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Selling a House with Pets at Home

How to Sell a House Where Pets Live

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Selling a House with Pets at Home

Selling a home where pets live can present a different set of challenges.

© Elizabeth Weintraub
Almost everybody loves pets except the home buyer who is buying your house. Don't ask me why, but that's often how it works out. Home sellers who adore their pets -- and I count myself as a huge pet lover -- have a hard time imagining the negative attitudes others harbor against pets. So, while this might be a bitter pill to swallow, if you want to get top dollar for your house, pay attention to how much you might lose with a dog or cat in residence.

Why Don't Home Buyers Like Your Pet?

  • Nervousness. Pets make some people very uncomfortable. Not everybody grew up with a family pet or enjoys outings at the zoo. Fur and four legs does not a human make.
  • Fear. Real and irrational. It's not only dogs that instill fear in people. All kinds of silly wives' tales and superstitions involve cats.
  • Inexperience. Pets are not always predictable.
  • Your pets aren't their pets. They imagine yours bite, jump, vomit, claw, spit-up hairballs or are just plain hyper and bad.

#1 Preferred Pet Solution

You're not going to like this but I'll say it anyway, fully realizing that this very excellent piece of advice is likely to fall on deaf ears. The best thing to do to ensure top price for your home is to relocate your pets while your home is on the market. Putting them in the back yard, in the garage or in another room that you keep locked is insufficient, and it's not fair to them. You need to remove them from the house.

  • Let a friend or relative care for Fluffy and Spike.
  • Board them at a kennel.
  • Send them on vacation.

Overcoming Negatives Associated with Your Pets

If you shrug off all professional advice and absolutely refuse to move your pets out of the house, then at least minimize the objections and nuisance factors, real or otherwise:

  • Cat Litter Boxes & Dog Potty Pads

    Keep them out of sight and impeccably clean. Nothing turns off buyers faster than opening the door to the laundry room and being greeted by a full or stinky cat box.

  • Carpet & Floor Pet Stains

    Hire professionals to remove the stains. Buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the house. If the stains can't be removed, then remove the floor covering and replace it.

  • Pet Odors and Smells

    1. Cat urine is the worst. Without question. The. Worst. Bring in a neighbor to do a whiff test.
    2. Do not use air fresheners. People with allergies will react.
    3. Try enzyme cleaners such as Simple Solution Compare Prices, Nature's Miracle Compare Pricesor call a professional ozone company.

Remove Signs of a Pet

You may be required by state law to disclose that pets have lived in your home, but you don't need to advertise that pets live at your house. Removing signs that you have a pet is simply smart practice. Why turn off a buyer at the get-go? It's those first impressions that are so all-fired important.

  • Do not put photos online showing your cat asleep on the bed
  • Seal up doggie doors
  • Put away food and water bowls when not in use
  • Vacuum religiously, every day, sometimes twice a day
  • Pick up pet toys and put them away
  • Pack up cat trees and other signs of cat paraphernalia (you know who you are)
  • Remove photos of pets from refrigerator, walls and table tops
  • Pack up all cages, carriers and other tell-tale signs

Showing Your House

Put your pets into a carrier and attach a note warning buyers not to disturb them. The last thing you need is somebody sticking their hand inside the carrier and getting bit or scratched. You can't predict how your pet will react when locked up and alone.

I learned the hard way by letting my cat run loose during a showing. I was outside talking to my neighbor while the selling agent showed my home. We heard loud knocking and looked up to see the agent rapping on my upstairs window. I thought he was showing the buyer I had dual panes. It didn't dawn on me that he was panicking and couldn't figure out how to open the window. When the rapping continued, I went inside. Turned out my cat had cornered the agent and the buyer, and was growling at them.

Needless to say, that buyer didn't buy my house.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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