D EAR GAIL: We’re putting our house on the market and have two dogs and a cat. My Realtor would like us to board them, but it’s something we’re not willing to do. They were all rescues and already have separation anxiety. We’re having our Realtor schedule appointments so we can take them out of the house for that time. We know this may affect how quickly our home sells and we’re willing to accept that. But what are other pet-related things we should be aware of? — Tasha W.
DEAR TASHA: Pets are wonderful, and an integral part of our family, but we have to face that not all people are pet lovers. I completely understand about not being willing to board them. We have two dogs and two exotic birds and know that when we’re ready to sell we’re just going to have to move out.
When it comes to selling a house with pets, additional steps have to be taken to make the home as neutral and marketable as possible to all potential buyers. In a perfect world, it would be best if our pets were not in the house when selling, but for most of us that’s just not going to happen. Because we love our pets and live with them every day, we may overlook the following six things that potential buyers will not.
1. Pet presence: You need to minimize their presence by keeping as many things as possible out of view. This includes cat litter boxes, dog potty pads, food or water bowls, pet toys and beds. If your pets are crate trained, try to have them in an inconspicuous place and make sure they are very clean.
I once staged a house and the crates were at the front door. They did not make a good first impression.
Even if your pets are somewhere else during a showing, some people will immediately be turned off by the mere sight of pet-related items. Some people are allergic and feel they cannot live in a pet house. Also, the pet photos need to be packed away just as you would do for all of your family photos.
I know putting things away each morning when you leave the house is tough, but it must be done. Clutter control goes for everyone in the family, including our pets.
2. Fur: No matter what kind of pet you have there’s fur and dander and it gets everywhere. We all laugh at those fun pet sayings such as “Everything tastes better with fur.” But it’s not a laughing matter when your home is for sale. Be sure to give your upholstery, pillows, bedding and window treatments proper attention. If there’s fur flying around, it looks like you don’t take care of your home. Those with allergies will almost rule your house out on first sight.
3. Odors: All animals have distinct odors. We become used to them but others may pick up on them the minute they walk through the front door. They’re almost impossible to eliminate from a home, so make sure you ask a friend to be your official sniffer. Our birds have a very distinct odor and using Febreze really makes a difference when I’m having company.
Odors are one reason people do not purchase a home. Just like a furry home, odors give the impression that the home has been poorly maintained. It will make them think of everything they’d need to do to eliminate the smell: replace the carpet, paint, remove the window coverings, clean the air ducts, etc. I still remember the taffy pulling and curry houses. There is no way I would ever have purchased them without a complete remodel.
And it should go without saying that litter boxes and pet cages should be cleaned daily, as well as picking up food bowls each day before leaving the house. Leftover wet food in a bowl is not a pleasant thing to look at or smell.
4. Damage: It’s time to walk through your house with a “buyer’s eye.” What things have been on your to-do list to fix? Do the corners of the walls have chew marks? What about those scratches on the wood floor, doors, baseboards and trim? Then there’s the kitchen cabinet drawer Fido chewed on when he was a pup.
Don’t forget to check the carpet for any frays caused by their nails. Remember to look at your window ledges where kitties love to sit and torn screens from when they saw something and wanted to get outside. And let’s not forget those chair legs that have been enjoyed as chew sticks. Buyers will wonder that if you’ve allowed your pet to chew on your furniture, what else has been damaged that they can’t see.
When you’ve been living in your home for a while, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten accustomed to seeing those things, but buyers are not.
5. Spots and stains: They’ve all had accidents but it’s time to make sure there is absolutely no evidence of it. Stains must be removed from carpets, area rugs and upholstery. Pay close attention to all the corners of your walls and cabinets. I’m sure you’ll find them stained from the oil of their coats.
It’s cute when we see them looking out of the window or staring at us to come in, but nose marks on the windows and doors make for an untidy home to a buyer.
6. Backyard: Let’s not forget most of our pets favorite place is the backyard. This is where they are free to run, play and be themselves, which includes burying their precious bones. My Maddy and Matilda never dug holes, but Millie likes to hide things out there.
This may or may not work for you but it did for a friend. She filled the holes with bricks and rocks then covered them with dirt so they weren’t as noticeable.
Another problem is damaged plants. Both dogs and cats sometimes chew on plants so replace any of the really sad ones and do your best to keep them away. Spray a couple of the leaves with bitter apple. You’ll also need to water down your lawn daily so that you don’t end up with burn marks where they go. If you have artificial grass, I’m sure you’ve experienced the odor that comes from not having to water. In the summertime the smell can be overwhelming.
I know all of these things are a lot to add to your already busy schedule, but they really are must-dos if you have pets in your house when selling. Although many buyers have pets of their own, minimizing “the pet effect” in a home for sale is key in a competitive market.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: www.gmjinteriors.com.