I was recently contacted by a real estate agent to do a home staging consultation for one of her listings.  I previewed the home online and was horrified to see that the picture of the living room included a shot of a dog, sitting on the carpet.  I could see visions of pet hair and fleas dancing through my head.

According to the Humane Society of the United States:

  • 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog.
  • Nearly 34% of U.S. households own at least one cat.

This means that between 61-66% of homeowners do not own a cat or dog. Whether the reasons include allergies, aversions or other personal preferences, it’s clear that a large portion of prospects viewing the listing with a household pet could turn off a potential buyer.

I told the homeowner that the picture of the living room needed to be changed, even if she didn’t implement any of my suggestions.  When I explained to her that most people don’t own pets and a potential buyer will be just a mouseclick away from coming to view her home, she responded with “Gee, I thought including my dog in the photo would make it seem homey, but I guess I never considered that.”  When I also explained this to the real estate agent, she promptly came over and took new pictures.

When a home is on the market, and especially during showings, pet owners need to remove all evidence that the home is occupied by a pet:

  • Remove all pet food bowls, cages, leashes, beds, toys, and other items
  • Remove all pet odors – since an owner is probably used to the smell, an honest friend can provide an assessment
  • Most importantly, remove the pet.  Homeowners should take the pet with them during open houses.  For scheduled showings while the owner is present, get a neighbor or friend to temporarily house the pet.