Animal-Loving Home Buyers Leave Decisions to the Dogs
For two years, Kelly Heskett searched real estate listings for a home big enough for her noisy, rambunctious family. She found an ideal one last month in nearby Norristown, PA: a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath, single-family house on a quiet street with a big backyard. She and her husband now have plenty of room for their six dogs, three of which were rescued.
“I don’t have children, and I’m not looking to have children. I consider my dogs to be my children,” says Heskett, 31, an account manager at a pharmaceutical testing company.
Heskett and her husband aren’t the only home buyers basing their purchase on their pets’ needs. A realtor.com® online survey found 75% of pet-owning buyers who closed on a home this year would pass on their dream house if it weren’t right for their animals. Among the respondents, 87% said they took their pets’ needs into account when buying a home.
Heskett even picked her real estate agent for her pet-friendly attitude—she had worked with several volunteers at a local animal shelter.
That agent, Pamela Graham of Keller Williams Realty Group in Limerick, PA, says she knows what pet owners look for in a home. When she saw the Norristown home, Graham knew it would be perfect for Heskett. Not only did it have a spacious backyard that could be easily fenced in, but it also had a mudroom from the back deck, so the dogs could be cleaned up before entering the house.
“Animals are becoming part of the family,” says Graham, a former dog owner, “so we need spaces for them as well.”
Of the home buyers surveyed by realtor.com, 80% owned pets. A majority (64%) owned dogs, 41% owned cats, 12% owned birds, and 11% owned fish. Harris Research conducted the survey for realtor.com last month of more than 1,000 respondents who closed on a home this year.
Ninety percent of dog owners were more likely to say their pets’ needs were “important” or “very important” in their home search.
“Dogs are man’s best friend,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “It’s not terribly surprising that when pet owners are buying a home, their best friends get what they want. If a home doesn’t meet the needs of their pets, those needs are non-negotiable for a lot of home buyers.”
When asked to rank the important features, almost half (45%) of the home buyers chose a large yard, more than a third (36%) picked outdoor space, and a third (33%) wanted a garage.
Heskett says a large backyard was at the top of her must-have list. Not only did she want her pooches to have room to play, but she also wanted her home to be far enough away from her neighbors, so barking wouldn’t become a nuisance to others.
One feature Heskett’s dogs probably didn’t care about is hardwood floors—but she did.
“I needed them for cleaning purposes,” she says. “Carpets are going to get ripped up.”
The survey found younger home buyers with pets were more likely to pass up their dream homes if they didn’t meet their animal-centric needs. Seventy-nine percent of pet-owning buyers aged 18 to 34 wouldn’t buy their ideal home if it didn’t meet their criteria, while 77 % of those aged 35 to 54 wouldn’t make the purchase. Older home buyers with pets were less picky.
Marc Marrone, owner of Parrots of the World, a pet shop in Rockville Center, NY, says most of his customers wouldn’t sacrifice a dream house for their pets.
“No one would ever let a house in the right location and the right price slip through their hands for the sake of their pets,” he says. “At least, not in my world.”
Marrone says most animals are adaptable to their environment, within a certain range. Dogs may like backyards and cats like high ceilings and windows, but they don’t have to have them. (Fish and reptiles do need cooler rooms, for their health.) And birds don’t need special living arrangements at all.
“Parrots can live anywhere,” he says. “They go on sailing ships with pirates.”