By Terry Bremer Allison, JD, REALTOR®, CHMS, CNE
Manager, Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley
With the prevalence of pets and animals in millions of homes across the country, it is no surprise that the Research Department of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently published a report entitled “Animal House: Remodeling Impact.”
The report aims to inform buyers, sellers, and REALTORS® about the following: search considerations for home buyers and renters who own animals, home remodeling projects that animal owners undertook and their level of satisfaction upon completion of various projects, and selling advice from REALTORS® for animal owners.
By way of background, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households owned an animal or planned to own an animal in the future. Eighty-one percent of U.S. households report that animal-related considerations will play a role in decisions about their next living situation. For animal owners, in the NAR study, 99 percent felt that their animal is part of their family. Among respondents in the NAR research, only four percent owned a companion animal, and just three percent owned a service animal. (By way of definition, per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), companion animals provide comfort just by being with a person and service animals are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people who have disabilities.)
We Love Our Pets, Whether Large or Small
Many of the study participants had more than one animal in their home. Dogs were owned by 83 percent of the consumers surveyed, 43 percent had cats, 9 percent owned a bird, reptile, amphibian, arthropod, small mammal or miniature horse, 8 percent had fish, and 5 percent owned a farm animal that the consumer considered to be a pet. Clearly, the 38 percent of American households that had no pets were in the minority.
When searching for a home, 95 percent of consumers who participated in the study stated that it is important that a housing community allows animals. Fifty-four percent of consumers wanted to live near a walking path, 49 percent wanted proximity to an animal products store, and 37 percent sought to live close to animal grooming services. Thirty-two percent favored easy access to a dog park.
Whether renting or buying a home, 53 percent of consumers made decisions that were influenced by the community’s animal policy, such as homeowner association rules or landlord’s policy regarding pets. Of the REALTORS® surveyed, 78 percent reported that a community’s animal policy influenced buyers’ decisions.
Not So Easy to Find Pet-Friendly Housing
According to the REALTORS®, 61 percent of buyers tell the professionals that it is difficult or very difficult to find a rental property or home owners association that accommodates animals. Of those consumers who have companion or service animals, 50 percent reported that it was very difficult to rent or purchase a home. The REALTORS® stated that 31 percent of animal owners often or very often refuse to make an offer on a home because the property is not ideal for their animal.
Based on their experience representing buyers with animals, REALTORS® stated that 91 percent of their clients wanted a fenced yard, 66 percent preferred laminate flooring, 19 percent wanted an animal washing station, and 11 percent desired a dog door. A kitty litter closet was important to 7 percent of animal owner buyers.
Based on the buyers’ preferences described above, it is no surprise that more than half of the consumer respondents in the NAR study completed home renovations to accommodate their animals. The most popular projects included building a fenced yard, adding a dog door and installing laminate flooring. According to the study, homeowners spent three times as much money on their animals as did renters.
Reported results of renovation satisfaction were measured. Of the consumer respondents who completed a renovation, 44 percent hired a professional to do their project and 56 percent did the renovation themselves. Ninety-four percent of the consumers were satisfied with their projects. Fifty-eight percent reported having a greater desire to be at home and 62 percent stated that they enjoy spending more time at home since completing their renovations.
Pets and Homes for Sale: A Challenge
According to 67 percent of REALTORS®, owning an animal has a moderate to major effect on selling a house. These REALTORS® said they strongly advise sellers to replace anything that has been damaged by the animal(s). The agents persuade sellers to thoroughly clean the home to eliminate any animal scent or odor, and direct owners to take pets out of the home during showings. Forty-one percent of the agents recommend professional deep cleaning and removal of pet “objects,” such as food dishes, litter boxes, beds or crates as part of their pre-marketing preparations. A real estate professional’s tact and diplomacy skills are put to the test whenever a member of the seller’s family, who just happens to be a pet, becomes a barrier to selling the home for the best price in the least amount of time.