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By Leslie Cook
June 11, 2021
Namaste the dog laying on a living room carpet of a modern apartment
Namaste sealed the deal on a $1.875 million Manhattan apartment.
Leslie O'Shea/Brown Harris Stevens

The internet is chock full of pet memes and photos because, let’s face it, people can’t resist a cute furry face. So, it’s no surprise that some home sellers and real estate agents have taken to including their pets in their listing photos.

Our pets have increasingly become a part of our families, in many cases influencing where we live. Forty-four percent of respondents in a recent survey said they consider their pets needs when choosing a place to live, according to Ally Home. Another 20% said they actually took their pets along with them when they went house hunting.

But is having your pet in your listing a help or a hindrance when it comes to selling your house?

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When you put your home up for sale you want to make sure it’s presented in the best light possible. The more attractive it is to the greatest number of potential buyers, the higher the probability you’ll get your home sold quickly.

Including pets in your listing photos has its pros and cons. If you have any doubts, your real estate agent can help guide you. They’ll know what does and doesn’t work in your market.

Agent Ron Leffler didn't plan to include a dog in the photos for a $665,000 apartment near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But Freddie looked so cute, he couldn't resist. Ron Leffler Real Estate

How including pets can help your listing

For real estate agents who do include pets in your listing photos, the biggest advantage is getting your home in front of a larger potential buyer pool.

“It does get the listing more attention, more shares, more social interaction when you share it,” says Elizabeth Baker, realtor with Re/Max Southern Shores in Charleston, South Carolina, adding that “when people are sharing your listing repeatedly on social media, it’s helpful.”

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A California home that featured a small dog in every listing photo was featured on the popular Zillow Gone Wild Instagram and TikTok accounts. It went into contract in just two days, despite a $1.2 million asking price and listing copy that described the places as “DATED.”

Aside from setting your home apart from other listings online, adding pets in some of the photos can also help point out a building or home’s pet friendliness, as well as creating a sense of fun around the listing.

“The point is to explore and curate a unique connection with potential buyers in your marketing,” says Ron Leffler, broker with Ron Leffler Real Estate in Washington, D.C.

In the best case scenario, your pet can actually help with a sale. In a Manhattan listing, a dog that appeared in a listing photo also happened to be in the apartment for a showing (usually a no-no, but more on that later), seemingly leading a tour of the apartment. The buyers actually credited the dog, who’s name is Namaste, with making the sale.

“Ultimately, the people who bought it said, ‘you’re great at your job, but the dog actually sold us the apartment — you should pay him a referral fee’,” says Leslie O’Shea, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens in New York.

While including pets can bring an element of fun and whimsy to your listing, it doesn’t mean you should put Rex in every single photo.

For Baker, who puts photos of dogs in almost all her home listings, the photos have to look natural. She’ll usually have the dog on the master bed, or on the couch in the living room. She’ll just include one or two photos with a pet. Having too many pet pictures, she says, is overkill.

You also want to be careful about what pet to include in the photos. Baker notes that small dogs seem to evoke the best reactions. Cats and large dogs, on the other hand, can give the impression of being smelly, which is a turn off for some potential buyers.

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How including a pet can hurt your listing

While the use of pets in marketing a home seems to be on the rise, there are still plenty of real estate agents who recommend against putting Fluffy in your home’s listing.

You want it shown in the best possible light. This means that your home should be decluttered and depersonalized, allowing the potential buyers to imagine themselves living in the space.

Many potential buyers are simply not interested in owning a pet or may have allergies to pet hair and dander. For these buyers, a listing with pets in the photos can leave a negative impression of the home that is hard to overcome.

“To some potential buyers, animals suggest potential bad smells, stains, damage and the possibility of allergies,” says Trey Van Tuyl, a realtor with Discover Homes Miami. “Even if none of those factors are relevant, it’s best not to plant the seed before someone has even entered the property.”

Including a pet in your photos can cancel an otherwise sure sale. A couple was looking through a picture carousel of a home that met all of their criteria and were certain this was the house. The last photo was of a dog on the front porch. When the couple’s daughter, who is severely allergic to dogs, saw that photo, she started sneezing.

“That was that. Easy come, easy go,” said Betsy Ronel, a realtor with Compass in Westchester county in New York.

Regardless of whether you decide to include pet photos in your home listing, there is one thing most agents agree on. Pets should not be in the home during showings or an open house.

Large dogs can be intimidating to some people, while others may be allergic to animals and have a negative reaction. Pets should be corralled or temporarily taken out of the home. Deep cleaning your home, including the carpeting, can also ensure any lingering pet smells will be eliminated when you show the home.

There is an exception to the above, however. If the property is a farm or an equestrian property, then pictures of the animals or horses and their surroundings are a definite plus.

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