Your family members are stinking up the place.
Sorry to tell you that, but if you're selling your home, you would hear it eventually. You may already be acutely aware. If you have a dog or cat, and especially if you have multiple pets, it doesn't matter that they're part of the family. If the moment buyers walk into your house they smell cat urine wafting from the litter box, or they see clumps of dog fur on the carpet and furniture, odds are, you've just lost a sale.
What can you do if you can't move out first and clean up the damage in order to sell? You're in for an experience.
Before you start showing the house, have someone neutral go through your home first. Judy Morgan wishes she had done that. Morgan is a veterinarian with Clayton Veterinary Associates in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, and she has 10 dogs and four cats.
"We are crazy," she admits.
"My advice to pet owners is to have someone unrelated walk through the house and look for anything a potential buyer might point out – odors; kitty litter in places you wouldn't think to look; marks on walls, woodwork and doors; peeling laminate; buckled moldings," Morgan says. "When you live with it every day, you stop noticing small problems or even big ones."
Morgan says potential buyers noticed.
"We went back and made repairs too late and lost the traction of having a home new to the market that generates excitement," Morgan says. "We ended up having the basement cleaned and painted, top to bottom, including walls and floors in the finished and unfinished parts."
Not too much time later, the house sold.
Clean, clean and clean some more. It's exactly what you don't want to hear, but it has to be done constantly when you're showing your home to buyers, and especially with pets around around, says Alexandra Axsen, owner and managing broker at Lake Okanagan Realty Ltd. in Kelowna, British Columbia.
"The best is to spray an air freshener and open windows to air out your property before showings. Change the litter boxes and if possible keep them outside for showings. Clean up the pet hairs," Axsen says.
Tori Toth is a home stager and the author of "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets For a Quick and Easy Sell," as well as a U.S. News contributor. Toth, who has two dogs, two cats and a bird, has a few suggestions on some pet cleaning products you may want to get, which may help you with some of your cleaning issues. Do your shopping homework first, if you plan to buy any of these, but Toth is not a paid endorser for any of these products.
- Mind the litter box. Toth suggests considering an automatic litter box, since humans are forgetful, and you can't afford to forget about scooping cat litter when you're showing your home.
- Find something to kill the smells. Toth vouches for a product called Fresh Wave Odor Neutralizing Super Gel. Just open the lid, and the oils inside, Toth says, will neutralize unwanted odors.
- Vacuum daily. Toth recommends the Dyson DC25 Animal Vacuum. She calls it "amazing" and says to make sure you vacuum the furniture, "since you never know when a buyer may stop by."
- Brush your pets. Toth likes The FURminator product line. "It removes your pet's undercoat and can reduce shedding by 90 percent," she says.
- Keep your pets' nails trimmed. "Like pet hair, you want to maintain their nails to avoid scratches on your hardwood floor, carpet or furniture," Toth says.
If you can get your pets out during showings, all the better. If you have a lot of showings within a few days, maybe you could kennel your pets or send them over to a friend or family's house.
"Even if you put your dog in a crate for showings, it is difficult to properly look at a home if your dog is barking the entire time – which they will do if strangers are in your home and you are not home," Axsen says.
Teri Andrews-Murch seconds that it's tough to have a crated dog in the home due to the barking. "Buyers just can't relax in the home," she says.
But she does say that with cats, crating them – or isolating them to a small locked room – sometimes will work.
Communicate with your real estate agent about your pets. This is important for your pets – and your home. The more the pros know, the better off everything will be. For instance, Andrews-Murch says that if you have cats wandering about the house during a showing (and you don't want them wandering outside), the agent needs to know that.
But it works both ways. If the agent is informed about the pet situation, he or she will know what not to let into the home.
Axsen recalls when an agent showed a gorgeous high-end home in her town a few years ago.
"At the end of the showing, the owner's dog was begging to come in the house. The Realtor let the dog in the house, locked up and left. It turned out it was a stray dog, and the owners of the home were out of town for a week," Axsen says. "The dog was locked up in the house for a week and absolutely destroyed the house – over $100,000 in damage."
This isn't an urban legend (it just sounds like it). Axsen says it happened to a real estate agent she worked with at another company, too. She isn't sure what happened in the fallout.
"I am guessing the homeowners insurance would have kicked in for some of the damage," Axsen says. "I'm not sure if the agent ended up paying out of pocket. He is a great guy and was super upset and embarrassed over the incident ... It was just one of those fluke accidents and mistakes."