All of us in The Davis Group are cat parents and cat lovers, so we understand the important place your furry family members hold in your heart and in your home. We also know that sharing your home with cats can present particular challenges when preparing your home to sell.
We have seen the reactions when potential buyers are greeted with litter box odors as they tour a home and have done our fair share of herding cats to keep them from getting outside during a showing. While we are certainly happy to do all that we can to keep your cats safe and comfortable during showings and open houses, this can be a stressful experience for your furry friends and can scare off some buyers.
Unfortunately, not all potential buyers are cat lovers -- and even those who are often do not respond favorably when they see evidence of cats in a home for sale. Some people are afraid of cats, some are allergic to cats, some think pets should be kept outside, and some immediately start to wonder what kind of damage they are going to find under rugs and behind furniture.
There is also the issue of wanting potential buyers to see themselves living in your house. Part of preparing your home to put on the market is depersonalizing it enough for buyers to imagine it as their future home. When these buyers see pets or evidence of pets, it is a constant reminder that this is your home and makes it more difficult for them to see it as their potential home.
So, to keep you sane, keep your cats safe and keep buyers from being distracted, let’s go over some tips for sellers to help you prepare your home for open houses and showings.
How to Keep Your Cats Safe During Open Houses
Most folks don’t mind keeping doors closed to keep cats inside while they are looking at a house. If it is a private showing with just a realtor and one or two people, this might work out just fine. However, there is always the chance that they will forget or that your cat will slip outside unnoticed.
This is even more of a possibility with open houses, since your real estate agent may not be able to keep their eyes on all of the visitors and all of the doors to make sure someone does not let your cats out.
Plus, even if the doors are successfully kept closed and your cats remain safely inside, having strangers wandering around the house may be stressful for them.
It doesn’t really work to lock your cats in a particular room, since people looking at your house are going to want to see every bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet, laundry room, and anywhere else that might be big enough to comfortably house your cats during showings.
The best option is to arrange for your cats to be away from home during showings or open houses. If you are able to leave them with a friend or family member, take them to work with you, hire a pet sitter, or take them to a pet day care, that is usually best. This allows your cats to be comfortable and keeps them safe.
If this is not an option and your cats need to stay at home, you might consider keeping them in a carrier during showings or open houses to make sure they do not get outside or that children do not chase them under the bed.
How to Handle Cat Litter Boxes When Your Home Is On the Market
Litter boxes are an unavoidable necessity for folks who share their homes with cats. Unfortunately, they are usually unsightly additions to your décor and often give off unpleasant odors.
The first tip for sellers while their home is on the market is to clean your cat box multiple times a day. This will help keep odors to a minimum and help you be more prepared for surprise showings.
Next, you need to decide if it is feasible for you to hide your cat litter box during open houses and showings. If you have a typical, plastic litter box with no cover, there really is no choice here. Potential buyers are not going to want to see an uncovered cat box while they are touring your home. It doesn’t matter how clean it is; this is not a good look.
So, if this is the type of litter box you have, find a spot where you can hide it completely out of sight before potential buyers arrive. This might be in a cabinet in the garage, a backyard storage shed or some other spot where buyers likely will not look. Closets are not a good option, since potential buyers will likely look inside closets to check out the storage situation.
Covered cat boxes are better options when selling your home. While you should still hide a covered litter box before open houses, this option is at least a little more acceptable if you do not have time to run home and move your cat box before an impromptu showing. Keep it in an out-of-the-way area that is accessible for your cats but is inconspicuous enough to avoid distracting home buyers looking at your house. And, of course, if at all possible, hide it before showings.
The best option for convenience and visual appeal is to invest in a litter box that masquerades as furniture. Options include side tables, console tables, benches, potted plants, and more. Cat boxes that look like furniture still need to be cleaned regularly to keep odors at bay, but they do not need to be moved every time someone wants to see your house. This keeps your cats happy, makes your life easier and helps keep your house ready to show on short notice.
Now, let’s talk about cat litter box odors.
How to Keep Your Litter Box from Smelling
This can be a huge issue when preparing to sell your home. In the realm of unpleasant odors in homes we have toured, nothing beats cat urine and litter boxes. It is a distinct smell that permeates the air and can have buyers turning on their heels to get out of your home as quickly as possible. This, of course, is not conducive to selling your home, so let’s go over some options to reduce litter box smells.
As mentioned above, the first and most important step is to clean it regularly. This removes solid and liquid waste before the odor takes hold.
The next step is adding washing the cat box and changing out the litter to your weekly to-do list. This means discarding the old litter, washing the box with dish soap or vinegar and baking soda, drying the box completely, and refilling it with a few inches of fresh litter. For added odor control, sprinkle the bottom of your cat box with baking soda before adding litter.
If your cat box is old and scratched up, it might be time to replace it, since those scratches can be difficult to clean and allow the box to hold odors.
Once you have made these daily and weekly tasks part of your routine, it is time to find the best cat litter to reduce litter box smells, make scooping easy and keep your cats happy. Just like people, cats have different preferences. This means that some cats will immediately take to recycled newspaper cat litters and others refuse to use anything but clay. So, it might take a bit of trial and error to find the right cat litter that works for both you and your cats.
You will see plenty of advertisements for cat litters that promise to reduce litter box smells. Some of these litters have strong perfumes to mask the odor. This can be effective in some cases, but cats tend to not like these strong fragrances, which could worsen the problem if your cats avoid their box and relieve themselves elsewhere.
Some of these fragranced litters have smells that are so strong you will want to hold your breath while cleaning them, which clearly shows that these are not good options when selling your home, since potential buyers may be sensitive to strong smells or, at minimum, may recognize these distinct aromas as a coverup for litter box odors.
You are better off choosing an unscented litter and keeping up on your cleaning routine.
You will also need to choose between clumping litters and non-clumping litters. Clumping litters make scooping liquid and solid waste much easier. Since keeping your litter box clean is an ongoing task when preparing to sell your home, you will likely find that clumping litters are a more convenient option.
Clumping clay litters are the most common, the least expensive and the easiest to find; however, there are environmental and social justice implications that make clay litters a less-than-ideal choice. For example, the bentonite clay used in cat litter is often strip mined on Native American land. Some veterinarians have also expressed concern that using clay litters can cause intestinal blockages, particularly in kittens.
For these reasons, you might instead consider clumping litters made from corn, walnut or wheat.
If possible, place your cat box in a well-ventilated area to avoid concentrating odors in the spot surrounding the box.
Overall Odor Control for Homes with Cats
Using a combination of the right litter, baking soda and regular cleaning forms the foundation of odor control when selling a home with cats. Of course, even sticking to this regimen religiously may not be enough to completely remove litter box smells and related odors.
So, here are a few more tips that may help:
What to Do with Cat Bowls, Beds, Scratching Posts & Toys
When preparing for a showing or an open house, you need to balance the needs of your cats with your need to prepare your home to sell. They will, of course, need access to their food and water bowls, scratching posts, beds, and toys whenever they are home. This means that you need a plan that will allow you to quickly and easily remove or hide these items when a showing is scheduled or when your real estate agent is hosting an open house.
If you have a storage ottoman or bench that is currently filled with throw blankets or magazines, this might be your best solution. Relocate the throw blankets to a closet so that you can use this conveniently located storage space to quickly stow beds and toys before showings.
If this is not an option, grab a laundry basket and make a trip around the house gathering cat beds and toys to stow in a cabinet, storage shed or garage. The garage is also a good spot for larger items, like scratching posts and cat trees.
Food and water bowls can be placed inside a cabinet to quickly hide them when potential buyers are on their way.
Preparing Your Home To Sell: Tips for Sellers with Cats
If you share your home with cats, preparing your home to put on the market might come with a few additional tasks. You might also have to add a few chores to your to-do list when prepping for open houses and showings.
If it is in your budget, you will want to start by repairing any damage. This might include scratch marks on walls or trim, stains on rugs or carpets, scratched or stained furniture, warped baseboards or laminate flooring damaged from urine, or scratch marks on windowsills that happen to be your cat’s favorite spot to lounge in the sun.
The next step is giving your home a thorough cleaning to seek out urine spots, remove cat hair from furnishings, and clean stains on rugs, carpet and furniture. Thoroughly vacuum, sweep and mop all floors to remove as much cat hair and dander as possible.
Once you have accomplished this, it is time to move on to your maintenance plan to help keep your home ready to show to potential buyers on short notice.
Here’s a handy checklist to keep on hand when prepping your home for a showing or open house:
1. Use a lint brush, damp towel or rubber glove to remove cat hair from furniture, curtains and other textiles.
2. Dust all surfaces to remove cat hair and dander.
3. Vacuum carpets and rugs and sweep and mop hard-surface floors to remove hair, dander and tracked litter.
4. Check for fur balls under beds and sofas and in corners and closets.
5. Hide cat bowls, beds, toys, and scratching posts.
6. Clean corners of walls and door jambs where your cats rub.
7. Check for hairballs and vomit hidden around the house.
8. Make sure your cats are safe and comfortable before the buyers arrive.
Side note: If you have heavy shedders, you might want to brush them more often to reduce the amount of hair you have to clean up before showing your home to buyers.
The more accessible your home is for potential buyers to see at a moment’s notice, the better chance you have of selling your home. But you must balance this with the time you need to make sure that your cats are safe and comfortable and that your home is ready to show. Therefore, you may need to let your realtor know that you need time to prepare and cannot accommodate last-minute showings.
To limit prep time and accommodate potential buyers as much as possible, stay on top of your cleaning routine, have a plan in place for your cat’s comfort, and create a convenient storage spot where you can quickly stow your cat’s belongings.
What Is Home Equity?
Equity is the value of the unencumbered interest you have in your property. The value of your interest in the property is determined by comparing the market value of the property with the amount owed on the property. For example, if the current market value of your home is $700,000, the balance you owe on your mortgage is $200,000, and you have no additional liens on the property, then the equity you have in your home is $500,000.
The equity you have in your home changes as the value of your home changes, which can be affected by how well you maintain your home, whether or not you update and improve your home, and fluctuations in the real estate market.
You gain equity in your home when you make a down payment, pay down the principle of your mortgage, complete home improvement projects that add value to your home or when the market value of your home increases.
You lose equity in your home when you take out a second mortgage, use a home equity line of credit, have a lien placed on your home, do not maintain your home in a way that retains your home’s value or when the market value of your home decreases.
While the purchase price of your home reflects what your home was worth at the time of purchase, it has little to do with the current value of your home. This means that whether you paid $300,000 or $2,000,000 when you purchased your home, the current value of your home may be a very different number.
Why Does Home Equity Matter?
For most homeowners, the equity they hold in their primary residence is a significant portion of their overall wealth. For many, it makes up the largest portion of their net worth, which indicates just how important equity can be. This also shows that increasing the equity you have in your home is a way to increase your net worth.
The equity you have in your home is an integral part of determining your potential profit if you choose to put it on the market, which, in turn, is essential in determining how much you can afford to spend on your next home.
You can also use a percentage of your equity as collateral in order to obtain a home equity loan (commonly referred to as a second mortgage) or a home equity line of credit. This means that, while equity is not a liquid asset, it can be used as collateral to help you obtain necessary funding to cover medical bills, pay college tuition, pay down higher-interest debts or fund your retirement. You can also borrow against your equity to pay for home improvements that may increase the value of your home.
If you would like to learn more about what your home is currently worth and the potential sale price of your home in today’s market, contact Nora Davis.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
Spring is the most popular time to put your house on the market and, as noted in this Realtor.com article, listing in spring can lead to better appraisals and a higher sale price.
While a good cleaning is certainly in order when planning to list your home, you may not want to wait for your annual spring cleaning if you want to be on the market by spring.
In order to get your home ready to sell early in the year, here are nine pre-spring cleaning tips to help you prepare your home and increase that all-important curb appeal to attract more potential buyers.
9 Pre-Spring Cleaning Tips to Increase Curb Appeal
Curb appeal is critical when selling your home. Potential buyers get their first impression of your home from how it looks as they drive by or walk up to it. It is also important to note that many folks in the market for a new home drive by houses to check them out before they make an appointment for a showing. Therefore, it is incredibly important that the front of your home is visually appealing in order to attract buyers.
1. Remove the clutter.
The first – and often most important – step in increasing curb appeal is clearing clutter. This could mean picking up toys left behind by your children or dogs, packing up your collection of garden gnomes, or reducing the number of flowerpots on your front porch.
If your front yard has any trash, car parts, furniture that has seen better days or other types of junk, it really is in your best interest to find a way to discard these items. Potential buyers often drive by a home before making an appointment, and if they see junk or clutter in the front yard, they will likely assume that there is more of the same inside. This will reduce your home’s perceived value and will likely make your home more difficult to sell.
Clean up the clutter to see an immediate increase in your home’s curb appeal and help get it ready to put on the market.
2. Trim trees, shrubs and bushes.
The next step is to trim low-hanging branches, prune shrubs that may be partially blocking walkways and cut back bushes to give your yard a cleaner look. If your front yard has views, now is also a great time to cut back trees and shrubs to highlight the view. Or, if your home has interesting architectural features, you will want to prune your landscaping to highlight those features.
Most importantly, you want your yard to look clean and be safe, and you want to avoid having branches or bushes that impede your potential buyers’ ease of movement throughout your yard. If your potential buyers have to duck under low-hanging branches or step around shrubs encroaching on walkways, they are more likely to think about the amount of work that will come along with buying your house. While a few untrimmed trees might not seem like a big deal, this could cause your potential buyer to choose another house that will require less work.
3. Clear the weeds.
This one might seem a bit too obvious to need to include on this list, but you might be surprised at the number of homeowners who forget to pull weeds before a showing. The only time potential buyers do not mind seeing weeds growing in the front yard is when they are looking at fixer uppers or other homes that they expect to get for a great deal. When purchasing homes that need work, it is expected that the landscaping will need work as well.
However, this also means that weeds are a sign that your home might need work or has not been cared for quite as well as one might hope.
We all have weeds and it is a pain to stay on top of them, but when you are preparing to sell your house, keeping weeds out of your yard is a critical part of increasing and maintaining your home’s curb appeal.
4. Replace your mailbox.
If you have a great mailbox that is in good repair, you may be able to skip this one. However, it is worth considering, since this is an affordable way to improve the street view of your home. A new coat of paint might also be enough to give your mailbox a facelift. Just be sure that you take a look at your mailbox and consider whether a new coat of paint or a new, upgraded mailbox might make your home more attractive.
5. Upgrade exterior light fixtures.
This home improvement project may be a bit more expensive than replacing your mailbox and may require an electrician but can really make a difference in the first impression folks get from your home. Older fixtures can make your home look dated, but new exterior lights can freshen your home’s façade with little effort.
6. Reseed natural grass lawns.
Many Southern California homeowners are moving away from natural grass lawns and towards drought-tolerant landscaping. While fewer homes have front lawns, this is still a common landscaping feature and one that requires extra care to keep it looking its best when it comes time to sell your home.
When your home is on the market, you will need to keep your lawn mowed, weeded and edged regularly so that you are always ready for last-minute showings. For now, you can get started on improving the appearance of your lawn by reseeding it. This will allow new grass to grow and fill in bare or thin areas by the time you are ready to list your home.
7. Refresh plantings.
Plants are a great way to quickly and affordably add color and texture to your yard. If your plants are looking a bit lackluster, now is the perfect time to refresh your garden beds. By replacing or adding to plants now, you are giving your flowerbeds a couple of months for the plants to get established and begin to fill in before your house goes on the market.
This is also the perfect time to increase visual interest by adding pops of color to your front yard landscaping.
8. Apply a fresh coat of paint.
It is often a good idea to repaint the exterior of your home when you are preparing to sell, but this is not in everyone’s budget. If your house does not need to be completely repainted, or if you would like to keep your home improvement expenses to a minimum, you may want to consider just painting the trim to freshen your home’s façade.
You may also want to consider painting your fence, front porch or any patio furniture that may be on the porch. Paint is an inexpensive way to quickly refresh surfaces and structures, which makes it an easy, affordable way to immediately increase your home’s curb appeal.
9. Clean your windows.
While you definitely will want to add this to your to-do list, you will want to take on this task after you have completed most of your other updates or cleanup efforts. Washing your windows too early in the process could result in needing to clean them again after paint or dust is introduced from other projects.
Make sure you clean both the exterior and interior sides of your windows to allow in light and give your home a clean, bright look that potential buyers will appreciate.
Savvy sellers know that potential buyers get their first impression of your home before they ever set foot inside. In fact, many buyers will drive by your house before calling your realtor to schedule a showing, which means that first impression could determine whether or not those buyers even see the inside of your home.
This makes increasing curb appeal important for every seller, but it is particularly important if the inside of your home is far more impressive than the exterior. If most of your home's finer points are found inside -- like travertine tile, granite counters or other appealing upgrades -- you must first entice your potential buyers to come inside before they can see them.
If your home is lacking curb appeal, this can be pretty challenging.
Fortunately, even if a paving stone driveway or river rock garden wall is out of your budget, there are plenty of easy ways you can improve the first impression people get when they drive by your home.
Here are three easy ways to increase curb appeal to help attract potential buyers:
Removing unnecessary items and cleaning up your front yard is not just for homeowners who happen to have an old clothes washer on their porch or car parts filling their driveway.
It can be just as distracting to see a plethora of potted plants, an extensive collection of garden gnomes or other items that make your driveway, front yard, porch or entry look crowded and cluttered.
Of course, if you do have car parts, old appliances or extra furniture in your front yard, those things need to be the first to go.
Part of increasing your home's appeal to potential buyers is creating a welcoming atmosphere where they can see themselves living. If the space is filled with your personal items or shows off your very distinctive personal style, you may need to de-personalize the space enough to allow potential buyers to see their bistro set on the porch or their garden art in the yard.
Therefore, removing the clutter and de-personalizing the space is just as important as mowing the grass or pulling weeds.
3. Fix the Little Things
Larger home improvement projects may have a more significant impact on your home's value or its curb appeal, but small projects are easier on your budget and are often enough to immediately improve the look of your home.
Replacing missing window screens, repainting your home's trim and filling cracks in concrete walkways will help increase your home's appeal and show your buyers that your home has been well cared for over the years.
Make a list of the small projects from which your home could benefit. Then prioritize them with those that will make the most difference at the top of the list. Determine which of these small improvements and repairs will most comfortably fit into your budget, and spend a weekend or two checking them off of the list and improving the look of your home.
By following these simple steps to increase your home's curb appeal, your home may spend less time on the market before it sells. If your home has been on the market for a while and there seems to be a lack of interest, try these simple steps to refresh its look, which may lead to renewed interest and more showings.
For more ways to increase curb appeal, check out 101 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell.
If you would like to speak to an Ojai realtor about preparing your home to sell, contact Nora today.
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