Whether or not you have a fur baby in your life, you probably have friends who do. The latest research from the Urban Institute (by way of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey) found that more families in the U.S. now have pets in their homes than have kids under the age of 18.
The numbers are even more stark among young people. Almost three quarters of Millennials own a pet, according to the Pet Products Association, and among Millennials who’ve purchased a home, that figure skyrockets to 89%.
If you have a pet, or plan to get one in the future, what should you look for in a home?
We talked with Bob Nelson, the self-identified Pet Friendly Realtor from Glendale, Arizona, about the advice he gives clients.
Find a pet-friendly yard
A fenced backyard is the top feature pet owners look for in homes, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Bob agrees, but says there’s more to it than just a fence.
Home buyers should also think about noise when they’re shopping for a home to share with their furry friends, he said. He learned the lesson the hard way:
Bob's own dearly departed Lhasa apso, Dmitri, had a backyard that was next to a busy road, he explained. The noise led to anxiety and territory-guarding problems when the family adopted a shih tzu puppy, Olivia.
The family had no idea until they hired an in-home dog trainer.
Bob and his family weren't able to move, but they addressed the problem by getting more toys to keep their pups busy and using food as an incentive for playing nice.
For several years afterward, the two pups figured out their territory issues and became best of friends. Neighbors, clients and friends alike knew them as Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner (and Bob is proud to say they helped him win more than a few clients).
Keep the temps in mind
Whether or not that perfect backyard is possible, pet owners should also think about heat, Bob said. Pavements and gravel can get really, really hot during summer months and pets can burn their paws easily.
Owners should look for yards with grass for their pets if at all possible, he said. He also encourages owners to carry their pets to and from grassy play areas during the hottest months and to buy homes near dog parks and unpaved walking trails.
On a related note, it’s important to be aware of extreme cold if you live somewhere chillier than, say, Arizona. If you need to de-ice your sidewalks in the winter, look for a non-toxic ice melter. And if it gets really cold overnight, make sure your pet has a way to get warm (either in the house with you or in a good shelter outside).
Know your breed, know its needs
Another thing Bob often talks with home shoppers about is the age and breed of their pets. For dogs who are getting a bit older, for example, he recommends that owners look for single-level homes. For big, rambunctious dogs (or even enthusiastic terriers) who need a lot of exercise, he tries to help owners find large yards and a neighborhood with plenty of places to run.
For small dogs, and for cats, he encourages pet owners to be aware of threats such as coyotes and racoons.
“I just want to bring their pet into their decision-making process,” he said.
Top home features for pets
According to the NAR report, the top features pet owners look for in homes include:
- Mud rooms
- Doggie doors
- Detachable shower heads
- Cat litter closets
- Tile or laminate flooring
If you’re looking to sell, these features may help offers come in even sooner. The NAR found that 43% of U.S. households would be willing to move or change their living situation to accommodate their pet.
However, Realtors across the board recommend giving your home a thorough cleaning before any showings to make sure no pet odors remain. They also recommend getting rid of (or repairing) anything that has been damaged by your pet. Finally, a full 89% of Realtors say you should find another spot for, well, Spot, any time prospective buyers stop by.
If you're just starting your home search journey, learn how to find a great real estate agent and what to ask your Loan Officer on that first call. It can help to have a little insight into the mortgage process, too.
Here's wishing you (and all your two- and four-legged companions) the best possible home buying experience!