When Selling Is a Pet Project

Animals make it tricky to show your home to buyers

September 18, 2013

Tom Page and Sherry Roberts hang out in their new home with daughters, Erika, 21, and Penelope, 5, and pets Flash the dog and Sam the cat.

When Tom Page and Sherry Roberts sold their last home, it was an experiment in chaos. Each time an agent called to schedule a showing, mayhem ensued.

“We’d do a magical cleanup, grab the cat, throw him in the car, take the litter box, hide it someplace, spray Lysol and get out,” Page, 40, says.

When you’re selling your home, having to clear away clutter, repaint walls and keep the place perfectly clean is challenging enough. But when you add pets into the mix, the experience can make you go barking mad.

“People are super duper in love with their pets and in a lot of cases view them as extended family,” says McLean, Va.-based Century 21 real estate agent Stephen Newman (703-405-6494, soldbystephen@aol.com). “It’s really tough to try to explain to them how very stressful it must be on their pets for strangers to just be coming in and out of their house.”

Before you list your home for sale, take a moment to consider how you’ll handle your pets for showings.

Move ’Em Out

If you can afford to, you and your pets could move out first and then put your home on the market. That’s what Page and Roberts have decided to do this time around.

With two cats, a dog and now a 5-year-old daughter in tow, they moved to a new house in Annandale, Va., before putting their Fredericksburg, Va., house up for sale. “We swore we weren’t going to get to the point where we were scooping up the animals and throwing them in the car,” Page says.

Of course, it’s not always feasible to own two homes while you wait for one to sell.

Another option is to board your pets with a friend or relative. Or, if your animals are receptive to it, you could send them to a pet hotel or day care facility, says Victoria Wells, senior manager of behavior and training for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ adoption center. “They’ll have a little fun, too, while you’re trying to sell your house,” she says.

Locally, check out City Dogs (1832 18th St. NW; 202-234-9247), which offers doggie day care and boarding, or Always There Pet Care (920 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-241-2287), which has a “Kitty Condo” cat resort.

Appointment Only

If that’s not possible, then your best bet is to have agents make an appointment to bring by prospective buyers. Then you can take your cat out for a drive or your dog out for a walk while real estate agents show your home.

This is the route Chuck Taylor — who has both a canine and feline family member — chose when he sold his South Arlington house in 1993 and again when he sold his Ballston condo in 2009. “Typically I’d have about an hour to get [the pets] up and out of the house and tuck their things out of the way,” Taylor, 61, says.

Keep Your Pets at Home

If you simply can’t get your pets out of the house for showings, you could keep them secured in a room or in a crate. But if they’re not used to being confined to one place, that can be stressful for them.

Some homeowners opt to leave instructions for visitors to close the front door or not get too close to the dog. That can be a risky proposition for both the pets and the visitors. “Anytime I go to a house with a cat,” real estate agent Newman says, “I’m always petrified I’m going to open the door and the cat’s gonna bolt.”

Seller Beware

It’s important to know that listing your home by appointment only or with pet-handling instructions can make the place harder to sell.

“The reality is, your house is going to sell a lot faster if you don’t have pets in it,” Newman says, “because it’s going to make it easier to show.”

 

Keeping It Clean

If you plan to take your pets out of the house for showings, be sure to also put away their leashes, bowls, litter boxes and toys.

“The advice I’ve always heard [from real estate agents] was to make the home look as neutral as possible — not even to have the signs that you have a cat or a dog in there,” says homeowner Chuck Taylor. “If a potential buyer comes along who maybe doesn’t like animals or is allergic, they’re not going to want to buy a place where an animal’s been living.”

You might also want to keep a spray bottle of Nature’s Miracle stain remover handy to clean up any floors or walls that your pet might have mistaken for a litter box or fire hydrant. T.K.

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Tracy Krulik | September 18, 2013