5 Tips for Pet Lovers Who Also Love Their Homes

December 26, 2014 | By

Let me start by saying I’m a dog lover — but I still didn’t appreciate my German shepherd puppy chewing the trim by my office door a few months ago. It’s an eyesore and could be the one thing a prospective buyer notices about my home, according to Lyn Sims, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Suburban in Chicago.

Chew marks, scratches, and smells can turn off buyers — even those who have pets of their own, she says. In other words, overt signs of pets on the premises — an aggressive dog, an overflowing litter box, a loose bird chewing on your shutters — could make it more difficult to market and sell your home, not to mention living in it day to day.

Beyond Cats and Dogs

Teri Eckholm, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Results in metro Minneapolis/St Paul, thought she’d seen it all: dogs chained to trees, bunnies and teacup pigs in kitchens, miniature goats on porches. But her worst pet experience came from a home full of caged snakes and iguanas. If the hissing and slithering reptiles weren’t enough to creep out buyers, there was also the nauseating smell of nearby feeder crickets and mice. “It made it hard for the buyers to picture themselves in the home,” she says. “We left pretty quickly.”

Outdoor pets and wild animals cause damage and odor too, she notes. Cows, horses, and poultry can damage lawns, fences, and posts — not to mention leaving behind dung piles. Bats can invade your attic, causing a foul odor and making surfaces sticky. Rodents can gnaw through wires and nest in your walls.

Before You List

It’s a good idea to inspect your home and repair any damage you find as soon as possible, and especially before you list your home for sale. Sims suggests inspecting the floor trim, the threshold of your front and back doors, and the corners of doors and cabinets for damage. Also check your furniture, especially if you have cats. If there’s evidence of chew and claw marks, you might want to consider storing those pieces while your home’s being shown, Sims says.

If your home is for sale, it’s a good idea to remove or crate animals during showings, says Karen Graves, a real estate professional with Weichert, Realtors in Vienna, VA. “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 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.

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The author’s naughty dog. (Laura Lang Haverty)

After our own trim-chewing incident, which lasted seconds, we trained our puppy by taking away forbidden items (like plastic hangers, shoes, and rocks) and handing her rawhide bones to chew instead. We also started to crate her when we left the house. Now, having just turned one, she automatically heads for her crate when we’re leaving. Instead of being a home-wrecker, she’s turned into our warm welcome home.

To keep the peace with pets in and around your home, real estate experts suggest the following:

1. Train or contain your pets. 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, advises Eckholm, who admits that her young dog had scratched interior doors throughout her home so badly they recently replaced all of the doors.

If you need help training your animal, talk to a local pet trainer, your veterinarian, or local pet store — or check out online resources like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for training tips. While in the process of training, consider investing in a kennel to use when you’re not home or you’re preoccupied. “Buying a $200 to $300 kennel is going to be more cost effective than replacing an interior door or couch,” says Eckholm.

2. Keep a trained eye (and nose) on lingering pet odors. If you’re going to sell your home, ask a friend or neighbor to walk through and tell you if they smell any odors. “Most people don’t smell the odors in their own homes,” says Sims. She advises to mitigate any odors by removing the pet, frequently cleaning pet areas, or using scented candles.

And if you suspect something is living inside the wall, basement, or attic, seek professional help: Rodents and other wild animals can damage your property and present a health risk.

3. Replace soiled carpets. After only a few pet “accidents,” you’ll need to replace soiled carpet. “Carpet that becomes urine-soaked will quickly deteriorate and further cleaning will only worsen the problem,” advises Alan Fletcher, author of The Complete Carpet Buying Guide.

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.

4. Repair scratches on floors, doors, walls, and furniture. These repairs can be important whether you’re selling or just living in your home, notes J. Timothy Wilson, president and founder of The Wood Works Inc. Overland Park, KS. Wilson has repaired furniture clawed by cats, gnawed on by hamsters, and chewed by macaws. At least once a month, an item is brought in with the plea to “save the pet,” he says.

When it comes to wood floors, a polyurethane seal is the best defense against urine stains and surface scuffs, but it won’t fully protect the wood, he notes.

5. Maintain your yard, front and back. “If your dog is running in circles or up and down a fence line and creating ruts, you’ll want to fix them and address the behavior,” says Eckholm. She notes that chaining dogs to trees can damage and even kill the tree, costing the owner thousands to have removed. She also suggests filling any holes created by pets and giving grass “burned” by animal urine a thorough soaking and spreading lime to help it regain health.

“Buyers will view your yard as they walk through the home,” says Eckholm. “Make sure you’re giving them the best impression possible.”

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