Conducting home visits is something that some organizations do and others do not.  We’re not intending to debate the pros and cons in this article so if you’re looking for more information there head over to that article “To home visit or not.  Which way to go?“. In this article, we’re starting with the assumption that you’ve decided that home visits are part of your organization’s adoption process and you need to determine how to go about conducting them effectively.


Start with the end in mind

The first step for an effective home visit is to start with the end in mind.  When you’re done with the visit, what do you intend to have?  Are you looking for reassurance that the potential adopters home is as they described it to you?  Do you intend to have a clearer picture of how they will care for the animal?  Because home visits can be controversial, knowing what you want to get out of it is important to document so write down three things that you want to know after the home visit that you could not possibly know before a home visit.  This will be useful to build out your approach.


Be transparent

when potential adopters are checking out your organization, is it clear on your website, in your Facebook page and in your communications with them that you need to do a home visit as a part of their application?  Do you provide criteria that you are looking for, reasoning behind why you want to do a home visit, and transparency for them regarding the outcome of your inspection?  Some potential adopters may not be interested in working with you if you require a home visit so it’s always best to be up front and open so they can determine whether to continue with an application or not.  You also might get questions regarding whether sharing photos of their property and living space is acceptable.  Be clear up front about what works for your organization and what does not.


“R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Find out what it means to me”

As Aretha Franklin sang in her famous 1967 tune, Respect, find out what it means to me.  In this case, you should focus on and think about what it means to them that you are respectful.  Remember that you are a guest in their home and on their property and as you can imagine, it is somewhat awkward to have a stranger in your house inspecting the way that you live.  Try and empathize with your potential adopter and recognize that you could be at the start of a long term relationships with someone that could be an adopter, donor, volunteer and advocate for your organization.  In today’s digital age people are quick to blast out to their social media contacts when things do not go their way, or they feel slighted in any way.  Taking a respectful approach that clearly outlines what you are looking for, what they can expect during your visit, and how you will behave will set the stage for success.


More Dr. Phil, less Judge Judy

You go to court when you need a dispute mediated and a decision made, called a judgement.  But in this case, you’re no judge and there’s no judgement to be made about your potential adopter and the way they live.  You are simply determining if the needs for this particular pet match the needs of the potential adopter.  So act more like Dr. Phil and less like Judge Judy.  Ask questions that allow them to provide perspective, insights and answers regarding their lifestyle and what they are looking for.  Discuss with them things that the animal can do that will cause them concern, stress or frustration and how they would handle disciplinary issues.  Use the opportunity to share ideas but not to dictate or lecture them on how to care for the animal, even if you do not agree with their answers.


Advocate, don’t suffocate

Remember that throughout this process your role is to be an advocate for the animal you are adopting out.  Not every potential adopter is going to have the same experience as you do, the same training as you do, the same approach to where the animal should sleep that you do.  But it’s not about you anyway, it’s about finding the animal a safe home with people that care for him or her.  So even though at your house dogs eat from the table and sleep on the couch, recognizing that a home could be a great fit for an animal even if they do not let him sleep on the bed, is the first step to establishing a long-term relationship with a forever home adopter.