If it smells, it doesn't sell – planning for pets in home sales…

There truly is an adage in the real estate industry of “if it smells, it doesn’t sell”. A great article for dealing with pet odors is at this link.

This is something that, as a real estate agent, I run across frequently. With the number of cases of asthma and allergies rising in the US it’s even more important that pet owners be good about cleaning odors and allergens from their homes before and during the time they sell.

Allergies are pretty common and if a person walks in your house and is hit with the smell and/or allergic effects of a pet you can bet that this is where the home tour ends. No one will push their way through an allergic or asthma attack to see your house. A thorough cleaning is in order and you’ll want to be super-vigilant during the time your house is on the market to keep hair and dander levels down. If it makes sense to replace the carpet before going on market, and maybe sending the pup to a friend or family member’s house for a week, you should consider it.


Plus, some pet smells are in more than just the carpet. If a pet has had a long history of soiling a carpet it is very likely that the wetness has penetrated to the subfloor which will also need replacing before the smell can be eradicated.

We’ve found that it also makes sense to have a plan in place to handle how your pet will deal with the stress of having your house on the market. Some dogs and cats have difficulty with strangers and that’s exactly who’ll be tromping through your house at all hours of the day while you’re at work. Letting “Fido” or “Sam the cat” run around loose is not the best idea because the pet could get out and get lost. Animals tend to sense the changes that are coming because of the increased activity around the house so preparing ways for the pet to be soothed and kept safe will make for a better experience for everyone. If you’ve crate trained your pet then you’ll be ahead of the game in getting your pet prepared for the visitors you can expect while waiting for the perfect buyer to choose your home.

From the new buyer’s perspective (and an agent’s) it’s not fun to walk into a house just to be met with a dog that you don’t know if it will be aggressive. Plus a portion of the population is also phobic of dogs – no matter the size. If the dog hears the agent getting the keys and unlocking the door most likely, if left loose in the house, the dog will be at the door. If barking is involved it’s possible that the prospective buyer or agent may say “let’s just pass on this one” for fear of what could happen as soon as the door is opened. Believe me, liability is an issue we all have to deal with on a regular basis. Just because your pet is usually very sweet and loving to you doesn’t mean that it will be to every stranger that comes into the house. Most pets are territorial by nature and you don’t want to get hit with a lawsuit for a dog bite just as you’re trying to sell your house. The number one insurance claim each year for residential property is dog bites.

A new item that was brought to my attention too regarding keeping houses clean and free of pests is dander and pet food sitting out without being in closed containers. A client of mine recently had an infestation of carpet beetles invade their home. The pest control folks told them that it was likely a combination of pet dander, hair, and open pet food that brought the little critters in. Specifically, the pest that showed up are carpet beetles. Read more about them here: Entomology info on carpet beetles  Be sure to put your pet food into sealed containers; either metal or plastic. Plus, the general smell of pet food isn’t too pleasant to humans so you don’t want that wafting through your house while you’re trying to sell it.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any home and family but they need to be considered just like any other family member and they need to be part of your planning when you’re ready to sell.

9 thoughts on “If it smells, it doesn't sell – planning for pets in home sales…

  1. Great entry.

    We sold our home last year, and we have 2 cats and a greyhound. The cats went to stay with a friend while the house was for sale, because I know my cats, and the moment a buyer walks in the door, one of them will either barf up a hairball or make a big stink in the litter box. Our dog spent weekdays at doggie day care. On the weekend, she went everywhere with us.

    And it worked. The house sold quickly, and the feedback on cleanliness and appearance was very positive. Funny thing — we rented back the house for a month after the sale closed, so we brought our cats back. The new owners came by at one point, and said, “wow, we didn’t know you had cats.”

    Our new house was purchased from some friends who also had pets. We made the deal before it went on the market; see, they had a cat with terminal cancer, and were willing to give us a great deal so they wouldn’t have to deal with removing their poor kitty to sell their house.

    Seattle is a very pet friendly town, but I agree that you’ll have a much easier time selling a home if the pets are not there.

  2. Pingback: RE Dispatch: Today in Real Estate, 3-16-07 | Real Estate Investing for Real Blog

  3. Nice post. Right on target.

    A couple of things…. A high powered ozonator will remove all organic odors, including cooking odors. It’s a good thing to do if there are any unpleasant odors milling about.

    If a pet soils all the way to a sub floor, white pigmented shellac will completely seal in all organic odors (pet odors, smoke odors, etc.). No need to pull up a sub floor.

    In addition to pets, baby pails and small children odor management is a must!!!!

  4. Yes, I agree about smells in general no matter what is the offending reason. There is a house near Greenlake that is trying to be sold between $650-700k and it STINKS! The first thing that hits you when you walk in the door is the smell. I took some listing clients to this house to show them what one of the comparables would be for their similar, yet smaller, home. My remarks in the discussion about the price we’d put their house on market for brought into account this house and how buyers in the marketplace would compare them. We got a good price for their home and while we were the smaller of the sizes of homes in this price range we got consistent feedback about how much better the house was presented.

    Greg, thanks also for the additional good options. I also have had sealants used in houses where wood floors have been soiled by countless years of animal pee in a house. It helped seal in the smell and carpet could be laid over it. Sadly, it was in a house I had purchased and this horrible smell was discovered only after removing the old, ugly carpet. I had planned on refurbishing all of the hardwoods in the house but this was so bad the only thing we could do was seal and recover. Ick.

  5. Thanx Reba – very pertinent in this day & age. I brought my clients to a listing yesterday. The listing agent told us there was a little dog that would bark & run under the bed after we entered. The dog did exactly that, BUT the home owners had “doggie diapers” scattered around the house, dog stains everywhere. unfreakinbelievable! (LOL!) I decided to tell the listing agent & he said he had NEVER been in the house (yes, that’s what he said) – & I said “you are NOT gonna sell the house unless you replace ALL the carpets” – period. He said he’d look into it….hmmmmmm, this does really happen folks!

  6. Ok, first, I can’t even begin to imagine taking on a listing without first seeing the property that I’m going to represent. Second, that is really gross about the doggie diapers and I really feel for that little dog. BAD OWNERS!!!!

  7. I agree with Jillayne regarding pet odors. Nothing is more embarassing then taking a new client to a home, walking inside and having it smell like pet urine. The listing agent has to know the home smells. A good thing to do, would be to educate your seller!

  8. You need to get a neutralizing cleaner, not just one that covers it up. I would try Lysol, and mop the floor with it. You can also add a few cups of white Vinegar, which absorbs odors well. Pine Sol would be another option, I’d try the above 2 first.

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