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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June 27 2011 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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June 26 2011 at 8:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think this is an AWFUL idea....the risks do not outweigh the benefit

My first thought would be "if there is one cat, are there 5, or 10?"

You can't smell a picture, and if there are multiple cats, or even one cat there is a good chance of litter box and cat pee odors that are going to be super hard to get rid of. With all the properties on the market, why would I even bother considering one that has a high stink potential? How many places could be carpeted with cat hair? With all the property on the market, why commit to one that may require additional clean up before you move in?

You can move a piece of furniture or drapes, you can't MOVE a smell from someone having cat(s) for years in a place. And while the picture can't let a person know how many cats or how long they have been there, why even take the risk? At the very least it would put that location on the bottom of a lot of people's lists.

June 26 2011 at 8:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A Kimodo dragon or giant tortise would be cool.

June 26 2011 at 1:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This seems kind of silly. I love my animals and will find a home to live in regardless of the animals featured in the pictures. I know what I want for myself and for them. Someone with allergies isn't going to be as interested in a home with animals. You're really just limiting your potential buyers. As a pet owner, I can ask about animal policies. I simply will not live in a home/apartment that doesn't allow them. Period.

June 26 2011 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robin Egg Blue


June 25 2011 at 11:14 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Kelly Jo Herrmann

I wouldn't buy a home that showed an animal in the pic because I'm deathly allergic to dogs and cats and even dust bunnies! LOL It makes sense to me to sell a home to as many people as possible....using animals alienates some of the population.

June 25 2011 at 11:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kelly Jo Herrmann's comment

I was thinking the same thing. As I love my pets, and think that a pet in a picture of a home makes it look more "homey", those with allergies will be turned off of these properties, for obvious reasons.

June 26 2011 at 2:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara Anne

Animals are great to have in homes. Their love us no matter who we are. Remember when you could "believe" a picture...Not now that's for sure.

June 25 2011 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

How STUPID is that?? Sometimes the potential buyer does not like animals, and esp. cats.....b/c their fur lint gets in between hardwood floors, and you cannot EVER remove it, and if you are highly allergic to cats, then you cannot buy that residence....b/c it never leaves..Some folks will not even "look" at a house if there has been a cat residing there. As for dogs, fur balls and hair all over everything, including the sofas, beds and furniture. Not to mention the smell of the litter box, or doggie doo.....This is a bad idea.. featuring animals to make it look all warm and fuzzy and appealing. Some people like animals, but from AFAR... and this could be a big turnoff for the buyer. I love animals, but I would not want animals living in the potential space that I am going to buy.

June 25 2011 at 8:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bds6543's comment

Exactly what are you smoking? Absolute nonsense !!! Where did you get your facts - a comic book.

June 25 2011 at 9:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kayekirkwood's comment

"Bds" does make a valid point. If a potential buyer/renter is allergic to dogs/cats, a "placement pet" may be enough to cause an allergic reaction if one chooses to purchase/rent the property, therefore, a turn-off for a portion of the population.

June 26 2011 at 2:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

I agree that using animals to advertise homes is a bad idea. because you can't gauge a potential buyer's response to an animal. Some people just plain don't like animals, some like animals just fine as long as they belong to someone else, some are allergic, etc. Show me a house with a kitty and as a cat lover, I'll respond positively but show me a house with a dog and I'm going to have a negative reaction, thinking doggie smell and accidents that happen when a dog isn't let out soon enough to do its thing. Another thing I don't like to see in homes are the designated kids' rooms---the fairy princess room, the dinosaur room, the winnie the pooh room, etc. They scream remodel to singles, childless couples and those whose children are grown. Themed rooms of any kind should be a no-no. I'd rather see a plain bathroom than one that's all froggy or Mickey Mouse themed. The Detroit agent who said to depersonalize the home is right on the money.

June 25 2011 at 6:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply