What if I told you that for some buyers, the biggest motivator for stepping into homeownership wasn’t about setting down roots, building equity or any of the other perks of owning a home?
That, to paraphrase a friend of mine, it was time to get a home because “the dog deserves a yard”?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 percent of homes have children — whereas 70 percent of homes report having a pet. For many first-time buyers, their non-human companions end up pushing them to purchase.
A recent revelation from the 2022 National Association of Realtors Profile of Buyers and Sellers highlighted this trend: Buyers’ furry friends are not only giving them motivation to buy, but are affecting the kinds of properties and locations that homeowners chose.
So, if you’re aiming to help a first-timer and their feline who are looking for their fur-ever home, do what you do best as a real estate agent: Ask questions. As you are listening, take the following into consideration:
Match pet and property type
Each type of pet your potential homebuyer has will have its own set of needs to think about. If your client has a pack of coonhounds, chances are a condo or townhouse won’t send them barking up a tree. Those pups will need plenty of yard and your client with likely prioritize outdoor space.
Though the majority of pets in the U.S. are cats and dogs, there are plenty of other companions out there you might need to accommodate. If your client has a mess of iguanas, or other tank-based animals, they might be interested in properties that have large garages or are greater in scale.
Consider the neighborhood
According to research shared by NAR Vice President of Research Jessica Lautz, pet lovers tended to purchase homes in areas with more acreage to roam, had more walkability for those evening strolls or were located close to parks where their pets can play.
For people with exotic pets, you will also want to consider whether there are restrictions on non-human residents. For example, when my wife and I were looking for our first home, we avoided any property under the jurisdiction of an HOA so that we could keep our family’s flock of backyard chickens.
‘Paws’ to ponder the future
Throughout the pandemic, Americans adopted pets at unprecedented rates. Research has shown a correlation between the rate of homeownership and the rate of pet ownership, particularly dogs. As dog-owning households grew from 38 percent to roughly 45 percent during the pandemic, a similar pattern emerged in homeownership, according to reports from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The correlation between dog owners and homeowners is influenced by a factor that will be familiar to real estate agents: The emergence of remote work. When employees no longer had to be bound to their urban apartments for proximity to the office, they chose to relocate to cheaper, rural places that offered them more space — but also the ability to adopt more “exotic” pets like horses and cattle.
As remote work continues to “stay” and urban markets experience “ruff” prices and interest rates, we may continue to see both a rise in rural homeownership and pet adoption.
The correlation between pets and homeownership will also likely continue to be a factor as more people have pets than children. For many of the reasons we’ve already discussed, a slowing birth rate doesn’t mean the demand for housing will go down. As more people add fur-babies instead of actual babies to their families, they will need to adjust their lifestyles and homes for these animal additions.
April Murphy is the Director of Publishing at Keller Williams Realty, Inc. She and her team research and collaborate with Gary Keller and Jay Papasan on their bestselling books.