How to Win Over Pet Owners When Selling Your Home

The right way to sell a pet-friendly home.
By: Helen Anne Travis
Dog sitting in a living room

Traditional real estate wisdom says to hide all traces of pets when selling your home. Heaven forbid a potential buyer steps on an errant chew toy or discovers where you hide the litter box.

However, as more pet owners proudly show off their adoration for their pets, developers, realtors and sellers are realizing that highlighting a home or community’s pet-friendly features can bring big returns.

Take the builders at Standard Pacific Homes, who made a big splash a few years ago when they announced they were building homes with 170-square-foot “pet spas,” complete with food and water stations, flat screen TVs and special French doors opening to a private puppy run. The spas were reported to increase the homes’ value by as much as $35,000.

Today, even condo associations are getting in on the pet fun, says Valerie Grange, a sales manager with Alexandria, Virginia-based McWilliams/Ballard real estate sales and marketing firm. Gone are the days when breed and weight restrictions sidelined pet owners to stand-alone homes, Grange, who specializes in working with pet owners, says. The condo buildings she sees now offer everything from rooftop dog washing stations and community “yappy hours” to amenities like in-house pet acupuncture and massage services.

“These days, a lot of buyers are looking specifically for pet-friendly properties,” she says.

Below, learn more about how to appeal to pet owners when selling your home.

Work with a Pet-Friendly Agent

Seeing a unique opportunity, agents like Grange are developing a niche among pet owners. They team up with local groomers, veterinarians and trainers to cultivate a strong network of animal-loving buyers and sellers.

Working with a realtor who specializes in pet-friendly properties can be a huge help when listing your home. And if you can’t find one locally, don’t despair. It’s simply a matter of educating your current agent on why your home will appeal to fellow pet owners and asking him or her to call this out in the listing, says Grange.

Lisa Groover, another Arlington-based real estate agent who specializes in working with pet owners, recommends highlighting the home and neighborhood’s amenities for animals in a tip sheet that can be passed out at open houses. Include information like the home’s proximity to dog parks and pet-friendly restaurants and breweries, as well as contact information for local breed meet-ups and recommended veterinarians and trainers. This kind of information can give your agent an in with potential buyers.

“Highlighting a home or neighborhood’s pet-friendly qualities starts a conversation,” she says.

Don’t Forget to Clean

One of the biggest factors when selling a home is cleanliness, says Groover. Even the most devoted animal lover doesn’t want to see chewed up baseboards or smell your cat’s litter boxes.

“Even though you’re appealing to pet owners, no one wants to see a house that’s in disrepair because of a pet,” she says.

Desare Kohn-Laski, broker/owner of Skye Louis Realty in Coconut Creek, Florida, recommends replacing your home’s existing carpet to remove any lingering pet odors. Painting the walls will also help remove odors and hide scuffmarks. Go with a neutral color, she says, to make the home even more appealing to potential buyers.

Give all rugs and furniture a thorough vacuum before showings, she says, and don’t forget the outside of the home. Walk along the fence to make sure there are no holes or loose boards through which a new owner’s dog could escape. Replace any dead patches in the lawn with soil and fresh grass and, while you’re at it, give the yard a good poop scoop, she says.

“Viewers will always want to walk around the lawn and nothing could send them running faster than stepping on a land mine your fur baby left behind,” says Kohn-Laski.

Before the open house, Grange recommends what she calls a “friends and family test.” Invite someone you trust who doesn’t have a pet over for an honest smell test, she says.

Staging is Everything

Showing off your home’s pet-friendly attributes can go a long way in appealing to pet owners and landing a sale.

Grange says a few well-placed puppy portraits will appeal to pet owners, and stickers alerting police and fire rescue that animals are in the home show how much you care and will pull on fellow pet owners’ heartstrings.  

While you don’t want to leave out a bowl of half-eaten food or a dirty litter box, defining a space for these pet stations can spark the imagination of a potential buyer, says Karen Gray Plaisted, a professional home stager in Warwick, New York.

“Having a place for an animal to call its own can be very appealing to pet owners,” she says. “Whether it is a niche under a stairwell, or space under built-in shelves.”

Additional amenities like hardwood floors and pet doors are big selling points for dog owners, says Cedric Stewart, a residential and commercial sales consultant in Rockville, Maryland. Cat owners will appreciate deep windowsills or a few strategically placed window seats, he says.

Another big draw for pet owners, especially dog lovers, is space, says Kohn-Laski.

“The bigger the living area the better,” she says. “Any way a homeowner can remove coffee tables, side tables or any piece of furniture to make the room look more spacious is recommended.”

If your home doesn’t already have these features and installing them is not an option before you move, get a few quotes on how much additions or repairs would cost, Groover recommends. This empowers your agent to quickly ease any concerns that your home isn’t pet-friendly enough.

“You can tell buyers ‘it’s going to cost X, don’t let it hold you back’,” she says.