Pets increasingly influence owners’ housing decisions | Pets


Hannah Wood, a work-from-home product manager for a healthcare company, would love to move to Philadelphia to live near her mother, but struggles to find a place that will accommodate her roommate, Lea, a mixed 55-pound dog. of race.

Initially, Wood had hoped to buy a home, but the current competitive market leads him to seek a rental, and owners often limit the dog’s size and breed.

“Many only accept dogs weighing up to 15 or 20 pounds, which excludes about 60% of all breeds,” she said. “It was a struggle to find a place without a lot of restrictions.”

Pets are increasingly affecting their owners’ real estate choices, whether it’s the neighborhood they choose, the house they buy or rent, or the way they design and decorate their space. A 2020 A survey found that a majority of pet owners consider the needs of their pets before purchasing a home. Of the 2,000 survey participants, 61% were dog owners, 45% cats, 12% fish and 9% birds.

About half of U.S. households have pets, according to the Census Bureau, and in 2020, owners spent an average of $ 1,201 on dogs and $ 687 on cats, according to Statistica, a provider of data on pets. consumers and the market.

Pet owners tend to buy larger homes with more bedrooms, Zillow reported in October. Buyers with at least one pet are more likely to choose a home over 3,000 square feet, and about a third have purchased a home with four or more bedrooms, compared to a quarter of buyers without pets.

“For me and for a lot of people in my generation, (my dog) is my kid, where I spend my time and money,” said Wood, who is 42 and single. “It’s time for real estate companies to understand that this is our way of life. »What pet owners want

An ideal home for Wood – who would like to move to Philadelphia by January – would be a mid-rise or smaller building with adjacent green space, a park nearby, and space to wash Lea after a muddy walk.

Wood has lived in several very animal-friendly towns, including Portland, Oregon, where dog biscuits were available from the front desk of his building, and his current home, Saratoga Springs, where “dogs are allowed everywhere – restaurants, office.” From post “.

“I literally just saw someone walking a cat in a stroller,” she said.

Philadelphia, with 23.62% of rentals classified as accepting pets, ranked 28th in a “Lets for Pets” list of 50 US cities compiled in October by All About Cats, which offers behavioral and health expertise felines. New York City led the way with 66.45% of welcoming rentals.

In West Philadelphia, competition is fierce in old Victorians for ground-floor apartments with easy access to fenced-in yards, said Lindsay Johnston of Common Ground Realtors in University City, where “a dog is part integral to social life “.

He sees the same dog owners walking the same loop every day, morning and night. They also take advantage of the park and designated dog parks nearby.

Before buying or renting, pet owners should check the owner association or building restrictions on the number or type of pets and whether they need to be spayed or neutered. Beyond enough space for their pet, the National Association of Realtors says owners often look for a fenced yard; sidewalks; durable and easy to clean flooring; mud room / washing area; dog door; animal pool / outdoor water feature; or a cat litter box.

“If you have the option,” said Johnston, “get your pet after you buy or rent it, in case you don’t get the square footage or other things that you want.”

When Mindy Rhodes and John Braxton were looking for a home six years ago, they wanted a quiet old house with enough space for her horse, Spike, which she boarded. She thought the search would take several years, but they spotted an internet ad for a property in suburban West Chester, Pa. With “just enough land to bring my horse home.”

Because horses are happier in a herd, she quickly acquired two donkeys, Mama and Mia, to keep Spike company. She also has three dogs, two cats, two rabbits, four chickens in a chicken coop and a duck named Lucy, who wears a diaper when she comes inside (“I don’t know if I would do that again,” Rhodes said. ).

She considered cats to be the easiest, because they are resilient and adaptable to their environment. “People train dogs,” Rhodes said. “Cats train people.”

The animals of Rhodes love to have the run of its three acres, as well as a place near the fire, she said. “It’s a luxury not having to walk the dogs.”

Pet friendly design

Having a dedicated space for pets is a major consideration when organizing a home, according to nearly a quarter of 1,000 adults surveyed by Ally Bank’s residential mortgage division last summer.

“For us dogs are family, so it was a natural part of the design process to consider them,” said Kirstin McGowan, of Mechanicsville, Pa., Who has two yellow Labrador retrievers, Milly and Bentley.

During a recent remodel, she and her husband, Sean, added a built-in shelf for dog bowls “because there’s nothing more boring than tripping over it in a narrow kitchen,” he said. she declared.

The McGowans have installed hardwood floors and use washable rugs for easier cleaning and have multiple dog beds inside and out. Because dogs tend to dig, the couple built a stone patio and limited landscaping to trees in their fenced back yard.

They are in the process of adding a changing room / laundry room and are planning to build dog cages there. And they recently switched to a king-size bed for more space to snuggle up in the morning with their two young daughters, Charlotte and Eleanor, and the dogs.

What sellers should do

Certain pet-friendly features may contribute to a higher sale price or faster-than-expected sale, according to a Zillow report on 2020 home sales. Homes that advertise a niche in their listing description may show up. sell 3% more than expected, Zillow found, while homes advertising a fenced backyard or dog park can sell for up to five days faster.

However, when it comes to in-person presentations, sellers should erase any sign of a pet, especially cat smells, Johnston advised. “You will lose 99% of the market if you cannot eliminate the smell. “

Sellers should repair anything damaged by a pet, have the house professionally cleaned, replace carpeting, and / or restore floors. During visits, they must put away all toys, bowls and beds, and remove the animal from the house.

People and animals in motion

The coronavirus pandemic fueled a wave of moves as Americans took advantage of remote working and record mortgage rates. At the same time, the purchase and adoption of pets has increased, with people spending more time at home.

In 2021, nearly three-quarters of homebuyers reported having at least one pet, up nine percentage points from the previous year, according to a Zillow housing trends report. The number of pet owners among renters has increased to 57% from 51% in 2020.

Real estate agents and pet owners agree that potential buyers and tenants should do their homework and know their pets.

“The size of the dog doesn’t necessarily tell you how much space it needs,” said Bryn Mawr, Pa., Owner Janet Cusack, who has a St. Bernard and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The biggest dog, Baloo, “just wants to be with people,” she said, even though he enjoys walking in the woods.

Rhodes carefully researched the type and size of pasture and the best companions for his horse and spent six months familiarizing himself with his property before moving in.

Wood learned while staying at a pet-friendly hotel in Philadelphia that the city sounds like traffic, sirens and fire alarms terrify his dog.

Instead of setting restrictions on size or species, Wood said, she believes owners should require owners to demonstrate that their pets have been trained to coexist peacefully with humans and other pets. .

“Do interviews with pets,” she said. “Even a Chihuahua can be mean.”

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