While all aspects of preparing your home to be shown for sale are personal, there is no area more prone to pitfalls and hurt feelings than pets. Understand that while you have an intimate relationship with your animal companion, your buyer does not. Many people are allergic to dog or cat hair and dander. Lingering odors that you no longer even notice may well squelch a prospective sale before the clients get past the front door.
** Understand That Your Realtor Doesn't Hate Fido or Fluffy **
Do not be offended if your realtor does his or her job. They are working on your behalf to sell your property. If your realtor says your home has pet odors, accept that it does. If your realtor says the carpet shows too many signs of pet wear or staining, accept it. These are not personal attacks on you or your dog or cat, but constructive advice intended to help your home to be shown to its best advantage.
** Evaluate All Carpet and Flooring **
If your carpet is reasonably new and can be rehabilitated by a good cleaning, have that done before the home is shown for the first time. Keep your pets off the refreshed carpet for the duration of the showing process. Often this can be accomplished with child gates that limit the animal's movement. If that arrangement proves too difficult, however, consider covering the carpet with protective tarps or plastic between showings.
Although dirt does not show as readily on wood or tile floors, make sure that all high traffic areas are thoroughly cleaned. If any parts of the baseboard or floor itself has been damaged by heavy traffic, scuffed by the dog's nails, or even chewed, consider having those portions replaced or sanded and refinished.
** Trust Someone Else's Nose Over Your Own **
The human nose easily becomes accustomed to odors. You may not be able to smell Fluffy's litter box, but if others say they can, believe them. Almost all litter boxes are plastic. Over time, the plastic absorbs the smell of the waste products. Get new boxes and opt for not just odor control litter, but also odor-controlling powder that is sprinkled in the bottom of the box before the litter is added.
Augment the litter box treatments with air fresheners placed nearby. Generally a citrus fragrance works best. Change the litter daily and make sure the removed material is tightly secured in garbage bags before being placed in the trash. If possible, do not keep trash in your garage where poor air circulation and heat will cause the bag to smell no matter how tightly it might be tied.
If you have a male cat who has sprayed in the house, it is imperative to have that portion of the flooring and carpet thoroughly cleaned. If the urine has seeped into the baseboard and wall material, this might also require changing. Cats will often spray when they are nervous or angry, so do not be surprised if the stress of having the home shown causes inappropriate behavior that has not been present before.
Dogs tend to do their "business" out of doors. Be sure that all feces are removed from the yard on a daily basis. If your dog is a digger, buy blocks of sod to cover the bare patches and keep the animal away from those parts of the yard. Also inspect your fence and replace any portions the dog may have damaged by either digging or chewing.
In extreme cases your realtor may recommend that the home be professionally cleaned or that products be placed in the air ducts to help control odor. Again, do not be offended. This does not mean your home is filthy or that your pets are "bad." This is a very common issue for pet owners and there are good products and methods for dealing with the problem.
** No Pets at the Showing **
Although not all showings are scheduled with sufficient advance warning to board your animals at the vet clinic, be prepared to either take Fido with you on a leash or to give Fluffy a ride in her carrier. You do not want your pets in the home while it is being shown.
There is always the danger that the animal will accidentally be let out, or, in the case of a dog who will be naturally protective of the property, that a biting incident might result. Having a prospective buyer chomped on by your beloved pooch is not conducive to closing a sale.
Additionally, remove all signs of the pet. Carry the litter boxes outside and get them out of sight. Remove all water and food bowls. Gather up all toys, especially those on which prospective buyers might slip and fall. The very best thing your realtor can say after a showing is, "They were so surprised to find out you have a dog / cat / bird / whatever."
** Showing a Home with Pets Just Means Extra Vigilance **
There is no reason why your pets have to be considered a problem either by your realtor or by the people looking at your home. As both a homeowner and an animal person, simply be open to the fact that odors may be present and extra cleaning required. This is not a judgment on you, your lifestyle, or your animals. It is simply a practical matter, as is relocating your pets during showings. You would not leave your young children unattended at the home while strangers toured the property. The analogy holds true for your animals. The more you do to mitigate the signs of your pets in the home, the more you contribute to a rapid, successful sale.