“Woof, woof” can be music to a dog owner’s ears, but not to everyone else. While we all love our dogs (actually I don’t have a dog at present, but if I did, I’d surely love it), there is sad news for those of you who plan to sell your homes someday. Your dogs can be a detriment to the process.
Truth is that most prospective buyers will not have an inkling of sentiment for the four-legged occupants of a house for sale. Any feeling they might have is usually total disinterest at best and naked fear at worst.
For agents representing buyers, it can be a greater challenge to get into and out of the house where man’s best friend lives. Agents tend to moan when they book a showing for a client and instructions with the listing office might include a comment like “dog’s name is Killer, but don’t be alarmed, he’s big and loud, but really very gentle,” or better yet, “it’s best not to enter the garage where two large dogs will be in crates. If your buyer insists on seeing the garage, do NOT try to pet the dogs.”
In a market where showings should be as convenient as possible, the dog issue is one to be taken seriously and accommodated creatively. This can sometimes put a genuine hardship on the owner, but it’s highly advisable. Buyers are more likely to make an offer on a house they like if they get to spend more time in it, and if there is frenzied barking the entire time they’re trying to view the house, all they’ll want to do is leave as soon as possible.
A while back, good friends of ours, two gentlemen who were great dog lovers, acquired three medium sized dogs over the course of a couple of years. The dogs were all the same breed of English bulldog, a truly hyper variety with faces only a mother could love. They were the most ill-behaved dogs I’ve ever encountered. When my wife and I would visit for dinner in their masters’ home, the trio would jump up on us until our legs were actually in pain from their heavy footedness. After a while, my wife replaced wearing a skirt and stockings to their home with heavy jeans in order to brave the dogs’ manic behavior.
At the same time that they were mauling us, their incessant barking was accompanied by a lot of yelling from their owners demanding that they calm down and let us live. My wife, no aficionado of dogs to begin with, especially ill behaved ones, finally put her foot down and insisted that the dogs be secured in another room when we were visiting.
When our friends decided to move to North Carolina, I was delighted to list their exceptional Arts & Crafts home, but the issue of the dogs had to be handled firmly. Since one of the owners worked from home, I insisted that he take the dogs completely out of the house when the property was to be shown, and he agreed. Fortunately the house came with a big property and he was able to walk them a distance from the house during showings.
When looking for our own home, my wife and I booked a showing where, as soon we got out of our car, we were greeted by a chorus of loud barking. When we entered the center hall of the house, a closed door to the right was literally being strained from its hinges by at least two large dogs that seemed to be hurling their bodies against the only defense between them and our very lives. We were quite happy, actually, when we were told that we could not see the room behind the closed door. Even though we liked the overall look of the house, it was difficult to concentrate on it with such a huge distraction. We just wanted to leave.
More laid-back dogs that remain in a house when it is being shown might be found in crates, and my heart goes out to them. Although we’re told that dogs accept this kind of restriction, I have a hard time believing that and always feel guilty about their containment because of my visit.
Sometimes there is a more sensitive dog issue to be dealt with: when there is a residual smell of dog in the house of which the owners may not be aware. Addressing the freshening up of the air quality is something that must be done. This can be an issue with cats too, perhaps even more so because of the litter box. I once had a listing where the owner had died and during the time of the listing, his estate rented his house to a lovely woman who adopted stray cats whenever she found them. Unfortunately, the cats, accustomed to living outside, used the entire house as a litter box and you had to watch where you stepped. That was one broker open house where I didn’t offer lunch or refreshments and sat outside to welcome visitors and offer them a warning and explanation.
One of the most distressing sights involving dogs is when hardwood floors are stained by urine and/or the surface is severely damaged by their claws. It’s nearly impossible to correct that situation unless the floors are completely replaced.
On the rental end of the dog issue are the sad calls I receive from dog owners who have great difficulty in finding a landlord who will let them have a dog at all, and some condos and coops restrict their presence as well.
These can challenging issues to deal with, but a realtor’s job is to market a seller’s home, and part of that responsibility is to take all measures to ensure that the process doesn’t go to the dogs.
Bill Primavera is a Westchester, NY-based realtor (bill@PrimaveraRealEstate.com) and marketing practitioner (bill@PrimaveraPR.com) who can be reached for questions or comment directly at 914-522-2076.
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