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How to Sell a House with a Dog

Blog by Sara Kalke | September 16th, 2011

There's nothing like Fido, except of course when it comes time to sell your house.  Unfortunately, not everyone will be as happy as you to see your dog when they enter your home, especially strangers!  If you have a dog, do yourself and the pooch a favour:  Hire a REALTOR who knows how to work with dog-occupied properties!  Okay, that's a shameless plug, but here's why:  having a dog in a home that is for sale can be a huge liability (whether you're more concerned about your dog or the potential buyers is up to you!).  I have strict protocol for all showings of homes that have dogs, to make sure that we have no Fido-related issues, but you'll just have to list your home with me to know all the details now, won't you?

Here are a few "rules of thumb" for selling your home with dogs! 

  1. DON'T HAVE THE DOG HOME FOR SHOWINGS!  Make sure Fido is not home (or worst-case, in a SECURE kennel during showings).  It's much much better to show a home when there isn't a 100 pound Mastiff barking in the basement (now don't get me wrong, I love Mastiffs - they're usually cuddly and drooly once you get to know them - but I don't love being the first one to open the basement stairs a crack to "see" if the giant critter is locked in its kennel or if it has Houdini-d its way to the door).  The best option: take Fido for a walk or a car ride or to doggy daycare or to a friend's house when you know you're having a showing.
  2. EVEN IF FIDO IS THE NICEST DOG IN THE WORLD:  Dogs should not be home for showings.  Your dog might be really really polite and perfect when you are home, but how does he/she feel about strangers when you're not home?  About kids?  About people who are terrified of dogs?  About people with beards?  About people who hate dogs?  Dogs are reactionary creatures (thanks, Cesar Millan), so don't just think the dog will be okay with strangers. No matter what. The best option: take Fido for a walk or a car ride or to doggy daycare or to a friend's house when you know you're having a showing.
  3. BUT FIDO WILL BE IN THE BACKYARD, in my bedroom, in the back pantry, etc...  All no-no's.  You can post 1,000 signs in your property saying "beware of dog, do not enter backyard, vicious dog, etc.", and you can pretty much guarantee there's someone in your house who is looking at your landscaping, the brand of your washer/dryer, the paint color of your neighbour's fence... NOT reading your well-intentioned signs (um, that's all buyers by the way - they don't walk around your house like you normally do). The best option: take Fido for a walk or a car ride or to doggy daycare or to a friend's house when you know you're having a showing.
  4. Got it? The first 4 rules, just to be sure, are NO DOGS AT HOME FOR SHOWINGS!  Heck, I'll even come walk your dog while a showing is happening if necessary (so long as I can make it, schedule and all).  Here's why I care so much:  a) I don't want anyone to get hurt - your dog, my clients, other people's clients, other agents, me, etc. - dog incidents are pretty much always ruled against the dog (no matter how deserving the people might have been), b) I want you to SELL your house, and get LOTS of money for it - every hurdle buyers have to overcome mentally can translate into a price-drop in their perceived value of your house, c) I want REALTORS to actually show your house - if I come up to the front door of a house that I have an appointment to show, and there's a dog barking at me, I might just be too frightened (and/or too smart) to open the door and expose all of us to any kind of liability.  Okay, sorry horse, point made.
  5. HIDE THE DOG FOOD.  Not just in a closet.  In an air-tight tupperware bin preferrably.  People with or without dogs don't want to smell your dog food, ever.  No matter how awesome or organic it is, dog food always smells like dog food and it definitely isn't a selling feature when your whole back entrance / basement / kitchen pantry (really!) smells like it.  Ew.  And if you were wondering, yes, hide the dog dish and water bowl too.  Trust me, we'll figure out that a dog lives in the property by the many other signs (i.e. raging allergies, yellow spots in the backyard, your dog run, the dog's nail marks in the hardwood or runs in the berber carpet, etc. etc. etc.) - if it's an issue for us, we probably asked before we came to the place anyway, silly.
  6. PUT AWAY THE DOG BED, THE DOG TOYS,  the giant half-eaten dog bones, the really really smelly bully sticks shoved in the sofa cushions (is it just my dog that likes to hide them there?), the giant choke chains and spike collars (now you shouldn't really have these now should you...).  Put away the dog stuff. In a wicker basket, or another tupperware bin, or one of those benches with storage. Whatever, just put it away.  I love doggies, but I've stepped on one too many half-eaten dog bones while showing houses.  A lot of clients could care less if a dog lives in the home, they just don't want to be distracted by all it's stuff.
  7. CLEAN UP YOUR BACKYARD:  okay, this one should be really obvious, but time to state the obvious - scoop the poop!  Most buyers actually go into your backyard and walk around on the grass to check the lot grading (aka drainage away from your house), the garage (if yours is in the back), the gate situation (if they have kids and/or pooches of their own), etc. etc.  Dog doo-doo is a little distracting, and a real damper to house shopping if it's on your shoe in your REALTOR's car she cleaned to drive you around : ).
  8. PAINT, REFINISH, CLEAN:  this includes: scratch marks on the paint / walls / doors (usually by the back door where Fido likes to go outside, right?!!), broken screens, chewed railings (isn't puppy teething cute!), NAIL MARKS in the hardwood flooring (you can get a cheaper fix by using Mr. Sandless, a company that uses chemicals to re-coat your floor rather than sand it and refinish it the proper way - I like the matte finish better than the super gloss finish myself), and have those carpets cleaned (do it BEFORE showing start!), change your furnace filter, and if you have a particularly hairy beast, get your furnace ducts cleaned.
  9. SMELL TEST:  have a dogless friend pop by and smell your house. I'm not kidding. Do it. Preferrably someone who has a good sense of smell.  Ask them honestly if your house smells like dogs. If it doesn't, CONGRATULATIONS, you're ready to show!
I hope I covered it all.  REALTORS, if you want to know my "fool-proof" doggie system for showings, I'll tell you all about it for a coffee or a chocolate bar!  Or just call me : )

Happy trails!
Sara & Effrey

Welsh Terrier, member of team Sara Kalke