Like people, pets have certain needs when it comes to the space where they live, and the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest Pet Survey proves they can be the deciding factor for buyers when choosing one home over another. In fact, REALTORS® are likely to be prepared to guide clients in the right direction—the study found that 81% of members surveyed consider themselves animal lovers.
When it comes to the house your pet-conscious clients are looking for, the most frequent requests are hardwood floors and a fenced backyard. According to NAR research, 43% of households would be willing to move to better accommodate their pet, and are prepared to get rid of carpet or install a gate if necessary.
It’s also important for the neighborhood to be convenient, with buyers prioritizing being near dog parks, accessible sidewalks and grass, and quality veterinarians.
Cheryl Nelson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties in Katy, Texas, keeps a list of animal-friendly parks and businesses on hand, including amenities that are conveniently located for her clients with children and pets. “I have clients who send their children to daycare and their dogs to doggy daycare,” she says.
Because animal policies, such as size limits or the prohibition of certain breeds, vary between housing developments and buildings overseen by homeowner associations, 68% of REALTORS®’ clients say these rules influenced their decision to buy or rent in a particular area. The annual pet fee can also be a determinant. The average fee for owners in single-family homes and condos in HOA communities is $300, and the average fee for renters is $400. Real estate pros should know the details of the area’s pet guidelines before their clients start looking, which will prevent hiccups along the way.
“Once, when I asked a client what kind of dog he had, he told me he had an American staffordshire, which is the real name of a pit bull. That was pretty simple to see through, and the landlord just did not allow it,” Nelson says. The result was losing the rental deal.
The policies for assistance animals should also be taken into consideration. While the Pet Report found that within the past year, a median of 38% of REALTORS®’ clients have owned a pet, companion animal, or service animal, landlords are becoming stricter in terms of the documents required to make accommodations for assistance animals.
“You have to be so careful because a lot of people can just go on the internet and download a certificate. But now, more and more landlords are requiring something like a prescription from a doctor,” Nelson says.
The Fair Housing Act states that a reasonable accommodation request to have a service animal in the household requires the buyer to have a disability, physical or mental, and a related need to have the animal. NAR offers information and guidance for members on how to approach these situations under “Accommodations for Service Animals in Housing.”
While just 13% of REALTORS® advertise themselves as pet-friendly, Steve Rodriguez of Davidson Realty Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., finds it useful to use a profile picture on his website of himself with his dogs, which attracts fellow owners. He’s found this sparks conversation in a friendly way—sometimes even receiving photos of the clients’ pets—which transitions to them asking for assistance in finding a suitable home.
When helping sellers who have animals prepare their homes for showings, 80% of REALTORS® recommend removing pets to prevent any loud barking, allergic reactions, or injuries. If the pet can’t be removed during the time a showing, let the buyer’s agent know ahead of time so they are prepared.