So you have a pet and you want to sell your home…what steps do you take?
~BEFORE YOUR HOME GOES ON THE MARKET~
First and foremost, you need to rid your home of any pet odor that may be there. Don’t fool yourself that of course your home does not smell like your dog or your cat’s litter box…it more than likely does. This is nothing to be ashamed about, animals produce odors, it is what it is– but the odor needs to be eliminated as much as possible and prior to the home being listed, PERIOD. A potential buyer may not have pets or may be allergic to pet dander. The last thing you want a buyer to do is come to your home and immediately leave due to an odor they smell when opening the door. I have seen this happen with my buyers many times. Smell is the strongest of our senses and nothing will turn away a buyer more quickly than a smell in a home, no matter if you don’t think the odor is bad. Ask a friend, neighbor or family member that does not have pets to give you an HONEST opinion of the odor in your home. More than likely, they will be able to smell it. Have them walk the house, room by room and let you know what they think. Some areas of your home may have a stronger odor than others.
If your cat or dog has a tendency to urinate in certain rooms, you may need to replace your carpet & the padding underneath to eliminate the smell. Urine soaks through carpet and can saturate the padding under it. Simply replacing the carpet and leaving the padding may not get rid of it. In some cases that I have seen, carpet & padding throughout the entire home may need to be replaced. I know that this seems like a drastic step and no seller wants to put money in to a home that they are not going to be living in, but the idea is to get top dollar for your home and get it sold as quickly as possible. Leaving odor-soaked carpeting will not only keep your home on the market for an extended period of time, but unless your home is grossly underpriced, the buyer that actually decides to submit an offer will deduct the cost of replacing the carpet from their offer price. Most flooring companies will offer free estimates, so get as many as you want and go with the most cost-effective option for your budget and timeframe. A buyer may over-estimate the cost of the carpet replacement and may want to get a higher grade, more costly carpet to replace yours. If the carpet is replaced prior to the offer being submitted, the buyer will have no reason to deduct the cost of carpet replacement from their offer price. Even if the buyer does not like the new carpet that you have chosen, they can replace it with whatever they want over time as they will not have the urgency to replace it immediately due to a strong odor/allergy. Remember that when replacing your carpet, you must choose a neutral color. It does not matter if this carpeting suits your style, you are not picking out the carpet for you—you won’t be living there! Choosing a neutral/lighter color will allow buyers to envision their belongings in your home and it makes rooms appear larger. I am not suggesting getting white or off-white carpeting that you and your pets will have to tiptoe around until the home closes, but a light tan or beige is light & neutral enough to attract buyers and dark enough to hide small stains. Replacing carpeting in a home is also a great selling point—your agent can use this in advertising AND as a negotiating tool! Often times, replacing carpet is not as costly as one would think and it does make a BIG impact to potential buyers.
Your yard will need to be as free of dog poop as possible. This step is not only for the buyers who WILL be walking around your yard, but for you as well. Because these potential buyers will be walking around your yard, they could step in the feces and track it through your home. You may know where your dog goes to defecate in the yard, but buyers do not and may accidentally step in it while checking out your property. Best to break out the doggie waste bags and get it cleaned up prior to their visit. Also, please remember to clean out your cat’s litter box daily and put aside pet toys that may be randomly scattered throughout your home. Carpets should be vacuumed prior to showings and the home should be dusted to remove any pet hair.
~FOR YOUR SHOWINGS~
Ideally, your pet(s) should be removed from your property for all showings. Your listing agent can set-up time perimeters that the potential buyer and their agent must adhere to in order to preview your home. If you need an hour or more notice for buyers to see your home in order for you to remove your pet, tell your listing agent. Having this required notice of showing prior to the preview will allow you time to remove your pet and do a quick clean-up of the home before the buyer walks in. If you need more time to arrange for your pet to be removed, ask for a 24 hour notice. Your listing agent will set-up your showing instructions to suit your needs, so do not hesitate to tell he/she what works best for you.
Although it is ideal for pets to be removed from your home prior to the showing, that may not be feasible for you to do if you work or have children to attend to. However, dogs and cats should not be freely walking through your home during a showing, regardless if the pet is “people friendly” or is an “indoor” pet. Keep in mind that some people have allergies, some have animal phobias and let’s face it, some are just plain stupid! It is not the buyer & their agent’s responsibility to look after your pet(s) while you are not there. What happens if your dog or cat runs out of the home during a showing? You can leave a note or showing instructions for the buyer/agent that reads “do not let dog/cat out”, but why should they be worried about your pet making a run for it? They are trying to find out if your home is their next home, not chase animals down the street! Additionally, will you be prepared for the legal ramifications that will come if a buyer or agent has been bitten by your pet? There is no telling what a pet may do when a “stranger” is in their home, even if they have never bitten anyone before. Are you willing to risk it? Ask a neighbor or friend to go to your home and walk the dog during the showing or pay a dog walker/sitter. If that doesn’t work for you, the pet needs to be in a contained spot. Although it may pain you to put your pet in a crate during a showing, this is the best and safest option for you, your pet and the buyer/ agent. If a crate is not an option, consider putting your pet in the garage (if the temperature is not too cold or hot) or gating a pet that won’t hop the gate in a laundry/mud room or other area. If your yard is fenced and the temperature allows it, you can leave your dog outside in the yard. Your listing agent can let the buyer agent know not to go in to a room/garage or yard if your pet is secluded for a showing. Also, you can leave notes on doors telling them not to enter a certain room or open a back door leading to the yard. If a buyer is interested in your home, they can schedule a second showing that accommodates your schedule where the pet(s) can be completely removed and the buyer can see the property in it’s entirety. Like mamma always said, it’s better to be safe than sorry!