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Sell a House with Pets: How to Prep, Deodorize, and Depersonalize

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In the United States, 90.5 million, or 70 percent of households include a pet — a 20 percent increase since 1988. And over 90 percent of Americans say their pets are family members to them. But when you are selling your house, don’t interpret these statistics as an indication that potential buyers won’t mind the evidence of your pet in the house. The fact is, when a potential buyer is checking out a house, they want to envision themselves and their family living in the house. That means you need to depersonalize as much as possible when you sell a house with pets.

Even if the buyer is a pet owner and lover like you, “they don’t love your dog, they love their own dog, so you want to remove all the evidence, just like you do of the family,” says top-selling real estate agent John Gluch, who sells homes 74% faster than the average Phoenix agent, and is well-versed in the ins and outs of how to sell a house with pets.

Having pets around can lead to a number of concerns that could turn off a buyer, from odors to noise disturbances to a chewed-up railing. Here is some well-researched advice and solutions to the most common issues that come up when you sell a house with pets.

Prepare your house prior to listing

It’s a no-brainer that you want your home to be clean and damage-free when buyers come for a showing. Having pets around often requires an even deeper clean, and there may be certain things you have become immune to that other people would notice right away, like the pet hair on the couch, certain odors, and scratches on the floor. When you are selling a home with pets, here are some steps you can take to prepare your house:

Deodorize

According to Gluch, “people have such a strong aversion to bad smells, so I would say the number one thing for [pet owners] to sort out is smell.” To get rid of odors the right way, you’ve got to get rid of them at the source — air fresheners and scented candles will only mask the odor. First, remove any litter boxes or potty pads, and clean out any cages, fish tanks and bedding your pets use that cannot be removed from the house.

It’s also a wise idea to replace your home’s HVAC filters. To improve air quality, use a HEPA air purifier, such as the Honeywell HPA300. To get odors out of your couch and curtains when selling a home with pets, enzyme cleaners are your best bet. Nature’s Miracle Pet Stain & Odor Remover for Dogs and Angry Orange Odor Eliminator are some effective enzyme cleaners to try.

Be allergy-conscious

Getting rid of pet hair and dander is a must when prepping your house for a showing. Not only will potential buyers be more drawn to a clean, neat place, but pet allergies are very common, particularly with cats. Itchy eyes and respiratory issues are surefire ways to turn off a potential buyer from your house during a showing.

Vacuum like there’s no tomorrow

To start, get out the vacuum, and all those handy attachments that come with it. This will help you suck the pet hair up from hard-to-reach places like the stairs, banister, baseboards and crevices in the furniture. For those stubborn pieces of hair that won’t come up with the vacuum, it may be worth using a lint brush to remove them. Evercare is a manufacturer of quality lint brushes. Also, to ensure your home is pet dander, fur and saliva free, dust all surfaces, and use furniture polish where needed. After that, wash any couch cushions or pillows.

Steam clean the carpets

Now it’s time to shampoo the carpets, to get rid of any pet-induced stains or odors. If you don’t already have a carpet shampooer, you can either buy or borrow one with Rent a Rug Doctor, or hire a professional carpet cleaning service such as ChemDry or Maids. In the worst case scenario, your carpets or flooring are so badly stained or damaged that you need to replace them.

Assess your outdoor space

Of course, when getting ready to sell a house with pets, your yard may also need attention. Did Fido leave a couple messes that need to be cleaned up? Maybe it’s time to put that pooper scooper into action, otherwise the mess will wind up on the shoe of the next would-be owner of your home. If you don’t own a pooper scooper, such as the So Phresh Rake and Scoop Set, grab a plastic bag and get rid of any deposits in the backyard. Or maybe your dog likes to dig holes and trample bushes, which can also put a damper on the mood of buyers. If this is the case, it’s time to do some planting. If you don’t have a green thumb, hire a landscaper to render your backyard good as new.

Repair house damages

When trying to sell a house with pets, the last thing you want to do is give off the vibe that you haven’t been on point with the upkeep of the home’s features. With pets, some common maintenance issues in the home are claw and chew marks and fading paint from the pet rubbing against walls or doors. Carefully assess any damage, even with furniture that may be staying in the home during showings. If there are chew marks on the table or tears in the couches, either repair, replace or move them out of eyesight from buyers. Here are some other common damages that need to be addressed when selling a home with pets:

Connect with a Top Agent to Sell Your House with Pets

Top real estate agents can help sell your house more quickly and for more money. Plus, they bring experience to the table that can help best navigate your home sale when you have furry or feathered friends.

Marketing and showings

Photography

Aside from in-person showings, when selling a home with pets, you also want your photography and marketing materials to be free from signs of your pet, just as you want to remove any personal items of yourself and family. Also make sure that the following items are removed out of sight for photographs as well as in-person showings:

  • Toys
  • Food/food dishes
  • Crates
  • Litter boxes
  • Scratching posts
  • Leashes

Listings

“Pet-friendly” may be a term people look for when searching for hotel rooms and rentals, but it isn’t necessary to include in a for-sale house listing description. “I don’t think there’s enough upside to justify the possible downside,” says Gluch, noting that “some people could get turned off.” Plus, as Gluch points out, “you only have so much space to write [in the listing].” So could pet-friendly features, such as laminate flooring or a fenced-in yard, be a selling point for your house? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but you don’t have to market them as specific to pets, since these features could attract both pet-lovers as well as people that aren’t as gung-ho about pets.

Other features that are more obviously pet-specific, like chicken coops or dog runs, aren’t worth pointing out in the listing ad, says Gluch. “Maybe, like, okay there’s a dog door here. That’s nice, you know,” says Gluch, referring to the buyer mentality when noticing pet-specific features. But at the same time, “it didn’t move the needle, it’s not what caused them to write an offer,” says Gluch.

Seller and pet etiquette during showings

Getting jumped on, scratched, bitten or having to listen to incessant barking isn’t part of the ideal home showing experience. If your potential buyer has allergies, this will make the entire experience even worse. So, for those about to sell a house with pets, Gluch says that both the seller and the pet should not be around during showings. If you know ahead of time when a showing is taking place, you can make arrangements with a friend or with your local doggie day care or a pet sitting service. Some of these services can also take clients on-demand. Alternatively, a long walk can be a viable option.

If you really cannot remove the pet from the premises during the showing, contain them in a crate in a room that isn’t a main area of the house, such as the laundry room. Make sure potential buyers are aware that the pet is in the house. Putting a “Do Not Disturb” note near your crated pet will give visitors a heads up.

Loud neighbor dogs

When trying to sell a house with pets, it’s not only your pets that can spoil a buyer’s mood. Gluch says that in his experience as a real estate agent, loud neighbor dogs are “an issue that smart people and good real estate agents are always pointing out.” Try to handle this situation in the most respectful and helpful manner possible. Ask your neighbors if they wouldn’t mind keeping their dogs inside during showings, and you can cite the measures you have had to take with your own pets so they know it’s not personal. If that isn’t an option, then offer to pay for a pet sitter, dog walker or doggie day care during the times your showings are scheduled. Worst case scenario, install a water feature such as a fountain in your yard to create a more pleasant-sounding noise that will counteract the barking.

When it comes to selling a home with pets, you are not alone. Consider using HomeLight’s Agent Match Platform where you can find a real estate agent who has experience helping pet owners execute successful home sales.

Header Image Source: (Alexandru Sofronie/ Unsplash)