5 Tips to Fix Pet Damage that Could Prevent a Home from Selling

Home destruction
Take a look around your home: what sentimental sites do you see? Irreplaceable family pictures. Vintage furniture pieces. Cherished artwork. Stains on the carpet that remind you of the time before you got dear “Fido” housebroken? How sentimental is that last one in hindsight now that you’re considering selling your home? I bet you weren’t too happy about those stains when you first discovered them, and neither will home buyers.  If you’re frowning then you probably just had the realization that while the family pet is literally like family, their presence in your home has real consequences for your home’s value.

The damage incurred by the family pet—or maybe even your tenant’s pet—can significantly impact your home’s value. While you appreciate your canine, feline, or even winged friends’ companionship the next owner of your property might not feel the same way. Here are five common types of pet damage that could put your property’s sale value at risk and suggestions of how to fix them.

Even if they’re outdoor pets—they’re going to get noticed

Most homeowners focus on preparing the interior of their property ahead of showings or an open house. The exterior is every buyer’s first impression though and first impressions last forever. Outdoor damage caused by pets include: holes from digging, scratches or chew marks on the facade, and damaged plants. All of these can be remedied before showing your home. If you can enlist a professional gardener to replace or trim plants and shrubs pets have gnawed on do so. All holes should be filled in as much as possible—if the landscape damage is beyond self-repair opt for professional help as you do not want your yard to look like a fresh minefield.  Speaking of mines, be sure to clean up the animal feces scattered in the yard too.  You don’t want to have buyers distracted by looking where they step to avoid stepping in something, rather than looking at the beauty of the yard and house.

Don’t let a whiff be your downfall

Mulberry, Maple, or Cedar trees right outside your front door may get your buyers’ allergies raging, but those whiffs of allergy-inducing foliage outside cannot be helped. What can be helped are the allergy and offensive odors inside cause by your pets. While you may be so accustomed to your home that you do not notice it, pets do emanate smells that can turn buyers off whether it’s because they have pet allergies or develop an aversion to the scent of our furry snuggle buddy. You can try air fresheners to air the house out but a long-term pet means you’ll likely need to nix set in odors.  Change the AC filters, have the carpets professionally cleaned, then spray the carpets with an odor-killing product like Febreeze.  This should eliminate carpet odors.

Urine stains on walls, trim, and carpets can host offensive odors too so you should spot treat or eliminate problematic areas. For urine stains on the trim or walls, for example, you may need to replace the drywall as stains do seep in over time if left untreated and cause odors to emanate.  Before replacing drywall, try using Kilz oil-based primer to seal the odor then paint over it to match the color.  Carpet is a similar story—while it may seem daunting and costly to replace or remove, stained carpet is both unsightly and offensive to the nose.  You may want to try stain-removing products first, but some may discolor the carpet.  My favorite is Goof Off but test it on a hidden area first.  If you’re only dealing with one spot, have a professional carpet installer cut out the spot and patch it with carpeting from the inside of a closet.  You can have the closet re-carpeted much cheaper, and it isn’t as important if it’s not a perfect match to the existing color.  Carpeting experts can closely match the patch, and distress it to match wear of the surrounding carpet, making it virtually unnoticeable.  If all else fails, you were probably going to have to replace the carpet anyway.  If you are planning on re-carpeting, and want to choose a cheaper grade of carpet, make sure that you install a higher-grade padding.  The springiness and bounciness of a good pad can make any carpet feel like a top-dollar grade carpet.

Speaking of those floors…

Aside from removing or replacing carpets you should also take stock of your hardwood floors. While hardwood is a big selling point for buyers, damage that detracts from them can lead someone on the fence to opt out of the big project. You can try to keep damage to a minimum by putting down rugs and keeping pets’ nails trim, but if that is insufficient or comes too late in the game you should consider the most efficient and effective fix possible including getting the floors professionally refinished.  While you’re at it, upgrade to a hand-scrapped finish.   Buyers love hand-scraped floors.  Also choose a flat finish and a dark stain because they hide scrapes and scratches, and are the easiest to spot fix if the floor gets scratched during a showing.  Speaking of showings, make sure you have a good doormat that can remove dirt, rocks, etc. from the shoes of the people that will be walking on those clean unscratched floors.

Chewing and gnawing is a lose-lose

Chewing and gnawing of trim, window screens, cables, and ledges is another common problem to keep an eye out for. Cats especially are the main culprits of this kind of damage and the result can definitely be costly to a seller. As a rule of thumb, this kind of damage typically requires swapping out the damaged pieces for brand new replacements as it is difficult to sand down or refinish them otherwise. Chewed or gnawed spaces are quick indicators of pets formerly residing in the residence and a red flag to look out for additional damage.  Damaged trim pieces need to be replaced, as well as damaged window treatments.  Just remove the damaged cables and cords.  If trim is only partially damaged, the gouges can be filled with wood filler or bondo and sanded.  Use drywall mud to repair any drywall scrapes.

If you’re going to show it, don’t show it

Don’t just stop at making your house look damage free, go the extra steps to make it look pet-free.  Get rid of all the chewed up furniture and rugs, and get rid of all the pet accessories too.  If they aren’t reminded about pets, then they won’t be reminded to look for pet damage.  Send Fido to the spa (kennel) for the week, and put up the bowls and doggie bed.

While there may be no amount of money you can assign to your family pet, there is an amount of money that the same pet can take away from the value of your home. In order to maximize the core value of your home, investing a little to renew it to the sheen of its pet-free days may be worth the effort and expense.  Otherwise man’s best friend may become your listing’s worst enemy.

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