Although pets are some of our most beloved companions, they can turn into our worst nightmares when it comes time to sell a home. Hidden stains, fur balls and lingering odors we’ve become noseblind to can cause buyers, especially those with allergies, to run for the hills.
While some mild pet odors and stains are an easy DIY removal job for sellers to complete on the weekends, there are times when more extreme measures are needed to bring a listing up to par. According to real estate agents on Inman’s Coast to Coast Facebook page, an ozone machine is an effective solution for persistent pet odors.
DIY solutions for mild messes
“[Get an] ozone machine,” Tennessee-based agent Heather Mauck said in a comment that received five likes and five follow-up comments. “Every agent should have one.”
According to an explainer by ozone machine manufacturer Ozone Solutions, ozone machines eliminate odors by infusing the air with additional oxygen molecules. During the process, the machine sucks in air from the environment and infuses it with additional oxygen molecules, which become ozone molecules (O3). The machine then releases the ozone, which oxidizes and neutralizes odors and other dangerous particles.
The machines cost around $300 and will run up to six hours on one cycle, Mauck explained.
“Once you [come back], open the windows to let the ozone out,” she said during a phone call with Inman. “Then walk around and see if those scents are coming back. If they’re coming back, shut the windows, run it for another six hours.”
“I have heard of places running them for 24 to 48 hours straight,” she added. “Most ozone machines will have a hold, meaning that you can run it for three days in a row if that’s what you need to do. Just make sure you have the air circulating.”
Agents Naomi Lynn Preston and Brandon Doyle also suggested the use of common household cleaners, such as Pine-Sol, and specialty cleaners made specifically for breaking down pet odors and stains.
“Spray [the area] down with Pine-Sol, clean their air conditioner coils [and] change the air filters,” Preston suggested. “[Also] deep cleaning the floors with Pine-Sol.”
“[Use] Killz [cleaner] on the subfloor and any other marked surfaces [and] replace all carpeting and pads,” Doyle added.
When to bring in the professionals
However, DIY methods might not be effective for homes with wide-spread and deep-seated stains and odors. In that case, agents suggested leaving the process to cleaning, flooring, remodeling or HVAC professionals who can help clean or replace stained flooring or drywall.
According to home improvement platform Fixr, homeowners can expect to pay $1,400 for a professional pet odor and stain removal service. The cost will depend on the severity of the issue, which cleaning method is used, and whether floor replacement is needed.
For steam cleaning, professionals charge up to $200 per room and an additional $50-$80 for each piece of furniture that needs cleaning as well. Odor elimination costs another $40 per hour and total odor remediation costs up to $250 per hour, depending on the severity of the problem. If a client prefers a chemical-free clean, Fixr said the cost can balloon up to $1,100.
However, in severe cases, steam cleaning and odor elimination and remediation may not be enough. In this instance, the flooring will need to be removed, the subfloor will need to be cleaned, and new flooring installed.
“Ripping out affected carpeting, linoleum or hardwood usually costs between $50 and $100 per hour, with an additional $50-$150 per hour charged if the subfloor needs to be sanded down or the concrete slab under the flooring needs to be ground to rid the area of the smell,” the explainer read. “Replacing the existing floor may cost $500 to $10,000 per room, depending on the type of flooring being installed and the size of the space.”
“For instance, linoleum can be replaced for as little as $1-$3 per square foot; while hardwood can run as much as $10-$20 per square foot,” it continued. “When cats have saturated a wall with urine markings, it may be necessary to replace portions of the drywall, which costs between $40-$60 per panel, including materials and labor.”
A professional ozone machine shock service may need to be added, which tacks on an additional $1,100 for homes greater than 3,000 square feet.
What to do if the seller can’t clean
Despite agents’ best efforts to remedy the problem, some sellers may not agree to take on a massive cleaning project due to financial reasons. In that case, Mauck told Inman it’s important to be transparent with buyers about the issue and negotiate a solution.
“If the seller isn’t going to pay up and if they don’t have any wiggle room in negotiating, I would call the sellers agent and ask, ‘What are your thoughts on this?'” she said. “There are other reasons [why a seller won’t pay]. I mean, the seller could be elderly and they may be in a situation where they don’t have somewhere else to go while you run an ozone machine in their house.”
Mauck said if sellers aren’t willing to take on the task of cleaning before closing, she presents them and their listing agent with what it would cost the buyer to take on that task, including the cost of staying in a hotel room while the cleaning takes place.
“I would extend the offer to my buyers, and let them know I have special knowledge about this,” she said. “I would tell my buyers I know for sure how to get that smell out of that house and allow them to research that information.”
“[On the seller side], the dollar amount from the seller would need to be whatever a hotel stay would be for three days,” she added. “Or if my buyers had a sale pending on their home, I would ask if we can file for them to pay rent to stay in their own home for three additional days.”
If that doesn’t work, Mauck said agents can suggest their buyer place precious items into a temporary storage pod and move the bare necessities into their new home while professionals clean the flooring, walls and duct systems.
“I would then figure out the cost for, let’s say, a day to go to an amusement park or go to a local attraction so I can go in there, get the ozone machine up and let it run,” she said. “I would break it down on a worksheet so the seller understood that we weren’t trying to get over on them, but that’s what’s needed to get the deal done.”