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Friday, June 27, 2008

Pets can kill sales

Don’t let your pets kill the sale of your home. As much as many of us love our pets – dogs, cats, birds, whatever – they can cause problems when it comes time to sell the house. One of the main reasons has to do with how convenient it is for buyers to see your home. There can be issues caused by the pets that make seeing your home more difficult than viewing other properties. For instance, if sellers have to be called first before their home can be shown this can make it less appealing to buyers and agents.

More than once, while out showing houses, I’ve stumbled upon a house that my buyers wanted to see. When I called the listing company they told me that I couldn’t show it because the owners required notice (a few hours to a day, in some cases) in order to deal with pets (most often dogs) in the house. Needless to say, I did not show those houses. In the market that we are in, making your house less convenient to show is a definite killer. Agents don’t have time to deal with homes that require all sorts of special advanced notice.

It's not just access to viewing the property that causes the problem. Sometimes, regardless of how friendly the pet is, potential buyers can be reluctant to enter the home. Hearing a barking dog, while trying to get the lock box open, is a definite turn off; especially, if the dog sounds like it is just inside the door. More than once I’ve cracked open the door and been growled at by a dog. I did not go into those homes. Even if the dog is crated, sometimes they can make such a racket barking that it makes the buyers uncomfortable and often shortens the visit. Sometimes owners will lock a dog in a laundry room or the garage and put a note on the door. That puts those rooms off-limits and compromises the visit, too. It’s better to either remove the pet (use a pet day care service if needed) or put them somewhere on the property that won’t be visited.

Even if the pet is caged or friendly or maybe not even there, if the house smells anything like a pet, it is a definite problem because non-pet owners are not sure that they can ever get that smell out of the home. Some buyers are also allergic to pet dander or hair, even if the pet isn’t there and the place has been cleaned. I’ve had clients who could tell me almost immediately if a cat had EVER lived in the house.

I’ll admit that, as a dog owner, I’ve probably gotten used to the dog smells that are in my house, so I don’t even notice them when I visit other homes with pets. I can usually smell a cat litter box if it needs attention. I’ve had houses listed where the owners did such a good job of cleaning and deodorizing that you couldn’t tell that a pet lived there. I’ve had others that I had to apologize ahead of time for what the lookers were about to experience.

The other aspect of pets hurting your chances to sell has to do with the damage that they can cause. The most obvious are the spots all of a carpet that indicate that Fido isn’t house broken. The seller might as well just offer to replace the carpeting up front, because the buyers will demand it. Dos or cats that scratch up woodwork around doors or along the floor also hurt your chances to sell. Replace any scratched up woodwork. Dogs also damage wood floors with their claws when they run around and you may have to have the floors refinished. Cats often ruin drapes and curtains and may damage blinds (as will dogs).

Pet owners will tell you that they love the little rascals and wouldn’t live without them; however, they may end up living with them for a long time in a house that they want to sell unless they can get control over the situation and take Fido or Tabby out of the sales equation. Don’t let your pet kill the deal on your house. About the only pet that I can see adding some value to a visit would be to have a horse or two around, if the property is horse-oriented. Horse people like to see horses standing around in the pasture and they expect the smells that go with that.

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