Tips on Selling your Home with Pets
As a pet lover – I currently have three dogs living in my home and trust me, they are all large, very messy, furry creatures – I understand the struggles of trying to sell a home with a pet.
Although the majority of the population owns a pet; 2012 statistics show that approximately 62% of people own a pet, there are still many who don’t and the interesting thing is…pet owner or not, many people simply don’t want to see in-your-face evidence that pets are living in the home they are considering to purchase.
There are many reasons for the home buyers’ negative feelings about your pets. Here are two (big ones):
Fear of Animals:
Pets make some people very uncomfortable and even afraid. For example my father, a strong invincible man (I think) is actually quite “wary” of cats. Alas for me growing up who desperately wanted a cat of my own (I managed to sneak one in my house to live in my room unnoticed for a while, but that’s another story!)
Did you know that up to 30% of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs – cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. It is not the pet hair that is the problem. People with pet allergies have super-sensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins in the pet’s dander – this is the dead skin that is shed (I know, yuck!) – or saliva. These proteins are called allergens.
Speaking of allergies, DO NOT use air fresheners or scented candles to mask the odour of your pets, because the number of people with environmental allergies is growing all the time. I have a good friend who has a severe allergic reaction to any scent at all.
So what is the solution?
Well, ideally it would be great if you could send your pets to live elsewhere while your home is on the market. It would save you a lot of time and trouble.
But…I know that is not a reasonable solution for the vast majority of us. I certainly wasn’t willing to board my two beloved greyhounds while I was trying to sell my house.
Instead you must erase, as best you can, all evidence that a pet lives in your house. I know, I know, everybody loves your doggie…but trust me, there are lots of people who don’t – see the two main reasons why above!
This is especially necessary during a buyer’s market. Remember, first impressions are crucial. A Bank of Montreal study from 2013 confirms that eighty per cent of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them as soon as they step inside. This means that concrete evidence that a pet lives in the home, especially smells and carpet stains or a cat rubbing up against a leg means that some buyers will form an immediate negative impression of your home.
For more on First Impressions of Buyers you may want to read this article: BuzzBuzzHome: The Psychology Of Home-Buying.
Here are my tips for removing the evidence
- This goes without saying but CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…keep your home spotless and always vacuum before a showing – floors, rugs and upholstery.
- Make sure your pet is not present in your online photo presentation. It may look cute to have your kitty on the couch but if someone has a real aversion to cats, you have already eliminated them as a potential buyer before they have even seen your house.
- We know you are going to remove your family portraits from the house (depersonalize!) so make sure your pet’s pictures are also taken away. We used to tease my parents because their beloved (now departed) dog’s professional portrait was much bigger than any of the kids or grandkids pictures. People take their pet pictures seriously but best to remove them along with all your other family portraits.
- Scan your rugs carefully and remove any pet stains. See my tips for removing these stains below. If the stains can’t be removed, seriously consider removing or replacing the carpet. Buyers will look at your stained carpets and form an instant negative impression of your home. Once that negative impression is in the buyer’s mind, it is very hard to shake it! That stained and smelly carpet may cost you a deal!
- Remove pet food bowls – I used to put mine in the dishwasher before a showing so I could easily find them when I got home.
- Hide the pet’s beds. Having two eighty pound “prima donna” greyhounds, who won’t lie down unless it is a plushy surface, we have four very large pet beds. Before showings we simply hauled them down to the basement, folded them over and piled them up in a far corner. It was the best we could do, but much better than having them lying all over the place. Again, make sure the pet beds are not in the online photos. Remember to regularly clean your pet beds.
- Pack up and hide the cat tree and other pet toys. Think of this step as part of your de-cluttering routine.
- Repair any scratches in your woodwork – my dogs used to hate when we locked them up in the den while service people came to the house and made sure they expressed their annoyance by scratching the door and whining profusely. To remove the damage I sanded the woodwork smooth and then re-stained the woodwork with a handy can of matching stain. You have to look very closely to notice the difference. If your trim or doors are painted, use a patching compound to fill in the gouges, a quick sanding and paint would also work.
- Deal with the cat litter box and the “Indoor Dog Potty Patch”! Yes, the Indoor Dog Potty Patch, with faux sod (scented and simulated to look like the real thing) is real (I am not making this up!) and can actually hold up to a gallon of liquid (more, yuck!) which you empty into the toilet at the end of the day. The advertising claim is that they do not smell but I have first-hand knowledge that “Yes, they do! Smell that is…” So please get rid of this thing while you are trying to sell your house.
- As for the litter box – clean it faithfully. Every. Single. Day. And hide it when you have a showing. Preferably a garage or corner of the basement. A large Rubbermaid container should do – you could simply pop it in and place the cover on it tightly.
- Don’t forget nose smudges on glass. I’m sure my dogs aren’t the only ones but they can’t look out a window without leaving smudges from their wet noses all over the glass. (WHY??) During our last home selling experience, cleaning off the glass doors became one of the last things I did before jumping in the car with my canine companions!
Dealing with pet smells (this deserves its own category!)
Remember, that clean smells clean!
- This is a major consideration when you are selling your home. You want to aim for a light, clean and neutral smell for your home. Deep cleaning is an important start. As stated above, avoid products with strong scents, including ammonia or bleach.
- I use vinegar, a natural (and cheap!) disinfectant and odour remover in a 50/50 solution with water as a general cleaner throughout my house. The vinegar smell disappears very quickly and I barely notice it at all now. Some people state that leaving a bowl of vinegar in a stinky room will remove odours.
- I recently purchased a Shark Steam Mop ($49.99 from Walmart). This mop is amazing and I wonder what took me so long to get on the steam-clean bandwagon (is there such a thing?) It cleans and disinfects with steam and is very fast and easy to use on all my floors, including the sealed wood. My floors are spotless after using this. I would highly recommend this cleaning tool. I like this model (see link) because it comes with two washable cleaning pads.
- Removing the lingering and distinctive smell of cat or even dog urine can be challenging. Try using an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle, available at Pet Stores (there are several different products in this line of cleaners – check which one suits your needs). Enzyme cleaners contain special biological enzymes that break down the proteins in urine, reducing or even completely eliminating the smell. The recommendation is that these cleaners may not work if other chemicals were used beforehand to try and treat the stain. It is generally a good idea to try the enzymatic cleaner first, and saturate the area well. Follow the manufacturer’s directions closely and allow to dry for several days. You may not have to do anything else.
- If the enzyme cleaner doesn’t completely remove the smell, use a vinegar solution. Combine equal parts of white vinegar and water in a bowl or spray bottle. Saturate or spray the soiled area. Saturate a little bit beyond the soiled area so you can be sure to remove all the urine. Scrub the vinegar solution into the soiled area. Use a bristle brush and thoroughly rub the vinegar/water mixture until the area is completely soaked. The vinegar will neutralize the ammonia smell in your cat’s urine. Use paper towels or a clean rag to blot up as much vinegar solution as possible. Let the area air dry completely after you’ve blotted it.
- For serious and lingering smells you may have to take some serious steps such as having your carpet and upholstery professionally cleaned; and painting your walls to seal in odours (as a bonus this freshens up and modernizes your space).
- Another option for lingering smells is having your furnace and duct work professionally cleaned. Don’t forget to replace your air filter.
For more information on the psychology of scents, read this article: WSU researchers tie simple scent to increased retail sales – WSU News Washington State University.
Showing your house
- If you must leave your small pet, such as a rabbit or cat, in the home during a showing, make sure you tuck its carrier or cage in a corner with a note warning buyers not to disturb your pet. You do not want someone to put their finger in a cage and get scratched or bitten. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Dogs will need to be taken out of the home before a showing. No matter how friendly you believe your dog is, no dog is completely predictable and it can be a liability issue for a home seller if something happens to a buyer due to your unattended dog. Leaving your dog in the garage or backyard is not a viable option because it prevents buyers from inspecting all of your property. The best showings are in empty homes so that the buyer can take their time and check out your entire house.
Remember the yard
- Make sure all the dog poop gets picked up in the yard. I still remember the backyard that had dozens of little dog poops strewn around during a showing of a house I was interested in. I can’t remember the backyard at all, just the landmines on the ground I was trying to avoid!
- Dog urine can leave burned and brown spots on your backyard grass. The last time we had our house up for sale we dealt with these unsightly areas by raking up the dead grass, adding a bit of lime and soil and re-seeding the bare spots.
There is no question that selling a house is hard work and adding pets to the mix adds more labour and effort to your routine.
But…by following these tips at least you will be confident that you are doing everything you can to put your home’s best face forward!