Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

Can You Stage the Household Dog?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

You arrive at a listing appointment to be greeted by a big German Shepherd’s slobbery licks or two Chihuahuas yipping away at your every slightest movement. Many home owners have pets, but pets can pose a serious challenge when listing a home for-sale.

Stagers and real estate professionals traditionally want to remove any signs of a pet living there, tucking away the kitty litter boxes and mounds of pet toys and beds. They’ll also want to address that smell: Yes, Fido, often leaves a scent behind that a little vanilla and cinnamon candles or plug-ins may try to ease.

While you’ll likely better your chance with buyers by removing any signs of a pet on the premises, sometimes you may have no other choice but to tackle Fido head on. What do you do? ... Stage the pets!

When I sold my home a few years ago, I didn’t know what to do with my two small, feisty dogs during the workday when impromptu showings came about, and I wasn’t able to get home in time to hide all traces of dog, including the dogs themselves. (Many home owners don't like the idea of paying for doggy daycare if they're already paying for child daycare too!) So why not stage the dogs too?

That’s exactly what I did to my Yorkshire Terrier and Italian Greyhound. It was winter so I dressed them in matching light blue sweaters--a tad much, I realize, but I wanted them to look clean and well-groomed--so buyers would know that my house was too! I kept the dogs in their new, fluffy beds in the laundry room behind a gate, with a framed sign posted near the entryway to let guests know they were there.

The sign had a picture (showing the dogs in matching handkerchiefs--again, wanting them to look clean and well-put together--but also showing the dogs as harmless, in case they barked whenever the door was opened.) The sign read: “Welcome to our home!” I included the dogs names to personalize it, a reminder that they won’t harm you as you look around since they’re behind a gate in the laundry room (where they’d like to stay, please), as well as a mention to please forgive any barking--”we get excited to show off our home!”

Ironically, the dogs seemed to help me sell my home. We received two offers from buyers when the dogs were present, and none when they weren’t there. Did we make our house--or at least our laundry room--more memorable? Certainly. But did we turnoff some buyers? Probably a few, but we probably won over a few too who had a soft spot for well-dressed dogs.

Some agents and staging professionals have actually used dogs in listing photos to show off a home online--it’s a new staging trend called “placement pets.”

The “placement pet” idea gained some traction when the now-former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s listing photos (yes, we said “listing” photos, not those other photos!) featured a fluffy orange cat sleeping on the windowsill in a bedroom.

Others took notice and started experimenting with the staged pets in photos too: Fluffy cats perched on windowsills, Golden Retrievers playing in a yard to appeal to families, and boxers with choke collars in the industrial city loft that might attract singles, according to an article at AOL Real Estate on the “placement pets” trend.

In the article, Tristan H. Harper, a senior vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman agency in New York, says he uses designer dogs to help sell properties, even all the way up to using the perfectly poised pooches to sell a $3.75 million penthouse.

Sure, pets can be a turn-off to a lot of home buyers--those who have allergies, pet haters, or simply just view them as smelly pests. But when you don’t know what else to do with that home owner’s dog or cat and there’s simply no other place to hide them, then maybe instead of trying to pretend they aren’t there, you just give them a little staging too.

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REALTOR® Magazine is the official magazine of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the business tool for real estate professionals.