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selling a home with pets

Essential steps for selling a home with pets

October 9, 2017 — Written by Gina DeMillo Wagner

Americans love their animals. There are approximately 70 million pet dogs in the U.S. and more than 74 million cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Millions of other households have fish, hamsters, reptiles, birds, and exotic animals.

But selling a home with pets can be a challenge. While you might consider them part of the family, not everyone agrees.

Buyers want to envision themselves living in your space, and that means hiding any evidence that Fluffy or Fido lived there. One whiff of a dirty litter box, or view of a mess in the yard, could ruin a showing.

Prepping your home for sale when you have pets doesn’t have to be hard, though. Follow these essential steps, and you’ll preserve the value of your home during the selling process.

Step 1: Remove the evidence

As you declutter your home and prepare it for showings, hide evidence of your pets. Put away litter boxes. Banish half-chewed dog toys. Move crates, scratching posts, dog beds, and cages out of sight. Stash water and food bowls under the sink or the back of your pantry.

Make sure your real estate photographer moves or hides pet accessories too. Buyers scrolling through a listing online will notice if there’s a cat condominium or hamster wheel lurking in the photos.

Step 2: Deodorize

We grow accustomed to the odors in our home, so we may not notice a pet smell the way a buyer will, walking in the door for the first time. Avoid simply masking odors with perfumed products or scented candles. Some people find strong perfumes offensive, and they don’t eliminate the underlying smell. Instead, spray any fabrics, rugs, and upholstery with pet-specific deodorizer or enzyme cleaners that neutralize the odor. Better yet, go the extra mile and have textiles professionally cleaned.

Also, replace furnace air filters and anything else that could emit pet smells in your home. Consider using an air purifier or house fan with a HEPA filter that absorbs the particles that create the odor, like pet dander and allergens. HEPA filters meet rigorous government standards for filtering out the tiniest of air particles, including those that lead to pet odor.

If you’re unsure if odors still linger, have a friend visit and give an honest sniff.

Step 3: Deep clean

This is important whether you have pets or not. Homeowners tend to neglect floors, baseboards, walls, and upholstery over time. Hire a housecleaning service to deep clean every corner of your home, or go the DIY route, push up your sleeves, and follow these guidelines from the Humane Society for removing pet stains and odors around the house.

Your deep clean routine should include washing furniture slipcovers, quilts, comforters, curtains, throw pillows, and anything that could be hiding pet hair and smells. If you have carpets, invest in a professional steam clean before showings start to remove any stains, hair, or traces of odors. Have a fish tank or hamster cage you can’t relocate or hide? Make sure it’s squeaky clean too.

Step 4: Repair any pet damage

Scratched door frames, shredded curtains or furniture legs, and damaged floors can all serve as a negative tip-off to prospective buyers, who might wonder what damage pets wrought that they don’t see — and will need to pay for. Examine every inch of your home for any damage that your pets may have caused and either fix it or move it out of sight.

Scratches on wood door frames can be remedied with food filler or putty and a little paint. Rubbing with walnut or coconut oil can wipe out claw marks or scratches on wood floors or furniture legs. Before showing your home, cover or replace any pet-damaged fabrics or furniture, too.

Severely damaged hardwood floors might need sanding and refinishing, and doing so can add value to the entire home. If your budget doesn’t allow for refinishing the floors, talk to your realtor about offering potential buyers a flooring credit.

Step 5: Spruce up the yard

Your home’s exterior serves as a first impression. If buyers don’t like what they see outside, they might not bother to look inside. Whether it’s holes where Fido buried a bone, a garden nibbled by cats or rabbits, or waste landmines in the grass, give your outdoor space some attention and clean up any messes. This boosts your curb appeal. If you have an outdoor dog run or other fenced-in pet area that can’t be hidden, showcase it as an asset to pet-loving buyers. Just clean it up and make sure it looks safe and inviting.

There’s some debate about the value of backyard chicken coops as well. Eating local is trendy, and that includes fresh eggs out your back door. But critics claim that backyard chickens are noisy and unsanitary. If you have a coop, clean it and secure the hens inside before any showings. You might display some fresh eggs on your kitchen counter to highlight the benefits. And let potential buyers know you’re happy to remove it if they aren’t interested in urban farming.

Step 6: Relocate or manage pets during showings

It’s hard for buyers to focus on the stunning qualities of your home if there’s a dog barking in a crate or a cat scratching at the basement door. The sight and sounds of pets are distracting at best and can stress buyers—and it’s stressful on the animals as well. Board your pets while you show your home, especially on weekends and during open houses. Maybe ask a friend or neighbor if your pets can stay with them briefly during showings, or take them for a long walk.

If the pets must remain home, ask your realtor to give you ample notice before showings. Leave a note for potential buyers and their agents with instructions or reassurances (“friendly dog in the basement” or “please don’t let the cat outside”).

Step 7: Don’t forget the neighbor’s pets

A dog that’s yapping next door or growling at the fence can be a turnoff for potential buyers. Some home inspectors will note on their report if the neighborhood has a nuisance pet. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, ask if they’ll keep their pets indoors during showings. Offer to pay for a dog walker to come during the open house or home inspection periods. If all else fails, consider using white noise like an outdoor fountain to mask a barking dog.

With so many families owning animals, it might be hard to imagine anyone disliking yours. But at the end of the day, you want to ensure nothing gets in the way of selling your pet-friendly home for maximum value. The time you invest now in preparing your home will pay off in a successful sale.

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