I showed several homes in Colorado Springs this past weekend that all had pets, and it occurred to me that there is not enough said about how to sell your home when you have pets. While you should take your specific situation to your real estate agent, and not all agents might agree, I don’t think you’ll find a lot of agents who would argue with what I have to say here.
- Make sure the listing office knows you have pets, and that they tell the showing agents about any special precautions that might need to be taken. You’d be surprised at how often communication breaks down, and the showing agent (and potential buyer) get surprised by a cat that runs out the front door (possibly never to be seen again) or a dog that doesn’t really care for visitors, and shows their displeasure with their teeth.
- Clean up the poo! A stinky litter box, stained carpet (or worse), feces baking in the sun outside the back door are all indications of bad housekeeping, and that there will be more surprises. It can really ruin a perfectly good showing in all other regards. As many people as there are that like pets, very few like the smell of other peoples pets. One of the houses I showed was vacant and bank owned, and it smelled so horribly of dog excrement that I could literally not be in the property for more than a few minutes at a time. It had been a grand house (over 6,000 square feet!) that literally had gone to the dogs. This applies to yards as well. Often buyers like to wander around the yard, and it can be very unpleasant and awkward if Fido or Fifi has left a surprise for them to step in and subsequently track back into the house (or their agents car!)
- Get a kennel. So many homeowners seem to think it is inhumane for dogs to be confined, but the truth is, requiring 24 hour notice to show the house so the dog can be taken somewhere will lose you a lot of showings. One house I tried to show this past weekend had this requirement, and when I called the office, at first they weren’t even going to ask the homeowner, they just said no! My buyers had pretty busy schedules during the week, this was a rare chance for them to get out. When I persisted, I got a surprising phone call shortly thereafter, telling me the showing would be fine, as there was a previously scheduled showing for almost the same time as I requested. Especially in a soft market, don’t lose showings because of your pets!
- Dangerous animals and showing your home don’t mix. I’m reminded of a listing a few years ago that had 2 rottweilers. The sellers assured me that the dogs were friendly and safe (they still agreed to confine the dogs for showings), but a few months into the listing, I was at the property and noticed there was only one. It turned out they had to destroy one of them when it attacked one of their daughter’s playmates. Another time, the seller had a small dog in the back yard that did not bark, but apparently liked to bite. We only found out after the dog snuck up behind one of the buyers and bit her.
- Some buyers are very afraid of dogs, so even a ‘safe’ dog may need to be kenneled or leave during showings if they are prone to aggressive barking or other behaviors.
- Try staying at home until the showing happens, and then leave with the dog (or cat in some cases!) only during the showing. In Colorado Springs, most showing agents ask for a 2 hour window to show, but very seldom does a showing take that long. They just don’t know exactly when they will be able to arrive, because of other houses the buyer wants to see, and they don’t know exactly how long the buyer will want to stay at each house. If you wait until they arrive before you leave, you may only be out 15 minutes, much easier on the animal.
- Kill the odor, don’t cover it. When pets soak a carpet, while it sometimes can be cleaned and enzymes can neutralize the odor, sometimes it is not a complete remedy. I came across a house recently that had to have a more complete treatment after the carpet cleaner failed. This included cutting out the offending carpet and pad, cleaning the subfloor below, applying a sealer to it (Killz), and then laying a carpet patch in to replace the offending piece. Homes where heavy air fresheners are used to try and hide odors are pretty obvious, and it will only be a problem later when the buyer discovers what really happened (and you can bet they will).
Like in most businesses, buyers have their own agendas (trying to eliminate the houses that won’t work), sellers have theirs (trying to get the most for their home). By being thoughtful about how you handle the pet issue when you go on the market, you can give yourself a distinct advantage over the other sellers who do not. By not giving the buyers reasons to eliminate your home, your odds improve that when offers get written, your house will be the one that survives the cut.