average response time for typical jobs is less than 1.5 hours.  There's even a mobile app, so checking out possibilities while you’re stuck at the airport (in Boston) or in line scoring a latte makes you a multi-tasking genius. 

There is no minimum requirement in terms of hours, so you could request help for one hour or ten depending upon your individual needs. And the rates are nearly as flexible. Average hourly compensation in the New York area ranges from $12 to $30 an hour depending upon a sitter’s own experience and skills; a sitter who is also an RN will likely charge at the highest end of the spectrum.

We spoke to several UrbanSitter regulars for tips about how to best utilize the service: 

  • Best/worst hours: Weekends are obviously the most difficult times to get help since the kids are home from school and schedules are jammed. Check the site early and often for the best feedback. There is also a special section of the site where parents who need urgent help can post requests. By contrast, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons seem to have the greatest availability.
  • Tipping is appreciated. Because sitters set their own rates, there is usually a nice range of help available at varying prices. And though it is not required, remember that most sitters are accustomed to modest tipping for satisfactory and above-the-board service.
  • Do your research/be communicative. Make sure that you establish solid communication with your sitter. Ask prospective sitters about their experiences with children in your age range. Also inquire about their past experiences that were rough. How did they handle that situation? Most important, ask them about their own expectations and be clear and upfront about your own. If the kids are meant to steer clear of the Oreos, say so.      

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