Pets in the Mix: From Petrifying to Purrfect

A beautiful cat or friendly dog might be just the thing for you and your family. As members of the household, pets have a place in your home and your heart. But what about pets and all that go with them when you are buying or selling a home? In the case of a large investment such as buying or selling a property, addressing the topic of pets during this transaction is worthy of some sniffing out.

True animal lovers often have homes that are especially welcoming to animals and people alike. Homes that are set back from roads or traffic, or are close to dog parks or walking trails might have special appeal. Horse-properties are often fenced, have pasture land or barns, and storage for feed. Whether or not you have pets, if you are selling a property with these facets, you might have a winning angle for the right buyer. While real estate agents can promote these features, they want to do so without having to overcome pet odor and damage issues.

Unfortunately, there are also homes where pets "rule the roost" and the home is less appealing to people. When proper care is not taken, or the number of animals in the home outpaces the owner's ability to adequately care for them, smells and other issues can become serious problems in the selling process.

Evaluating a home with regard to pets unlocks features and flaws in a home. The ability to open windows or gain access through a back door to a fenced yard or to a pet enclosure is not only useful for pets and people, but can be important in examining temperature, traffic, and utility of a potential home. Odors may indicate issues with airflow, potentially giving clues about heating and/or cooling. When allergens are present in the air, air conditioning can help take them out of circulation, making a home with central air conditioning very desirable.

In short, most homes will be primarily evaluated for people, so do the work beforehand to make your home people-friendly and as pet-neutral as possible. Most importantly, the homeowner should minimize the obvious signs of pets: food bowls and toys, scent, fur, feces, scratch-marks, carpet stains, and/or damage from digging or chewing. While it hardly seems fair, significant value may be lost if the home is perceived to be occupied or potentially damaged by animals - pets or wild ones. Not only is it important to rectify any issues that might be in the home presently, but during the duration of the showing and sale of a property; all pet matters must be kept in check. As a general rule, keep in mind that while people often love pets, they don't always love yours.

Barking dogs, cats that shed excessively, and animals that could cause harm are deterrents to the welcoming feel most people desire when they come to see a property. Additionally, "pet furniture" can detract from a home, or make it memorable in ways that are not conducive to a sale. Instead, remove that well-worn chair or cat tree that presents an "in-your-face" distraction from more positive aspects of the home itself. Consider "doggy daycare" or boarding your pet elsewhere if there is concern that the presence of a pet could detract from the viewing experience.

Always alert the showing agent of the presence of a pet. Ensure that there are arrangements in place for animals that require special attention, and keep up on pet chores that enhance the home's appeal. While it might be unrealistic to get every hair, work to minimize attention to it by vacuuming often and removing potentially offensive items like well-worn pet beds and blankets during showings. Have your pet bathed and groomed frequently during this time period to reduce pet odors and ensure that all shots, ID tags, and licenses are up-to-date in the event of an accidental release.

Similarly, if you are seeking a property that is especially free of allergens, or inversely, especially good for a certain pet - real estate agents know what to look for. Be sure to check out laundry rooms, basements and garages as these are common places where pets may spend lots of time, and could provide useful clues regarding the successes and failures of a pet's presence in a home.

There are key chores that must be accomplished by the homeowner prior to selling it, if a pet has been present:

Check for outside damage to landscape, porches, decks and lawn. Ensure that holes are filled, scratched or chewed wood are fixed, fences are in good repair and painted when appropriate, and that plants don't show evidence of pets. If a pet scratches to come in, repair any marks on the front and back door or screens. Nothing can fix a bad first impression.

Moving indoors, check for scratches, chewing, and paint damage that come from pets walking, rubbing, or otherwise using the home. Paint, clean or repairs items as needed. Removal of furniture that reveals the presence of animals should be considered. Stained carpets should be professionally cleaned or removed, as pet "accidents" can be absorbed into carpet pad and odors remain. Again, check doors, molding or areas where grime, hair, scratching or chewing appears. Consider this "detailing" your home as you would a car.

Clean air ducts and filters in the home's HVAC system to ensure that odors are not being circulated throughout the home and that it is working properly, free of pet hair. Pet odors are the biggest offense, and must be removed; this might require the replacing of flooring or sheetrock in some cases. Professionally cleaning concrete floors in garages or basements that have housed pets is a great idea to remove odors. In cases where rodents have damaged insulation in crawl spaces, replacement may be necessary.

When pets are in the mix and a home is for sale, it is essential to consider a pet's happiness, safety, and effect that they might have on people viewing the home. Creative solutions can be difficult to come by. Few people have the luxury of obtaining a new home prior to selling their residence and removing pets entirely from the home that is for sale. If a pet absolutely cannot be removed from the home, consider crate-training, which might also aid in the relocation process in the future, or limiting a pet to a confined space. No question about it - selling or buying a home with pets in mind adds a dimension to the process. Paying attention to these details can seem overwhelming, but the value of a home depends on it. Purrfectly so.


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