Newest Home-Staging Trend: 'Placement Pets'

home staging pets

The fluffy orange cat (the one who sank the congressman's ship) was thrust unwittingly into the public eye by the sheer coincidence that she (he?) happened to be sleeping on the windowsill when the listing photos for now-former Rep. Anthony Weiner's Forest Hillshome staging pets apartment were snapped and then again in those other incriminating photos Weiner thought worthy of sharing online with strangers.

But what was the poor kitty (right) doing there in the first place, besides napping?

Truth is, placement pets, as they are known in the advertising world, are increasingly showing up in home listing photos, trying to convey a subliminal message to would-be buyers. Golden Retrievers bouncing in the yard say "family home"; bloodhounds on the hearth rug shout out "hunting lodge"; Boxers with choke collars in the industrial city loft say "singles come hither," and teacup breeds poised on the master-bed suggest that Paris Hilton might outbid you on this property if you don't hurry.

Is it intentional? Are people really posing their pooches -- and the aforementioned cat -- when they post house photos on the MLS? Taking it to the next level, if you don't have a dog, should you rent one for the occasion?

Tristan H. Harper, senior vice president of New York's Prudential Douglas Elliman agency, loves and employs the idea of using designer dogs to sell property. He sold an East 63rd Street penthouse for $3.75 million in 2008 -- an all-time record for the building -- after the photo (above) of Rocko the Shih Tzu appeared in several magazines. We presume Rocko ate well that evening.

home staging petsAgent Cam Gittler, of Coldwell Banker Previews International in Montecito, Calif., is also hoping for a boost by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel posing (left) on the rug of her $4,595,000 listing. The photo appears on the home fliers as well as in the MLS. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suggest English royalty and this one conveniently matches the house.

Not all are on board with the idea that dogs in listing photos do more good than harm. Some professional home-stagers say that they'd never let a pet in a photo, let alone rent or borrow one for pictures of home listings. For one thing, it's a turn-off to potential buyers with pet allergies, and not everyone on the planet is a pet-lover. Even some Realtors who are active in dog rescue groups tsk-tsk the idea. Sandy Zalagens of Keller Williams Los Angeles, who led that agency's Race for the Rescues fund-raiser, says, "It's better to focus on the details of the property." Pets, she says, are a distraction.

New Jersey home-stager Jill M. Banks of Happily Better After notes that pets are used to sell "practically everything" these days, but when it comes to houses, "out of sight, out of mind" is preferable. "Although an adorable golden retriever may represent 'home' to some buyers, others may think 'odors,' 'stains,' 'allergies,' or 'damage.' " (Also see "5 Mistakes Home Sellers Should Never Make.")

Sam DeBord, managing broker of agrees. "I can guarantee you that a pet never sold a home," he said, "but plenty of pets have caused homes not to sell from odors, stains and other issues."

Ken Pozek, a Keller Williams agent in the Detroit metro area, goes even further. He not only doesn't put animals in his photos, he also makes sure that there is no evidence of kids or cars anywhere in sight either. Depersonalize the house, he says. "Buyers need to be able to see themselves in the house, not live vicariously through someone else."

Mary Lou Currier, senior vice president of sales for A.C. Lawrence & Company disagrees. She used the owner's two dogs in the photos when she listed this New York midtown apartment (below) for $549,000 last fall. "It was a way to let buyers know the building is pet-friendly," she said, "plus the dogs are cute and jazz up the shots."

What image was Anthony Weiner trying to convey when he allowed his kitty to be used in the listing photos? No doubt he wishes it was a case of letting sleeping cats lie.

home staging pets

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