Most of us know what features we want in a new home. However, beyond a yard or other pet-specific feature, most pet owners don’t consider other features they may need. And if you’re selling a home to pet owners, knowing what benefits to promote may just help you make a sale.
“Before you choose a real estate agent make sure they are pet-friendly and understand your needs as a pet owner,” said Jill Barsky, an associate broker located in Virginia. Barsky is licensed in MD, DC, and VA, and sees a lot of homes from city condos to rural farms.” Agents want to be helpful and may say they’re pet-friendly, but unless they have pets, they may not understand. Ask for references, and look at their ads and website. Do they make a point of letting buyers and sellers know they’re pet-friendly?” Barsky advertises herself as “The Pet-Friendly Realtor,” so clients know right away they’re in the right place.
As a real estate agent, Barsky has tapped into a huge niche — pet owners in search of homes. According to a 2015/2016 poll by the Humane Society, pet ownership in the U.S. there are 163.6 million cats and dogs in 79.7 million homes.
A strongly pet-friendly broker, Barsky encourages her clients to bring their pets with them when looking at houses. “It’s a huge plus for buyers to be able to see how their pet responds to the home too,” she said. Barsky began volunteering at an animal rescue at age 14. Now, in addition to her real estate practice, she also runs an animal rescue.
1. When putting together your list of home features, take your pet’s needs into consideration too.
When thinking about your pet’s needs, consider what feature or lack of a feature may be a deal breaker for you. If you’re a cat owner with indoor cats, a fenced in yard, or stairs may not be an issue. Every pet owner/home buyer is different. Ask if the current homeowner is a pet owner. If so, they may be able to answer most of your questions about the house, neighborhood and area.
- Safely fenced in yard. A fenced in yard is the number one feature most homebuyers consider, but experts say not all fences or yards are created equal. Homes with existing pets may have invisible fences or other features. Be sure and ask.
- Pet-scaping. Many homeowners consider their choice of flowers and plants inside the home when buying greenery, but few think about what’s growing outside in the yard. If you buy a home in the summer, fall, or winter remember to ask about any bulbs or other flowers you can expect to see in the spring. Common shrubs like azaleas, some shady yard plants like ferns and ivies, and popular spring flowers like daffodils and day lilies are all poisonous to pets.
- Stairs. Do you have an elderly dog that will need to navigate stairs? Think about ramps, porches, decks and other areas your pet will need to access. Will it be easy? Are there railings or other features to keep them from falling off?”I had an elderly client who thought she would need to move because her elderly dog was having issues in the home. We looked at other houses but ultimately ended up just putting in a ramp in her existing home so she wouldn’t have to move. There are always options if you’ll look for them,” Barsky said.
- Water hazards. Depending on where you’re looking, your potential home may have a pond, pool or other water feature on the property. Is it something that can be made safe for your pet (steps or ramp to get out) or fenced off so they can’t fall in and drown?
- Securely screened windows. The incidence of cats falling out of second-story (and higher) windows is so common that veterinarians call it “high rise syndrome.”
- Traffic. You may always have your dog on a leash, but what about those times they escape out the front door when you’re distracted or when a child or visitor or service man leaves the door open? Will they rush into a quiet cul-de-sac or a busy street?
2. Is the house in a pet friendly neighborhood?
Even if you do find a house with a yard, there will be times you’ll want to walk your dog, or if you have outdoor cats, you’ll want to let them roam. Is the neighborhood pet friendly? Are there other pet owners in the area? Drive by in the early morning or after 5 p.m. when most owners walk their pets. Is there evidence of doghouses in the yards along the street? Is there a dog park nearby? Do you hear dogs from nearby homes barking when you look at the house or walk around the neighborhood? Your pet will be as much a part of the community as you and your children; so do consider how happy they’ll be.
3. Pet services.
How close are pet services to your home? Are there several emergency pet centers, a veterinarian, pet stores, dog parks, city parks or sidewalks and paths where you can safely walk your dog? Are there pet sitters, pet groomers, and pet walkers in the area? You can Google “Pet Friendly Cities” or turn to your Realtor for help with this. Good Realtors will know what benefits neighborhoods offer.
“Take your time. Don’t rush the hunt for the perfect house if you have pets,” Barsky said. “You’ll be happier and so will they.”
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