Pets are a much loved staple of American home life, and a recent national estimate reports that 68 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet. But when it’s time to sell the family home pets can complicate the process unless the proper steps are taken.

Pets impact home sales in several ways, explained Mark Santoyo of RE/MAX Loyalty. “My main concern with pets is their effect on a home’s cleanliness and its smell. If a home is nicely cleaned and free of pet odors, the presence of pets is rarely an issue. However, if there is pet hair everywhere, strong pet odor in the house or pet waste around the yard, it can increase the time needed to sell the property and reduce its value.”

Animal allergies are a common concern, and buyers who have them can be easily turned off if a house has pets, said Realtor David Scott.

“Buyers occasionally are sensitive enough that they ask not to see homes where certain pets, typically cats or dogs, are residents. Other buyers will ask to leave a home immediately if they smell strong or foul pet odors,” Scott said. Of course, many buyers have pets of their own and often show greater tolerance.

So what should pet owners do to be sure Rover and Fluffy don’t negatively impact the sale of their home? Real estate brokers offer five straightforward bits of advice:

  • Clean the place, especially any rugs or carpeting, thoroughly before putting the home on the market, which may mean calling in professionals. And don’t forget the air vents.
  • Once the house is clean, keep it that way.
  • Pet owners often don’t notice the odors caused by their animals, so it’s best to ask your broker or friend if odors are noticeable.
  • Ideally, remove pets from the home while the house is on the market. If that’s impractical, either take the pets out during showings or keep them confined in a small room or crate.

“Safety is the major reason to remove pets from the home during showings,” said Scott, who noted he once was attacked by a dog at a property he was showing. “Pet owners usually think their animals are harmless, but accidents do happen, and both homeowners and brokers could have legal liability.”

Pets also can be a distraction. Some people are phobic about animals. Others adore them. Either group can have a hard time ignoring a pet if it is wandering around the home.

“Do you want a buyer playing with your cat for 15 minutes or seeing the best features of your home?” he asked.

Scott estimates that for every dollar in actual repair expense to remedy pet-related damage, a typical buyer will reduce their offer by $2 to $3.

“I tell sellers that if they want to achieve maximum value in their home sale, it’s best to correct the flaws themselves, rather than offering credits to the buyer,” he said.