Pets & Home Values

Chicago-based real estate professional Lyn Sims with RE/MAX Suburban always goes first into homes she's about to show. It's a deliberate practice that provides her with an early warning of any problems, some of which can involve pets. "That dog that was friendly might be growling...or there might be a strong odor of cat urine," she notes.

In other words, overt signs of pets on the premises—an aggressive dog, an overflowing litter box, obvious chew or claw marks—could make it more difficult to market and sell your home.

For Pet Lovers

From chewed door frames to soiled carpets, pets can potentially devalue your home if they are not well trained or managed, so experts advise taking some precautions.

  • Train your pet—From training dogs not to jump on guests and cats to use the litter box, it's important to manage the behavior of your animals. If you need help, talk to a local pet trainer, your veterinarian or check out online resources like American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for training tips.
  • Be aware of odors—"Most people don't smell the odors in their own homes," says Sims. She advises asking a friend or neighbor to tell you if they smell any odors in your home and then mitigating those odors by frequent cleaning of pet areas or lighting scented candles nearby.
  • Replace soiled carpet—After only a few pet "accidents," you'll need to replace soiled carpet. Depending on the level of damage, you also may need to replace the pad and plywood under the carpet (or treat with a bacteria-killing wood sealer) before new carpet is installed.
  • Repair scratches on doors, walls and furniture–Even small scratches can distract buyers and have them wonder about how your home has generally been maintained.
  • Maintain your yard—Fill in any holes and if your grass has been "burned" from dog urine, consider purchasing a protective spray from a garden supply store.

Best-Case Scenario

If you are planning to sell your home and you have pets, make a commitment (as a family) to fix any pet-related damage and take measures to keep the damage from recurring.

Karen Graves, a real estate professional with Weichert, Realtors in Vienna, Virginia, also advises sellers to remove pets during showings if at all possible. "Our goal is to sell the house so we want buyers to visualize the home as theirs and feel comfortable," she explains. "Having a dog bark at them or a cat rub against the buyer's leg could remove your home from their list."

According to Graves, most owners are very receptive to removing their pets—taking them to neighbors or confining them to a basement or garage when buyers are expected. Not only does it protect potential buyers, but it helps ensure your pet is protected as well. After all, the best result will be that buyers don't even know you have pets and you'll get the bid you're hoping for, she notes.

Additional resource: Home Remedies for Cat Urine

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