House hunters are a finicky lot. They’re looking for some fantasy house decorated by Martha Stewart, where nobody actually lives — especially not anybody with four legs and a tail. To sell them your house, we’re going to have to get creative. Here’s how to convince buyers your animal-lover’s Elysium is a pet-free paradise.
The ideal solution is to move your good buddy out of the house while it’s on the market. Can he stay with family or friends, or could you board him in a kennel for a bit? For most people, that’s not really practical, but the less he’s in the house, the easier it will be to keep it tidy and free from pet dander and animal smells. Consider taking him to work with you during the day, and try to keep him out of the house as much as possible during showings.
Hide the Evidence
Even if your state says you have to disclose that pets have lived in your home, it doesn’t have to look as if they’re living there right now. Examine your home with a critical eye, scoping out evidence. While you’re listed, you’ll have to vacuum, dust, and sweep up every single day. It may be worth it to have someone come out and clean out your ductwork so it isn’t spraying pet dander and hair/fur around the house.
Pet stains on the floors and carpets can be treated and removed, or the flooring should be replaced. Close up doggie doors, paint or stain any scratched woodwork. Replace kitty’s favorite curtains with something a little less claw-marked. Cat box odor is a big turn off, so hide litter boxes and keep them scrupulously clean. Treat urine-marked furniture to remove the smell, or replace it entirely. Wash all pillows and bedding, and keep your pets out of them for the immediate future. Put sweet-smelling air fresheners in every room of your house. Clean your yard and remove any waste to a sealed trash can. Bring in a new nose; odds are, you’ve lived with your pets long enough you don’t smell them anymore. A neighborhood child will tell you the truth without worrying how you feel about it.
Set the Stage(ing)
It goes without saying that if the buyer asks, you have to tell them you have a pet. But you want them to say, “Oh! I would never have guessed!” Stage your home to look like no animals live there. Advise your realtor you need 24 hours notice to show your home. When he calls to arrange a showing, put your pets in stealth mode. Put away any family pictures, and bag up pet toys and bedding and get them out of the house. (A storage shed is a good stashing spot.) Be thorough: get the pet shampoo out of the closet, remove bags of pet food and litter from cabinets and closets, and squirrel away feeding and water dishes, as well as that litter box (if you haven’t already found a good hiding spot). During an open house, get Fido and Fluffy out of the home or put them in their carriers and pop them in the car when you leave. (You probably shouldn’t be there for the showing, anyway. It ruins the illusion that Nobody Lives Here.)
For the duration of your home’s stay on the market, your whole family will need to live lightly in your house. Everyone should be on their best behavior, including the pets. You never know when someone will want to see it, and you can’t afford to put them off for long: they might just find something else they like elsewhere. Be prepared to show within a day, at any time. It will take a good deal of patience and cause a lot of discomfort, but you can hide the fact that you have pets. You only have to do it for a little while, and it will pay off in the end.