Selling a House with Four-Legged Family Members? Follow These Tips

October 9, 2017

Sometimes pet owners are so accustomed to their animals, they don’t realize there’s a potential problem when it’s time to put their home on the market.

That’s when it’s good to have the help of a professional real estate agent, who is duty-bound to give you an honest opinion about your home’s condition. An agent can tell you where the potential trouble spots are and how to make your home look and smell its best, so you can get top dollar and sell quickly.

“The potential buyer’s first thought should be that this is a lovely home, not that there’s a cat or dog,” said Nancy Greenberg, a Long & Foster Real Estate agent based in Greenville, Delaware.

Greenberg recently gave a listing presentation where one of her recommendations to the owners was to move cat trees (those carpet-covered kitty gyms) from the living room, dining room, family room and basement, and into a storage room. The goal, she said, is to make it so the buyers won’t be thinking about the pets living in the house, they’ll be picturing themselves living there instead.

These are the steps Greenberg said to take if you’re preparing a house for market that also has four-legged inhabitants:

  1. Have duct work cleaned and carpets steamed to address dander and odors.
  2. Pull up damaged or stained carpet and replace it. If pet smells have penetrated the subfloor, have an expert professionally clean and mitigate damage, which could include sealing the area so odors won’t come back.
  3. Clean pet hair from furniture and remove shabby or stained pieces. Even though you’re probably not selling these items with the house, some buyers might see poor condition of furnishings as a sign that other things have been neglected.
  4. Corral pet toys and paraphernalia into an attractive basket.
  5. Move pet beds to the garage when the house is being shown.
  6. Keep cat litter boxes and surrounding areas extra clean, and tuck them away in a garage or remove them (and the pet) from the premises when possible during showings. The same goes for food bowls.

Pets in the home during showings could be a liability, so it’s better if they are removed if possible, said Tanya Spotts, a Long & Foster agent based in Leesburg, Virginia. Buyers often bring children, who might pull on animals’ ears and tails while the adults are looking at the house, and that could result in a scratch or bite. And dogs that are closed off in a garage or laundry room have been known to bark, which is distracting to buyers and doesn’t make them want to hang around.

For pet odors, Spotts recommends deep-cleaning problem areas and using a product meant to neutralize the smell, not cover it up with overpowering and flowery scents. Pet and home stores carry products made for tackling tough smells. Some use enzymes that eat up traces of organic matter, eliminating it.

It’s likely that buyers will be bringing pets of their own, but that doesn’t give you a pass. Like with families, minimizing any signs of your specific pet will help the buyers envision their own fur babies living there.

Greenberg said she’ll never forget one home she visited during a broker’s open house that had an incredibly large portrait of a white Persian cat – painted on black velvet – amid other pictures of this apparently very special feline.

“We found that we weren’t talking about the kitchen or the bathrooms,” Greenberg said. “We were talking about that painting. As much as you may love your pet, you have to be conscious of what image you are presenting.”