Selling a House With Pets
When it comes to prepping a house to sell, clients are going to be willing to work with you on most things. Keeping it clean? Comes with the territory. New coat of paint on the bedroom walls? You got it. Plant some flowers or touch up the yard? Easy peasy.
But, there is one thing they’re probably not willing to make much sacrifice for; their pets. And that’s okay — pets are usually treated as a member of the family. Unfortunately, certain pets can be smelly, annoying or just kind of off-putting, and can be very real obstacles when it comes to showing and selling a property. And let's face it, you’re here to maximize the price of their home and you're not Eddie Murphy so you can't talk to these animals (Dr. Doolittle anyone? No? Ok then maybe Dr. Doolittle 2).
Here are a few tips for navigating listings with certain types of pets.
Let’s start with the ol' doggo. Most people who are “dog people” (which seems to be most people) are extremely fond of their pets. Borderline obsessive. That means the dog typically has run of the house, including bedrooms, furniture, you name it (I'm extremely guilty of this myself). Handle these situations carefully, especially if you don’t like dogs yourself (and despite what social media and the world might tell you, that’s okay).
Pros: Most people DO like dogs, and a listing that has a dog probably has a homey feel to it. That’s a big plus. A home with a dog also most likely has a well-kept back yard and a maintained fence. Another plus.
Cons: Even if prospective buyers are themselves dog people, they probably don’t want Pluto greeting them when they walk into the house. Something is going to have to be done with the animal during showings, which can pop up without much notice. Also, sometimes dogs can have problems with incontinence, making messes and worn, smelly carpeting and furniture a possible problem. Dander, shedding, toys and general fabric discoloration can all make cleaning up more of a hassle than it would normally be.
To do: Have a talk with your client about the dogs presence, and stress that the dog really needs to be absent, or at least well confined to the porch or other out-of-the-way space during the day. Bonus tip: If you can afford it: Treat key clients (and their puppers) to a few days at the local doggy day care while you first show the house. If they like it, they may end up staying with it and you’re not out much more than the price of a nice meal for four.
Cats are generally less visible, like little ninjas. But they can be a bit more problematic than other pets, especially indoor cats. I think we know why (they poo in a box). But cat people are often just as fanatical as dog people (maybe more), so you also should navigate these situations carefully.
Pros: There’s a very good chance you’ll show a house with a cat and you’ll never actually see the cat. (ninjas) They also can add an air of comfort and relaxation to a room and typically don’t leave surprise messes around the house like dogs often do. If an indoor-outdoor cat can be popped outside for the day, theres an easy win.
Cons: The obvious one. Any sizable mammal that does its business in plain sight is going to be a bit of a maintenance problem, and well, thats cats. Cats also shed, making regular vacuuming of carpet and furniture a must. And last, but certainly not least, many people are allergic to cats.
To do: When it comes to the litter box, it’s simply mandatory that the box be in an out-of-the-way place (spare bathroom, utility room, etc.), cleaned daily, deodorized and covered. Potential buyers should not have to see any of it. If someone who is allergic to cats really wants your home, a full-on professional cleaning may be asked for. If it’s possible to ask a family member or friend to keep your cat while you’re selling your home, it would be an easy solution.
Now that we’ve gotten past the Big Two, we move on to niche pets. Birds are mostly inoffensive (unless they've learnt some colorful words) and can be easily kept out of the way.
Pros: Throw a blanket over Tweety’s cage and he thinks it’s nighttime. (thats an actual thing) That makes it pretty easy. Birds also can be a nice conversation piece and are generally aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. If it’s not annoying it might even sing and add some ambience. (teach it some Beyonce?)
Cons: Bird cages can be a bigger pain to clean than litter boxes, so keep that newspaper fresh. Some birds can also be obnoxious, so if the bird acts like a seagull in Finding Nemo, try to keep the bird out of sight.
To do: Make sure potential buyers know a bird is in the house so they’re not frightened by some flapping or chirping. Make sure it doesn’t smell or look off-putting. Other than that it shouldn’t be that big of hurdle for the sale.
The most passive of pets, fish are a conversation piece and little more. The headache lies in the tank.
Pros: Who doesn’t love to stare at a fish tank? A well maintained setup can add ambience to a room and even serve as another piece of furniture. ( I used to have a giant salt water aquarium and the made the room THE place to be.)
Cons: Just because a client likes your fish and the tank doesn’t mean they want one in their own home. They’re bulky, time-consuming, and a bit expensive to maintain. Tanks that aren't well-kept can be super-gross. If they really weren't taken care of, the fish could be dead, and no one wants to see that.
To do: Make sure buyers know the fish will be leaving with the current owners, but take the opportunity to point out the versatility of the room or space they’re in.
Now we’re getting into the weird stuff (but lets face it, this is Texas and we like to do things a little bigger). If your clients have a snake, iguana or some other exotic pet, they’re going to need to keep that as put-away as possible in a tank or terrarium.
Pros: Reptiles are cool? (because they're cold blooded, get it? Also they are pretty interesting to watch do their thing)
Cons: Reptiles, especially in the house, freak a majority of people out.
To do: Keep them confined to their tanks and as out-of-sight as possible. If you have older kids, we recommend keeping the tank in your child’s room during the day. The sight of a strange pet in a teenage boy’s room is far less bizarre than, say, a python in the dining room (sorry kid). If you can talk your clients into giving the snake to a friend or relative while the house is on the market, all the better.