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Can owning a pet reduce the value of your home?

Despite your best efforts to keep your home clean, your pets will leave their mark. See more pet pictures.
Janie Airey/Thinkstock

If you did your homework before getting your pet, you probably budgeted out how much per year it would cost you. However, it's very unlikely you considered the price of repairs bills -- or even a decrease in your home's value -- when you tallied up those costs. Well you probably should have because some animals can cause major damage to their owners' homes. And it's not just dogs and cats. Even a small animal like a ferret can do damage, or leaking fish tank can create a stain and odor that is difficult to remove.

A British survey released in February 2011 found that, on average, pets cause the equivalent of $1,120 damage to their household per year [source: McIver]. To make things worse, that damage is rarely covered by homeowner's insurance. Another real estate agent estimated the value of a home drops $30,000 when a buyer finds out the home was shared with pets [source: Tuttle]. The same agent noted that even the smallest sign of owning a pet can deter a buyer from considering your home. And the fewer interested buyers you have, the lower your final sale price will be.

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Fortunately, there are things you can do to address these pet problems. If you're working with a real estate agent to sell your home, he or she will likely coach you on how to properly stage your home and eliminate any signs of your pet. Despite your best efforts to keep your home clean and presentable, pets will leave their mark. Many times you've grown so accustomed to your pets and their damage to your home, you don't even notice it. We'll discuss the many different types of damage pets cause and the warning signs home buyers look for next.

Pet owners often feel that their animals are a part of their family, which makes it easy to overlook the damage they're doing to the home. However, when they decide it's time to sell, it's important to address the pet problems once and for all. Since the exterior of the home is the first place a home buyer will see, let's start there.

Not only will pets cause problems to the exterior of your home -- chewing on the front stairs, scratching the walls of your porch, or leaving their mark on the corner of your home and your deck -- they can ruin your landscaping as well. Digging holes, tearing up grass, and eating plants can leave a once-impeccable landscape looking sad and messy. Curb appeal means everything and if potential buyers notice major damage and problems for your pets outside, they may never even step foot inside.

And speaking of inside your home, issues abound there, too. Even the best-behaved pets may start chewing on doors and windowsills, and cats often scratch window screens while you're not home. Check your cabinet doors, non-carpeted flooring, thresholds, walls, and molding or trim. Oftentimes, this type of damage comes from boredom. To counteract this, make sure your pets get proper exercise each day and have plenty of toys to keep them occupied. Of course, some issues simply can't be prevented, like those left behind from puppy and cat accidents. They leave stains and odors that are difficult to remove. Simply covering these up just won't cut it because smart buyers will see through your efforts to hide the damage. But if you do it right, you should have nothing to fear. We'll discuss how next.

Lingering pet odors are the biggest issue that can lower your home's value.
Lingering pet odors are the biggest issue that can lower your home's value.
Hemera/Thinkstock

Most homeowners would much rather deal with the pet damage than part ways with their furry friends. But when it comes time to sell their homes, they might reconsider. Scratches, chewing damage, stains and odors are all dead giveaways that you're a pet owner. And before you stage your home for potential buyers, any damage must be addressed if you hope to have any chance of selling your home for its pre-pet value.

Odors are the biggest issue: As smokers will attest, persistent smells can require significant cleanings to remove them for good. So if buyers are greeted by the overwhelming smell of animals, they may think twice about putting in an offer. And if they do, it will probably include the cost for repairs and clean-up they'll have to incur to make the house livable -- and breathable -- again. Odors in carpets are especially difficult because spot cleaning doesn't penetrate to the carpet pad or subfloor, and urine often can. So, you may need to replace the stained carpet and pad, as well as possibly repair or seal the subfloor.

Set-in stains on your walls, trim and furniture can cause pet odors as well. So if you don't want to spend the money to replace a piece of furniture or rug, make sure you remove them during the staging process. Scratches and chewing damage are much easier problems to fix, but that doesn't mean they should be overlooked. They're clear signs that you own a pet, and that alone could put off some buyers and affect your home's final sale price.

Once you've finished making necessary repairs, properly stage your home so there are no signs of any pets: Remove feeding dishes, food and treats, dog beds, cat trees, leashes and toys in the yard, and make sure they're stored where a nosey buyer won't find them. Ideally you'll have a friend or family member who can watch your animals while your house is for sale to make it easier to show, but if not, you'll have to take them with you when buyers are walking through.

All of this may seem like a lot of hard work and extra money to put into a house you're trying to sell, but in the end it should pay off with a final sale price that meets -- or exceeds -- its pre-pet value.

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Sources

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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
  • Hegedus-Garcia, Ines. "To smell or not to sell… that is the question." Miamism. Nov. 5, 2009. (March 9, 2011)http://www.miamism.com/to-smell-or-not-to-sell-that-is-the-question/
  • 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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  • McIver, Brian. "Report reveals pets cost owners £3.3bn in home repairs every year." Daily Record. Feb. 25, 2011. (Feb. 27, 2011)http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/editors-choice/2011/02/25/report-reveals-pets-cost-owners-3-3bn-in-home-repairs-every-year-86908-22948693/
  • McNett, Theresa. "Get Rid of that Dog Smell in Your House." Houston Association of Realtors. (March 9, 2010)http://www.har.com/houston-real-estate-blogs/15692/Get-Rid-of-that-Dog-Smell-in-Your-House
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