5 Pet Problems to Fix Before You Sell Your House

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Selling a home is hard enough, but selling a home when you have pets is even more difficult. You might even be surprised to know that owning a pet can significantly reduce your home's value [source: Tuttle]. That's because when left to their own devices, curious cats, dogs and other pets can cause serious damage. Although you may become accustomed to -- and might not even notice -- the scratches, odors and other damage they've created, a smart homebuyer will look for evidence of pets on a walk through of your home.

If you want to ensure you get the highest final sale price, you'll have to properly stage your home to create the illusion you are not a pet owner -- or at least eliminate any signs that your animals were destructive. How? By fixing any major damage your pets caused that will catch the eyes (and noses) of potential buyers. In some cases, a quick fix will do. But larger problems may require more significant repairs -- or may need to be replaced altogether.

Even if your house is in excellent condition, and you've done your best to keep it clean, owning pets could take up to $30,000 off of its value if potential buyers notice odors or other pet issues [source: Tuttle]. If you own pets, and you're not sure where to start addressing the damage they've caused, read on for the top five pet problems that definitely need to be fixed before you sell your home.

Landscaping/Exterior Damage
The most obvious issue to address outside are holes in the yard from a dog that's been digging.
The most obvious issue to address outside are holes in the yard from a dog that's been digging.

The outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers will see, so it's the first place you should look for signs of pet damage. Assess the exterior of your home, as well as your landscaping for problems. The most obvious issue to address is holes in the yard from a dog that's been digging. Make sure to fill any holes -- large or small -- before you open your home to buyers. And to stop the dog from digging further, some trainers suggest filling the holes with bricks or rocks (then cover over with dirt so they're not noticeable). Obviously, giving your dog plenty of exercise each day, and other fun chew toys, could help deter him from digging in the yard, as well [source: Deneen]. Another problem to be on the lookout for in the yard is damaged plants. Both dogs and cats often chew on plants and other shrubbery, so replace any sad looking greenery and don't let your pets near the new ones until your house has sold.

Pets can also wreak havoc on your porch, deck, fences and the exterior of your home. Inspect these structures for chewing and scratch marks. You can fix most of these with sand paper, wood fill or plaster, and paint or stain. If your deck or fence has a liquid stain, make sure you pre-treat the area with a waterproof primer to seal in the stain so it doesn't reappear [source: Kilz].

Chewing Damage

Chewing is an issue with many pets, and anything within your pet's reach is an easy target. Go over your home with a fine tooth comb to identify any chewing damage. Look along the floor trim, the threshold of your front and back doors, and the corners of doors and cabinets. Also don't forget to check carpet, window ledges and screens, especially if you have cats. Often, this kind of damage is better replaced than repaired because the odor from your pets' saliva can linger, even if you sand wood damage down and repair it. Chewed or frayed carpet can likely be stretched and re-tacked by a professional, but only if the damage is along the edges; otherwise it may have to be replaced, as well.

And don't overlook your furniture. If it has evidence of chewing, you might want to consider storing it while you're showing your home because to some buyers, the mere presence of a pet can devalue your home [sources: Evans]. Of course, much like the digging, you can help avoid the chewing issues if you exercise your pets adequately and keep them occupied with a variety of toys [source: Deneen]. This will be important to remember while you're showing your home.


Scratches are common in any home, but in a home with pets, there will be a lot more of them. Just make sure you take notice of every inch of your home. If you've been living there a while, there's a good chance you've grown accustomed to scratches and may not notice them anymore. If you have hardwood floors, you may want to consider having them professionally refinished, depending on the amount of damage.

Also are there scratches on your walls or trim? If so, a light sanding followed by some Spackle and a fresh paint job should do the trick to get those repaired. The same is true for the doors and painted cabinets. If there is significant scratching damage on your stained wood cabinets (maybe on the one cabinet door where you keep the dog treats), you might need to replace the door if you can find the exact style and color. And once again, check your furniture. Buyers will notice the damage and realize you own pets, which could deter them from buying your home.

If there are stains your carpet, a simple spot treatment will rarely do the trick to remove them.
If there are stains your carpet, a simple spot treatment will rarely do the trick to remove them.

Pets have accidents, many of which you don't notice until they've become set-in. These stains can affect your carpet and flooring, drywall and trim, and your furniture. It's important to address them before you list your house because buyers will notice -- and perhaps smell -- the stains immediately. If there are stains in your carpet, a simple spot treatment will rarely do the trick. It's best to replace stained areas with new patches of carpet and, if necessary, carpet pad. Stains on laminate or vinyl floors should be replaced, as well.

If you have stains on your walls or trim, it's ideal to replace those, too. If that's not in your budget, you can try the very best odor-free primer you can find. A good primer should properly seal the stain -- and the pet odor -- and neither should return.


Odors are the No. 1 pet problem that need to be fixed before you attempt to sell your home. Not only are odors very obvious when buyers first enter your a home, they are usually very difficult to get rid of. Home buyers know this and could immediately scratch your house off their list. Although getting rid of odors the right way might mean making an investment, the benefit and resulting resale value are well worth it.

Where do these odors live? Everywhere. Try to make sure you know each location your pet had an accident. Even a leaking fish tank can cause an unwelcome odor. Did your cat get sick on the windowsill? If so, a simple paint job to cover the stain won't remove the smell. You'll have to replace the wood to completely remove it. The same is true for flooring. If your puppy had an accident on the carpet, it's important to replace the carpet, as well as the pad below. And substantial stains can even seep into the subfloor through the carpet pad. If you think this is the case for your home, it's best to hire a professional if the subfloor needs replacing. Otherwise, painting it with an odor-free primer before replacing the carpet might do the trick.

Odors can also live in drywall, trim and your furniture. Be sure to replace or remove these items from your home. Finally, be sure to vacuum daily during the time you're showing your home. It's not just accidents that cause bad odors. Your pet's hair, dander and sweat create odors as well. If you don't board them, or have a friend keep your pets while you're showing your home, it's important to vacuum to eliminate new odors from appearing.


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  • Evans, Blanche. "Are Your Pets Soiling Your Chances of Selling Your Home?" Realty Times. Oct. 21, 2009. (Feb. 27, 2011)http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/19991021_pets.htm
  • Matsushita, Elaine. "Pet Damage at Home: Removing Spot's Spots." Make It Better. July, 2009. (Feb. 27, 2011)http://www.makeitbetter.net/family/pets/363-pet-damage-at-home-removing-spots-spots
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  • "Which Kilz primer should I use for this job?" Kilz. (Feb. 27, 2011)http://www.masterchem.com/masterchem/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=212f90033f9ff110VgnVCM1000008a05d103RCRD
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