Pet ownership is growing amid the coronavirus lockdown. Here’s what Realtors need to know

by Kerrie Kennedy

Forget a post-coronavirus baby boom — are we in for a pet-ownership boom?

Even before the pandemic, an estimated 70% of millennials were enthusiastic pet owners. But now, that number is likely to grow. Animal shelters across the country have reported a surge in pet fostering and adoptions as Americans looking for comfort during the lockdown have opened their homes to new pets.

It’s a significant trend that agents should take seriously. NAR’s recently released report, 2020 Animal House: Pets in the Home Buying and Selling Process, found that 66% of U.S. households currently have a pet or plan to get one in the future.

Some of them might be looking for new homes as a result, according to National Association of Realtors Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights Jessica Lautz.

“As households in the U.S. pursue comfort, companionship, and home entertainment, animal shelters were cleared out in many cities,” Lautz said in a press release. “These pet adoptions could lead to future home sales as families seek to accommodate the best living spaces for their four-legged family members.”

According to the report, more than four in 10 U.S. households — 43% — say they would be willing to move in order to better accommodate their pets. While only one percent of recent buyers said they actually moved for this reason, that number is expected to climb as more Americans prioritize the health and well-being of their animals.

When searching for a new home, consumers aren’t just looking for pet-friendly features within the home; according to the report, 18 percent of recent homebuyers said it was very important that their new neighborhood be convenient to a vet and/or outdoor space for their pet. When finding a home for pet-owning clients, members said the most important feature is a fenced yard, followed by a large enough home for the household and pet, and then appropriate flooring.

A particular community’s animal policy was also a huge factor for pet-owning buyers. Sixty-eight percent of Realtors said a particular community’s rules on furry friends influenced their clients’ decisions to rent or buy.

Animal fees are yet another consideration. The report found that homeowners may be saving money in this regard; the typical annual pet fee in single-family homes, townhouses and condos is $300, as compared to $400 in rental units.

As Realtors work to accommodate the needs of their pet-owning buyers, they also have to manage their pet-owning sellers. Besides recommending clients repair pet-related damage to their homes, more than 80% of Realtors said they advise their sellers to remove pets during showings.

Pets are not only important to members professionally, but also personally. More than 80% of Realtors said they consider themselves animal lovers and another 14% volunteer for an organization that helps animals.

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