How Pet Odor Could Hinder The Marketability Of Your Home

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When we step into a home, one of the first things we often notice is the smell. Does it smell new or clean?  Does it pass the smell test?

We all love our pets like family but when it comes time to sell our home, there are some important things pet owners need to consider to prevent our pet(s) from derailing the sale of our home.  If you have considered putting your home on the market, but are not sure how to handle pet odors that have accumulated after years of caring for your four-legged friends, we may be able to help.  We can all relate. We love our pets and they take priority, but someone else may not and that can impact our bottom line when selling our home.

Being a real estate agent for more years than I am willing to admit, I have come to the realization that everyone has a different perception of clean.  Your idea of clean may not mirror my expectation of clean.

Odors in the home are a sensitive subject to approach when you go to list a client’s home.  The last thing we want to do is offend the homeowners by telling them their home has a peculiar “stank“.  We have to approach it with kid gloves.   Surprisingly, we  don’t  always recognize, or are willing to admit, that our home reeks of cigarette smoke, pet odors or last night’s meal.   It appears our nose can become desensitized to the odors of our own home. The TV commercial for Febreze Fabric Freshener, suggesting that the homeowner has gone “#nose blind” when it comes to the smell of her sofa, brings it all home. It shows how we think our home smells compared to what others perceive.

I ask my friends and family to  alert me should I suddenly go #noseblind to pet smells in my house.    Short-term pet odor in the home can happen; i.e., your cat makes a visit to the litterbox or your dog comes inside with that outdoor wet-doggie smell.  We can tolerate those type odors because they quickly dissipate.  There are quick fixes for these type odors with the use of air purifiers/nutralizers, such as the CritterZone Air Naturalizer  and Honeywell Air Purifier with Hepa Filter.  We are fond of the Febreeze line of fabric freshener products to use on our pets’ favorite nesting spaces.

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With a nose of a bloodhound, I can detect pet urine or wet-dog odors the minute I open the front door of a home.  I once showed a house where doggie odor permeated the entire house. It was unbelievably strong and unpleasant enough that you had to cover your nose to make it through. The culprit finally presented himself as a crated Beagle in the laundry room.  Bless his heart, he was a sweetie.  He couldn’t help the fact that he just needed a bath.  On the flip side, I have shown homes with as many as three dogs, a couple of cats and a hamster and never got a whiff of an odor.  It’s obvious that some breeds and species of pets have a more potent body odor than others. However, a pleasant smelling home  can be accomplished by cleaning and sanitizing on a regular basis.  One of the worst things we can do is go overboard with the use of strong scented plug-ins, candles, etc., in hopes of masking an odor.   It only compounds the problem by ending up with a funky-type of eau de cat, vanilla, cinnamon bun, breath of spring, hazelnut cream scented pet odor.  Layering of scents is not the best way to go.  In fact, some perfumed scents can contribute to behavioral problems in our pets as explained in this article from our friends at PetsWeekly.com.

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The odors that linger are the ones that make the marketability of our home difficult and, in turn, could result in  a decrease in fair market value. The most difficult odor to completely eradicate from a home is dog or cat urine that has been left to soak into the carpet or wood flooring for an extended period of time. There are products on today’s market that offer some great solutions for the occasional pet “accident”; such as, Urine-Off Pet Odor Neutralizer, both cat and dog formulas, which can be used on most surfaces.  Zorbx also makes a line of pet odor and stain removal products along with PawGanics.    However, repetitive marking by your dog or cat in a particular location  that has saturated the carpet and pad through to the concrete, may call for  more drastic measures.

In my area of the South, most homes are built on a cement slab; some with carpet that is placed directly on the slab with a thick pad underneath.  Often times, the only way to completely eradicate pet urine and its odor is to replace the carpet and pad.  Before replacing the carpet, it’s a good idea  to scrub the concrete with Clorox or a commercial cleaner, such as Urine-Off and seal the concrete afterwards with a concrete sealer to prevent the odor from seeping back up through the new pad and carpet.  If you have hardwood floors or a conventional foundation with a wood sub-floor that has been saturated with pet urine, you may need to replace the wood flooring; depending on the severity of the damage. Liquids of any type are wood’s worst enemy.

Listing a home with extreme pet odor due to urine soiled flooring, and/or damaged carpet or flooring may require us to reduce the list price of the  home between 10-20% of its fair market value;  depending on the severity of damage.  Whether choosing to reduce the list price or replace the flooring, neither option is easy on the check book.

Unfortunately, not all potential buyers are pet lovers.  I know, it’s difficult to fathom.  I’ve had clients that will not consider purchasing a home that has any type of household odor present.  Their worst fear is that they buy the house and will be unable to eradicate the odor. Additionally, they assume a correlation exists between pet odor, smoke odor or any other household odor and a lack of pride of ownership and, in turn; deferred maintenance.   Hopefully, with these tips, we can all enjoy an odor-free home by the time it goes on the market.

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