The real estate business traditionally has shown scant love for pets. The conventional wisdom held that sellers should conceal all traces of their dogs or cats—the toys, bowls, beds, even the animals themselves—when prepping a home for sale. But those hardline messages are clearly softening, as pets become a plus in the marketing of homes for sale.
The reason for the shift has a lot to do with the numbers: Pet power is rising. Currently 65 percent of households own a pet, up from 56 percent in 1988. A record-breaking 79 million U.S. households now own a pet, according to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association. Indeed, 83 percent of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family, according to a Packaged Facts research report.
For real estate practitioners, addressing that pet love means helping buyers scout for homes that meet the needs of their pets or working with sellers to leverage their home’s pet appeal.
In fact, pet-friendly agents have found one another—and consumers—on a growing national social platform called the Pet Realty Network. The network, launched in 1997, now boasts about 300 members who pay $30 annually to be included in the directory and can add to its pet-friendly listings.
“I think the days of hiding your pet are over,” says Rhona Sutter, sales associate with Downing Frye Realty Inc. in Naples, Fla., and founder of the network. “You may not want the boisterous Labrador running to the door to greet a home buyer, but quite honestly, a home that is pet-friendly is an advantage for a house nowadays.”
The pet advantage is notable at every price point. For a $5 million listing in 2013, the Boutique Real Estate Group in Corona Del Mar, Calif., produced a video showing off a luxury 6,300-square-foot, six-bedroom home all from the perspective of a French bulldog named Rocco. The bulldog even wore a custom-made suede collar in the video, inscribed with the property’s URL, 49GoldenEagle.com. Raj Qsar, owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group, says the idea to star Rocco in the video, which came about after the dog took a liking to his team as they toured the space, helped him secure the listing. “They loved the idea,” he says.
Joining the pet craze, home builders are touting pet-accommodating floor plans, such as those with pet nooks in mudrooms. Also, luxury condo buildings are marketing amenities to pet-loving households, offering rooftop pet parks and spas (complete with “pawdicures”), dogbone-shaped swimming pools, pet fitness yoga classes and treadmill sessions, and even “yappy hours” social mixers.
Coldwell Banker last year launched a national campaign called “home’s best friend,” teaming up with AdoptAPet.com. Its brokerages partnered with shelters and rescue groups to hold events nationwide in an effort to find homes for 20,000 adoptable dogs.