Swapping Roles From Agent To Seller: How Do I Hide My Pet?

Another facet of my transition from agent to seller is the issue of Barkley: my gorgeous and sweet greyhound.  The listing period is certainly a lesson in discipline for any seller but I have a special understanding of the added challenges faced by a seller with pets.  Here is my tale of listing as an animal lover and pet owner.

Since I see homes all the time from the perspective of a real estate agent, (representing both sellers and buyers) I know my advice when it comes to sellers who have pets.  "I know you love them but your buyer may not.  They shouldn't be in the house during showings and DEFINITELY not during an open house!" is my standard phrase.  As a lover of all animals, I have always felt confidant that I can convey the empathy I feel for them but I also point out that: 1- Strangers in the house can be a source of stress for animals and 2- An interested buyer could miss an opportunity to spend more time in their home because of an allergic reaction.  I often gently remind my clients that pet owners often cannot smell their own pets and that fur tumbleweeds and squeaky toys that blend into the background for a pet owner can be eyesores to a buyer.  I always recommend pet daycare or leaving a pet with a family member.  A cat in a listed house is typically less offensive to buyers but still not ideal.  At the very least, the litter box should be emptied before showings and kept out of sight and a message should be left for buyer's agents to make them aware of the kitty.

When we listed, we faced our own pet dilemma: Should we send our gentle greyhound to "daycare" when we have showings?  For Barkley, this is difficult because, while he is a very EASY dog (I'll write a separate post another day about the merits of rescuing these wonderful dogs,) he doesn't really like daycare unless all the other dogs are greyhounds and there are very few dog sitting facilities which will let you drop off your pet last minute AND agree to feed him raw food.  With Corey working nights, we decided we could keep him at home and one of us would just take him for a walk during showings.  This is an excellent plan in theory and I'm still glad this is the plan we chose but there are still some challenges I would like to highlight:

1.  Pets Smell.  I love dogs and people always comment that Barkley is clean and has a healthy coat.  He has a bath once a month, we brush his teeth with an electric toothbrush, he wears a coat outdoors, he hates mud and dirt, he hardly ever farts, he is a well-groomed specimen of a dog and yet... He smells!  His odour isn't bad when I compare it with other animals but he doesn't smell as nice as we do and that's what I'm considering from the perspective of a buyer. 

Solution:  There isn't much we can do here since we are not willing to dry out his skin by bathing him too frequently.  Our solution is to keep his coat and toys clean and out of the way, wash his bedding frequently and keep baking soda in his food cupboard.  We find that Barkley's "stuff" smells more than he does so this generally does the trick.  I'm also pretty liberal with the Febreeze.

2.  Pet Accessories are Ugly Clutter.  Sad, but true from a listing standpoint.  I don't care if your pet bed and dishes are designer, they don't look good. 

Solution:  I make one (semi-joking) exception to the pet dishes rule and it's the Hudson's Bay Company Collection Striped Dog Bowl.  I would consider leaving that bowl out if it matched my decor and was sparkling clean but any other bowl or dish must be hidden in the dishwasher!  I don't stop at the bowls either- There are toys, beds, leashes, litter boxes for cats... once, I was showing a home to buyer clients and we noticed a "used" puppy pad!  With Barkley, we just hide his toys in a back closet shelf, and make sure there are no old bones awkwardly hidden around the condo.  His bed is already in the master bedroom closet and it's too large to hide so we just make sure his blankets are folded neatly.  That's right, we make the dog's bed!

3.  Pets are Furry.  We love that Barkley has no undercoat and hardly sheds... or so we thought until we listed and I discovered that I have superhuman vision and can spot a stray whisker on the floor from across the room.  Now that I am scrutinizing my home constantly as if I were my own client, I'm noticing so much fur everywhere! 

Solution:  We now run the vacuum at least once a day.  Maybe twice if we have multiple showings.

4.  Some People DO NOT Like Animals.  I know, I was shocked too.  We always think of Barkley as being a gentle dog who, despite his name, doesn't even bark.  We forget that many people are afraid of the "Big Black Dog" but this is part of the reason we chose a black greyhound since we know they are always the last to be adopted.  Our standard practice for a showing is to take Barkley for a walk during a showing but occasionally we have passed the buyers in the hallway and some have practically leaped out of the way.

Solution:  I keep Barkley on a short leash (more for their peace of mind than because he needs it) and I walk past quickly saying "He's very gentle" to reassure them.  I am respectful of their fear and I don't try to force the issue.  I also love my dog so I'm not going to let this type of reaction upset me and cause him stress:  It's not their fault but it's also not his!

5.  Animals Have Accidents.  Twenty minutes before each showing I have a moment when I look at Barkley and wonder if he looks like he needs to "go outside."  Then I wonder what I would do if he threw up (or worse) just minutes before a showing. 

Solution:  Luckily, Barkley rarely gets sick and I will likely not need to worry about this.  If it did happen, I know that I have an accessible stash of non-toxic cleaners and I'm pretty sure I could ask an agent to wait outside for a few minutes.  My worst case scenario would involve me rolling up a rug and hiding it on the balcony.

In short, I am glad to finally have a chance to implement my own strict listing rules.  I expect my clients to do everything they can to show their homes to their full potential and I have seen the results many times.  I have however made a decision that the next time I list a home with a pet and I sit down with the seller's to outline my suggestions, I'll bring some treats for the pet... and a good bottle of wine for the owners!

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