As a dog lover and owner, I remember how concerned I was when I put my first home on the market. I thought it would be disturbing to my Joey, and I was also worried that if a non-pet owner came for a showing, the presence of a pet might be a turn-off. My own concerns were easily addressed – Joey is 10 pounds, hypoallergenic, and well trained. I also benefited from the luxury of a flexible enough schedule to bring Joey out during scheduled showings on short notice.
I know that not everybody is similarly situated, but I see MLS remarks that say things like “Do not let cats out,” “Do not pet dog,” or “Dog may bark; Dog is not aggressive.” I am of the opinion that your home should be as welcoming as possible to all people when it is listed for sale. There are many people with animal fur allergies and those with phobias. You want to create an environment that allows potential buyers to see themselves living in your home and envision the ways to make it their own. Often having a pet present can distract from that. How can you overcome that without shipping your pet off for weeks? Here’s what I recommend:
1. Can my pet be present at showings?
First and foremost, your pet should not be home for showings. This is a distraction to buyers looking at your property who should be focused on envisioning themselves in your home. Plus, agents and buyers are NOT always diligent about “don’t let the cat out” and your pet could take flight. It should not be the responsibility of people touring your home to contend with your pet. If you can bring your pet to work with you during showings, that’s great – if not, at the beginning of a sale, you should try to make daily arrangements for your pet so there is no interference with showings. This is also a matter of safety and liability – your pet may respond differently to strangers entering its home environment than you expect. Even the sweetest of dispositions can be rattled by strangers coming in and out of the home. It’s better not to risk a startled pet causing injury or mayhem. There are many facilities that provide “day-care” drop offs. If you have notice that your home will be shown that day, consider utilizing one of those services or asking a friend if they can “baby” sit.
2. Can my pet items be present?
Yes, it IS okay if your pet’s existence is visible – new, attractive toys can be neatly placed in a bin, a cute leash can hang neatly from a door, a well-kept dog bed can be placed in the bedroom suite. Ideally, these would not be featured in photos, but for showings, there are realities pet owners have to deal with, and that most buyers will accept. The key is NEAT and visually attractive. That mangy, filthy tennis ball? Let’s hide that in the closet. The half chewed rawhide? Definitely needs to be put away. Just as you wouldn’t leave your dishes in the sink prior to a viewing, keep your pet items tidy and neat.
3. Are there any areas I need to focus on to prepare the home?
You don’t have to make the presence of a pet visually invisible, but any and all olfactory sensations need to be taken care of before your home goes on the market. You could be nose blind to your pet, so you might want to ask a friend or neighbor to go through your home thoroughly to identify any potential smells. Cat litter is a particular sticking point and should be changed every day when your house is being shown – as well as hidden out of the way. The garage, if available is a good storage place for cat litter when you and the cats are out for the day. Additionally, this goes without saying, but make sure the trash is removed from the home. Particularly if you have any animal waste in the trashbag! Whether it’s a cat or a dog, carpets should be cleaned, and if your pet is coming home in the evenings, please make sure to vacuum and clean thoroughly on a daily basis. You might not think that a potential buyer will notice the little bits of dog fur shed in corners, but I promise they will. If you are priced right and presented well, you won’t have to contend with this for long. Also… Fabreeze, Fabreeze, Fabreeze.
4. What about my pet?
Try not to let your emotions, nor those of your pet, stymie your sale. Selling your home, especially while you occupy it, is an emotional process. In the same way that it is necessary to manage the needs of your children carefully, it is also necessary to manage the needs of your pets. While you obviously do not want to ship your dog off… many animals can become very stressed by the copious packing and boxes and upheaval that come with getting your home ready to sell. While not necessarily for everyone, sometimes, having your pet stay at a friend or family home temporarily can be better for their own anxiety. If you choose to keep your pet home with you, be sensitive to the fact that the changes in routine are likely affecting them. Try to provide as much of a routine as possible and be attentive to their needs. That has to be balanced with the fact that the sale of your home is an important business transaction. Don’t lose sight of their needs, while still providing the means to get your home sold.
5. What if it’s not working?
What happens if your pet is showing signs of stress? If you are exhausted trying to cleanup each day to rid the home of fur and smell? If your home has been on the market for an extended period of time and showings have become infrequent, it may not make sense to continue to displace your pet on more than a daily basis. Discuss with your agent whether you’ll be in a position to require a certain amount of notice to show your home so you can make arrangements, and discuss a plan of action to really make the most of the time your pet will be away. Plan open houses and ask your agent to get more aggressive in their marketing approach during that period.
Fortunately for Joey (and me), my old home sold at asking in just five days, due to a winning strategy of perfect pricing and presentation. For a similar result, schedule a consult with me at 202.716.0400
Sammy Dweck, REALTOR
TTR Sotheby’s International Realty