The particular (and sometimes peculiar) needs of pet-owning buyers
For some homebuyers, their "fur babies" come first. Agents who know how to best serve clients with pets can land more business, and maybe a few nose nuzzles.
- For younger buyers in particular, pets are a prime consideration in the home-search process, according to a Zillow survey.
- Understanding a client's needs, as well as HOA and other regulations surrounding pets, is key to serving pet owners.
- Marketing yourself as pet-friendly can be a winning proposition.
When a client says they need a primary suite big enough for two king-sized beds pushed together, you can be forgiven for taking a beat to wonder why.
But Donna Cook, an agent with Bruns Realty Group in Tipp City, Ohio, already knew. Her client had nine standard-sized poodles who needed a big enough place to cuddle up together for the night.
"They were great dogs," Cook said of the pups who were trained to go into hospitals and nursing homes to comfort patients. Besides a huge primary suite, Cook's biggest challenge was finding a community that would allow that many dogs.
Not every client has pet priorities that grand, but pet needs are a serious consideration for a lot of buyers — sometimes more serious than the needs of their partner.
A Zillow survey last month found that 22% of Gen Z adults would want to move if their home was no longer working for their pet … but just 12% felt the same way about their home not working for their partner.
And it's not only partners getting shoved aside by Fido. A majority of Gen Z pet owners say it's more important to have a pet-friendly home (55%) than a kid-friendly home (45%), according to the survey.
Bryant Real Estate Group's Zelda Bryant understands. The Charleston, SC, agent once lived in a townhome with a large dog who had some disputes with smaller dogs. "The HOA wanted me to get rid of my dog," she said. "So I put my townhouse on the market and bought a house with a yard."
When working with clients who have pets, it's important, Bryant says, to show that you understand and appreciate their needs. She's careful to check for things like HOA or municipal limitations on size and number of pets, or even fence heights.
"I had a client recently who said 'I have to put in a six-foot fence because my dog will jump over a four-foot fence,'" she recalled. "Plenty of neighborhoods restrict the height of your fence. Without a high fence, "The dog could easily jump into a pond and get eaten by an alligator."
It's not just dogs she worries about. "For cats, it's very important that they have a large screened-in space if they want to go outside so they are protected from predators," she says. "We have coyotes, hawks and eagles."
Bryant also advises clients to consider future needs since pets age more quickly than humans.
Turns out, it's not just senior humans looking for ramblers. "I've had people say, 'I can't do a two story because our dog is old and they can't do stairs,'" Ty Moore with Keller Williams Premier Real Estate in Colorado Springs says.
Pet requests aren't unusual for Moore. "We're a very pet-friendly market," he says. "I don't think I've sold a home with someone who doesn't have a pet."
His colleague Brittnie Seip has organized "Yappy Hours" with her lending partner and rescue organizations she volunteers for. It's a chance to bring people together at local breweries with their dogs and to introduce people to rescue animals available for adoption.
"My whole angle with real estate is to get more involved in the community," she said. Yappy Hours foster community, and at the same time, establish Seip as an agent who cares about animals — a big selling point in dog-loving Colorado Springs.
Of course, it's not all licks and nuzzles when you're dealing with pets. Many agents have had a client who wants to bring their beloved fur-baby to a showing. Finding a polite way to say no can be challenging.
Sometimes, Cook will allow an emotional support dog if they carry it and promise never to let it down. "You're walking into someone else's house," she says. "It gets really tricky when you know there are cameras."
Still, Bryant says marketing herself as pet-friendly and catering to pet owners is worthwhile. "Pet owners tend to be warm, wonderful people, and they're easy to work with," she said. "They just want a good home for their pets. And a lot of times that really is a driving factor in what they choose."