April 16, 2024

Bowlingual Dog

Animal Planet Directory

Pet owners want more than fences when shopping for a house

Proximity to good schools has long been a deciding factor for home buyers. An increasing number of house shoppers, however, are looking for schools that specialize in fetching rather than phonics.

Pets, according to real estate agents and industry officials, cannot be ignored when their owners shop for a home.

“We sell houses, you make them homes,” said Creig Northrop, of Northrop Realty in Clarksville, Md. “Pets are part of a family.”

As the number of households with children decline and those with pets rise, pet-friendly homes and neighborhoods are in demand. Households with children younger than 18 dropped from 48 percent of the market in 2002 to 40 percent in 2022, according to Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors. Families with pets have increased from 56 percent in 1988 to 70 percent in 2022, according to NAR research.

“We saw a lot of people adopt pets during the pandemic and then suddenly that puppy grows and you need to find a bigger home and a yard to accommodate that larger dog, or even cats needing to find a space for the litter box and space for them to roam,” Lautz said. “So we have found that it is a driver.”

Research by real estate giant Zillow confirmed the effect of the pandemic on pet ownership. It found nearly three-fourths of home buyers and 57 percent of renters in 2021 reported owning one pet, said Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert, up from 64 percent of buyers and 51 percent of renters a year earlier.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), nearly 87 million U.S. households have at least one pet. Dogs dominate, showing up in more than 65 million households. Cats are found in 46.5 million homes.

For dog owners, a fenced yard remains a leading consideration, but that is only a starting point.

“What we’re really seeing in our research is that people are looking for more space, particularly pet owners,” Pendleton said. “And it’s not just outdoor space, it’s indoor space as well.”

Buyers with pets are more likely than non-pet buyers to purchase homes with more than 3,000 square feet of space, Pendleton said. Homes with fenced yards, Zillow research shows, sell an average of three days faster than non-fenced homes.

Access to parks or trails also ranks high on the wants list.

“One of those things moving up in importance is walkability, having a place that someone can easily pop outside and walk a dog, important proximity to the vet and dog parks [are] also important because you want to easily be able to take care of anything that your pet may need,” Lautz said. “And those things do come up, and you may not want to put your large dog into the car.”

The American Kennel Club advises house hunters looking for a dog-friendly neighborhood to visit the area early in the morning, while dogs are out with owners for pre-work walks. “Take a look at the breeds, along with their overall well-being,’’ it suggests. “A neighborhood with a variety of breeds speaks to a general dog-savvy population.”

Another key, the AKC said, is looking for neighborhood businesses that offer water bowls or a bowl of treats.

Americans are spending more on their pets than ever: $136.8 billion on their companions in 2022, up from $90.5 billion in 2018, according to the APPA.

That spending includes amenities such as day-care centers and spas, veterinarian care and training facilities. Some high-end neighborhoods offer access to canine cuisine, such as Chicago’s Fido To Go food truck with its Peanut Butter Blueberry Puptarts, frozen yogurt and other “gormutt treats” or the Seattle Barkery, which has grown from a food truck to four bricks-and-mortar locations.

“It has become a pet-friendly world everywhere from the restaurants to the hotels … to homes,” said Northrop.

Inside a home, easy-to-maintain floors, such as hardwoods or laminates, are important to buyers with pets, Lautz said. An increasing number of condominium and apartment complexes are appealing to pet owners with amenities such as washing stations.

Cats, or at least their owners, are less demanding.

“We took a look at something like 270 features and they included the ‘catios’ and the cat-climbing structures and all of these things,” Pendleton said. “And we just didn’t find any of them contributed to any kind of sale premium, positive or negative.”

At times, though, cats do have their day.

“[We] actually sold the house that kept the cats with the house,’’ Northrop said. “The cats were so attached to the property, the sellers felt, you know, a loyalty to the cats, to stick with the house.”