To Stage or Not To Stage: Where Do Pets Fit In When Listing a Home?

During the chaos of readying a home to list, ideas on how to handle the family pet can be sparse. The prevalent real estate advice regarding pets is to do whatever it takes to make the listed home appear pet free. Standard staging of a pet household includes squirreling away a pet’s toys, comfort items and food dishes, plus hiding litter boxes. Measures to neutralize pet odors like more frequent bathing, bed washing and daily vacuuming will be the norm for sellers with pets.The rigor of having a show-ready home 24/7, and create the appearance of being pet-free, is nerve-racking for people. Imagine how these disruptive circumstances are for our pets— their schedules are thrown off, they may have to be carted out of the home for long periods of time, or endure the presence of strangers while family members are away from the home. The whole experience can be extremely frustrating for all involved.

While concessions need to be made while a home is on the market, are there perhaps options to the standard advice to make the home appear completely pet-free? Let’s think about this conundrum– a better strategy may be to embrace the pet and come up with a pet-specific staging plan for the listing. Styled, Staged and Sold Blog Author Melissa Dittman Tracey did just that when she sold her last home. In the blog post Can You Stage the Household Dog?, she discussed how she came up with a pet-friendly staging plan. Tracey included a pet specific talking point sign at the home’s entrance which included a welcome message, a photo of the dogs, what their names were and their secure location in the home. Tracey also made sure the dogs were in an out-of-the-way room, situated behind a pet gate, and included another talking point sign by the door of that room. She even dressed up her smaller breed dogs in matching sweaters in case viewers wanted to peek into the room– for some pooches this may be taking things a bit far, but it’s definitely a whimsical touch.

Windermere Mercer Island Agents have successfully used talking point signs to address pets in a listing. I’ve been very impressed with the creative thought processes that went into the signage and how their use helps set the mood for showings. If the neighborhood contains note-worthy trails or parks, an attractive hook near the exit with a fresh, new leash hung from it would be fun. A talking point card highlighting the convenient walk-ability of the neighborhood would be a nice touch.

If the pet is quite loud, or very scared of new people, an outdoor run may be in order. Sellers who consider putting in a run need to take a good look at their yard to see if they can place the run so buyers can still view the home’s outdoor spaces safely. Plus, they need to consider the weather conditions in the region and crunch the numbers– can the seller install a run that fits in with the aesthetics of the home for less than the cost of doggie day care? With cats, who tend to abhor being crated to go for a drive, creating an outdoor space may the perfect solution because they require a smaller structure which could easily be tucked under cover or in an unused corner of the garage. The Stanford Cat Network has created a list of cat enclosure products and plan options based on space, along with photos and inspiration for the DIY crowd.

Even if it makes the most sense to create a staging strategy inclusive of pets, pet odors can’t be ignored. A big Buyer Turn-off is a home that is smelly. Make sure all of the pet’s bedding is brand new and easy to wash. Depending on the size of the pet, a piece of furniture which camouflages the pet bed is handy. The bedding is out of sight, and if washed frequently it will be out of mind as well! In homes with cats, concealing the litter box is imperative, in addition to a meticulous scooping routine. Creating a litter box screen within a cabinet or chest is a pretty clever solution.

The bottom line for this life situation is maintaining a warm, secure, safe environment for both pets and visiting buyers when the home is on the market.  It’s comforting to know there are more options available for households with pets to achieve the goal of a closed transaction.  Now it’s your turn– how have you handled the pet conundrum in a home for sale?  We’d love to hear from all sides of equation– agents, sellers and buyers. Please leave your comments in the comment section below.