The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling a Home with Pets…and For More!

According to most research, moving is considered to be one of life’s most stress-producing events. Often overlooked is the stress it places on pets, more specifically, the 70+ million dogs and 74+ million cats that factor in to how long it takes to sell property and at what price.  While fish, reptiles, hamsters, guinea pigs and other innumerable cherished pets also factor into the affections of homeowners and play a role in the appeal or lack of appeal of homes for sale, they will not be the focus of this article.

If selling a home with pets and subsequently moving was strictly a matter of economic efficiency, the only advice necessary would be, as cold as it sounds, remove them, eliminate any remnants of their smells, repair any damage they have done, announce that no pets presently live in the home, and sell your home as if they never existed.  Fortunately, the overwhelming number of home sellers could never put their financial interests completely above their love for their pets.  Therefore, for most of us, the question becomes how can we sell our home with the least amount of disruption to the comfort patterns and love we extend to our dogs and cats.

Here are some suggestions you should consider:

  • Whether you have a dog, cat or multiples of each, you should never hire a real estate agent unless the agent assures you through what they say, don’t say and their body language, that they are completely comfortable around pets in general and your property in particular.

The reason why this is so vital is because, while it is widely known that buyers who have discomfort or outright aversion to pets will actually boycott seeing homes with pets, completely overlooked is the fact that this same aversion can influence real estate professionals not only in how they show your property, but whether they even want to show it.  A real estate professional uncomfortable around pets, specifically dogs and cats, should not be the individual you turn over the marketing and sale of your home to.

  • Before you select a real estate representative to “market” your home, you should first learn how they will help you “merchandise” your home.

What’s the difference?  Marketing your home represents all that you do to bring your home to the marketplace.  This includes advertising off- and online, networking with the real estate community, brochures, open houses, etc.  Merchandising your home represents all that you do to prepare your home before you bring it to market.  This is often referred to as “staging” a home.  The biggest mistake that many home sellers make is they skip, or under-focus on the pre-marketing or merchandising/staging step.  If you have pets, a major part of the staging effort must include what role your pets will play, and there is no general rule that fits all circumstances, except the obvious ones like:

Clean up the poop
Clean the litter box
Eliminate all pet smells to the greatest degree possible
Repair all pet damage to walls, carpets, hardwood floors, grass, etc.

Ask your real estate agent, as well as candid friends, family or neighbors for advice on their initial reaction to the “aroma” of your home.  All of us, in time, become accustomed to smells that, quite candidly, are devastating to “neutral nostrils”, and therefore candid feedback is indispensable to pet-related decision making and odor control.

  • Another important consideration that never seems to be taken into consideration is the fact that size matters!  Not only the size of the pets, but their size relative to the size of the home. 

Pay attention to pet-to-property proportionality.  For example, a smaller dog might not be as much of a factor to buyers touring a potential new home when the home is estate-size, as a Great Dane in a very small square footage property.  That said, often times smaller dogs can be more vocally ferocious. As a home seller, you should discuss with your Realtor the pro’s and con’s of proportional impact.

  •  There is a major difference between someone loving their own pets and your pets, and very few prospective buyers want to be greeted in the driveway, front door, or as they view the property, by your pets.

There is a difference however, between trying to make your pets invisible as many real estate professionals  suggest by removing their toys and pictures, relocating litter boxes and pet beds and making sure they don’t appear in pictures of your home.

Obviously, there are decisions to be made, not the least of which will be…

Should we move the pets out of the house only when there are showings and ask for a one-hour minimum advanced notice, or place the pets in a kennel or with family/friends until the home sells.

If you do not want to evacuate your pets either during showings or for an extended time until your home sells, you should ask your Realtor the following questions:

What is the best place to locate pets during showings?

What do successful home sellers do to “stage” their pet’s leashes, bowls, litter boxes, toys, food, etc.?

Just as each of our pets is different, each home is different, and the way in which homeowners decide to manage the potential sales price versus the inconvenience to their pets is different.  That is why your preparation should begin with an honest, open discussion with a Realtor who is not only very successful in generating the best results for homesellers, but also pet-friendly and sensitive to your and your pet’s needs, as well as capable of creating a pet-related strategy for selling your home.

Please feel free to contact me for any and all assistance regarding selling your home with pets, or any other real estate need.

Gee Dunsten

(Dad to 4 dogs…Sweetpea, Lily, Fergie, and Lizzie, and 1 cat…Andrew)