Charles Hardy, an experienced, passionate dog-lover and founder of a website that helps dog-lovers care for their companions — shares his expertise on understanding the needs of pet owners as well as useful tips for getting ahead of this under-tapped market.
Real estate agents looking to refresh their marketing techniques to gain the attention of potential clients might benefit from seeking the attention of their furry companions first.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation estimates that more than 43 million homes have a canine friend.
According to American Pet Product Association (APPA) data reported by Forbes, 9 out of 10 pet owners consider their pet an integral member of their family. The APPA found that more than $72 billion were spent on pets in 2018.
Marketing with canines
As the proud owner of three furry little girls, I have incorporated them into the marketing of my own real estate company and witnessed the benefits of doing so. Homebuyers with pets will appreciate, and want to work with, agents who understand their love for their dogs as well as their unique preferences as both homebuyer and pet owner.
As more millennials are pet owners than any other generation, and are beginning to enter the typical age of first-time homebuyers, such knowledge will be essential for getting ahead of the curve.
Considering that an owner’s relationship with his or her pet can extend far beyond the length of some marriages, it’s easy to understand the strength of the bond between humans and their family pets. Therefore, when making important long-term decisions, many heads of households are going to consider their dog’s needs in addition to their own, especially when it comes to purchasing a home.
Companies like Target and Budweiser have tapped into this natural bond by featuring pets in their advertising (Bullseye and Spuds MacKenzie, respectively) because they know that this is one of the most meaningful ways to reach their customer base.
Similarly, real estate agents would be remiss to not tap into the pet owner market when marketing their services and advertising a house for sale.
Understanding pet owner needs
Charles Hardy, an experienced, passionate dog-lover and founder of Dogs Against Romney — a comprehensive site that helps dog-lovers care for their companions — shared his expertise with us on how to understand the needs of pet owners as well as useful tips for getting ahead of this under-tapped market.
How do dogs influence an owner’s home purchasing decisions?
Charles Hardy: According to the APPA, 44 percent of all American households have at least one dog. Americans love their furry companions and treat them like family. A recent poll conducted for SunTrust Mortgage found that dogs are such a big part of their owners’ lives that they influence housing choices.
In fact, having a dog was a bigger motivator for buying a new home than having children. Thirty-three percent of homebuyers stated that having a better space or a yard for a dog to play influenced their home-buying decision.
This study also found that dogs aren’t just affecting the decisions of first-time buyers — they will also affect the decisions of future homebuyers. Forty-two percent of respondents who hadn’t yet purchased a home stated that a dog is one of the key factors in the house-buying process.
Even people who are just planning to get a dog in the future said that the dog’s needs would influence a house purchasing decision.
There’s a trend in millennials buying homes for their furry companions. What are the things homebuyers want in a home for their dogs?
Hardy: According to APPA, millennials are now the largest segment of pet owners. And studies suggest that they have a different approach to pet ownership compared to their parents. Younger people are better informed about the needs of their dogs, and they spend more time and money on their companions.
For those who own a dog, renting is a big hassle and can be more expensive. Some landlords have strict policies regarding dogs and charge excessive pet fees. Hence, buying a home that will better suit the needs of both owners and dogs is a sound investment.
Since millennials are so in tune with the needs of their furry companions, they look for homes with certain amenities. This is a list of the most important features dog owners are looking for:
- Large fenced yard or one that can be fenced
- Nearby walking or running trails
- Proximity to dog parks
- Pet waste stations and fountains with drinking water
- Dog washing stations in mudrooms or bathrooms
- Homes without carpeted flooring
- Homes without stairs that are more friendly for senior dogs
- Quiet streets and neighborhoods with minimal traffic
How can real estate agents appeal to dog owners in their marketing?
Hardy: Dogs are now major power players in the real estate business, and real estate agents have taken notice. Nowadays you can easily find a pet-friendly Realtor who can help you buy or sell a property. To cater to the specific needs of dog owners and their lifestyle, real estate agents changed their marketing tactics.
The first thing a real estate agent should do to make a property appealing to potential buyers is to list it as pet-friendly. However, this needs to be done with tact in a way that showcases the attractive sides of pet ownership.
Some real estate agents encourage their clients to use their dogs as props when advertising a property. A home that is marketed this way clearly sends a message that it is a pet-friendly home. Furthermore, potential buyers can relate to a home on a deeper level and imagine their dogs living there.
It is also a good idea to throw in some pictures of a dog with listings of pet-friendly neighborhoods. Properties that feature things like special mudrooms, fenced yards, nearby dog parks and trails should be advertised properly, and dogs should be included in the listing photos that show these features as well.
What are some important things agents should know about dog owners that will help better serve them?
Hardy: Just like with any other client, a real estate agent needs to consider the specific lifestyle of dog owners. It is natural to show listings of family-friendly neighborhoods with low crime rates, parks, schools and playgrounds to families with children. Dog owners are pretty much the same, and they are looking for certain things for their pooches.
It is important to remember that not all dog owners will want the same things, but there are a few basics that are important to everyone: outdoor space for a dog to play around, proximity to doggy parks and walking trails.
In the end, all that every dog owner wants is for his dog to be happy in his new home.
Desirée Patno is the CEO and president at the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB). You can follow Desirée on LinkedIn and NAWRB on Facebook.