Four Ways Domestic Pets Hurt Your Home's Value

Thinking of Selling? Do you have pets? Here's some sensible advice before you put your home on the market.

How much is that puppy in the window worth?  Having a dog or cat as a member or your family is one of life’s joys. It can also very costly.

Now, before I start getting e-mails accusing me of hating animals, here’s a picture of my dog.  His name is Scruffy, and he means it.  He is the most adorable little guy I’ve ever known and I would hate be without him. He likes our family cat, Mittens, but it is an unrequited love; she would rather not be bothered by the "heathen canine."

But this is reality, folks: Homes with pets sell for less than homes without.  The magnitude of the discount for pets in a household depends entirely on how much impact the pet has had on the condition and presentation of the home.

Here are the biggest detractors to a home’s value which result from having a pet along with a few ideas on how to mitigate your pets negative influence on the price of your home:

Odor – By far, this is the biggest reason pets kill a sale.  I have seen buyers turn on their heels and walk out of a home when pet odors hit them as soon as they walked through the door.  Remember; You are not as aware of your home’s odors as someone else will be.  If you are unsure whether your home has pet odor, ask a close friend; someone who will tell you the truth.  Here are a couple suggestions on how to mitigate pet odors:  

1.  Housebreak dogs and cats. The smell of pet urine absorbed by carpeting and its plywood sub-flooring will often outlast the humans who live there.Keep pets clean.

2.  Give your dog a bath frequently and brush Fluffy, the long-haired Persian.

3.  Keep pets’ habitat clean.  Litter boxes should be scooped daily and especially before a showing. Dog beds should be laundered once a week and change the papers on the bottom of the bird or hamster cage daily.

Property damage – After only a few little “accidents,” carpeting damaged by pet urine is not worth cleaning – the carpet and pad must be replaced.  Very often, the plywood under the carpet and pad must be replaced as well, or at least treated with an odor and bacteria-killing wood sealer before new carpet and pad may be installed.

1.  Scratches on doors, walls and furniture hurt a home’s value, too. Before you put your home on the market, examine it carefully for pet-caused damage and repair the damage professionally.

2.  Make sure that pet fences, dog runs, underground fences, dog houses, cat condos, are in good condition. If you have “doggy doors” cut into your existing door so your pet can the outside or basement, replace the larger door before you put the home on the market.

Pets home at time of showing – Take your dog(s) and cat(s) out of the home and away from the property for showings. Nothing will turn a buyer off faster than Fido jumping up on them or sniffing them (the way dogs do).  Nor will they like it if Fifi jumps up onto the kitchen counter just when they are imagining themselves preparing Thanksgiving dinner on it.  Remember:

1.  Nobody likes your pets as much as you do and buyers are trying to visualize your home as theirs. Help them do that by eliminating any distractions your pets may cause.

2.  Purely from a liability standpoint, it is dangerous to leave an un-kenneled dog in a home for a showing. Even the friendliest of dogs can turn nasty if he feels his territory is being violated. Personally, I will not show a home if the resident dog is not kenneled or removed from the property for the showing.

Noise -- A barking dog in the backyard, a meowing cat brushing against the buyer’s leg, or even a little twittering by Tweety are excuses buyers can use to eliminate your home from their shopping list. Recently, I showed a buyer a home with a dog in the fenced backyard.  When we stepped outside into the driveway, the dog started barking … as did the other eight dogs in the neighborhood. The noise was deafening and we beat a hasty retreat to the car and the next home on our list.

Homes reeking with pet odor and significant damage can suffer tens of thousands of dollars in lost value. Just as important, homes with noticeable damage will get fewer, if any, offers and will stay on the market much longer than home without pets.

If you are planning to sell your home and have family pets, make a commitment (as a family) to first fix any pet-related damage and keep the damage from recurring.  Keep your pets and their habitat clean, clean, clean! Buy, rent or borrow kennels to transport them during showings.

The best result is that buyer will never notice you have pets!

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