According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org), 36.5 percent of households own a dog and 30.4 percent of households own a cat, and many households have other types of pets. Of course having a dog or cat can fill many needs, such as companionship, security, socializing, and even fitness. However, selling a home where a pet lives can be tricky.
Pets often leave telltale signs they live in a home. Many people associate strong odors or dander on the floor with a home where a dog or cat lives. However, many pet owners keep clean homes; and odor or dander may not be the giveaway. Home buyers notice many things when wandering a home, and can associate water and food bowls, pet beds, cat litter boxes, and toys with pets. The psychological association could trigger an allergic reaction, even in the cleanest of homes.
Although an increasing number of households include dogs and cats, not all home buyers are keen on pets. And for some it’s a health matter, as many have sensitivities and allergies and such that they ask if a dog or cat lives in the home when scheduling a showing. And it’s not just allergies that can put off a home buyer: pets left inside the home (roaming or crated), pets left in the yard (free roaming or tied up), and pet odors are three of the top four home buyer turn offs, as ranked by Realtor®Mag’s Melissa Dittmann Tracey (Top 10 Worst Home-Showing Offenses; realtormag.realtor.org, October 2012).
Ask someone who is honest with you if your home has an odor; you may be surprised with the answer. It’s common to become used to odors in your home. Don’t make the common mistake of placing heavily scented air fresheners throughout the home, as it only adds another layer of odor; which, by the way, can also trigger a reaction in those with odor sensitivities. Instead, try to identify if the odor has a source and remove it if possible (it may not even be pet related). Consider using natural solutions such as baking soda to absorb light odors; however strong odors may require commercial cleaning.
And about those home buyers who visit your home…don’t assume they are pet friendly. Pet behavior can be misinterpreted. Even if you believe your pets are friendly and well behaved, buyers who are not familiar with dogs or cats can misperceive them as being aggressive and decide to leave. If the buyer does not know how to approach your pet, and they bring small children along, the dynamics can create an agitated pet.
Limit distractions and keep your pets and buyers at ease. Consider putting away your pet’s water bowl, toys, and other signs of your pet. If you have a cat, make sure the litter box is clean. Locking your pet in a room is not recommended by experts, as it can cause distractions and upset your pet. If you have a dog, take them for a walk while the buyer is visiting. At the very least, arrange for someone who is familiar with your pets to be home to manage them.
Selling a home where pets live can be challenging. Although you may think that the best scenario is to sell to another pet owner; nonetheless you should strategize with your agent about preparing your home for sale and managing your pets during the listing.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX All Pro in Rockville, MD. You can access more information at www.DanKrell.com.