Millennials, in particular, are often motivated by their dogs when house hunting, according to a recent survey. Here are some tips for buying, or selling, a house when you have a dog.
Elena Ruiz and her partner, Shawna Kerns, place such a high priority on their desire to rescue animals, they switched neighborhoods to find a place with a yard.
The couple had two cats and a dog when they began house hunting from their apartment in Washington, D.C. Now that they have settled into their new home, they’ve added a rescue puppy to their menagerie.
“Our animals determined which neighborhoods we looked at,” Kerns says. “We were able to find a place with a fenced front yard and a fenced backyard” in a neighborhood in southeast D.C.
Tips for selling with a dog
• Decide whether your dog will be OK to stay in a crate while your home is being shown or if you can walk the pet whenever someone wants to see it.
• Consider boarding your dog with friends or a family member while your home is on the market.
• Be aware of dog odors; have a friend without pets do a “sniff test” to see whether you’ve done enough cleaning.
• Have your carpets, curtains and upholstery cleaned or replaced if necessary.
• An air-duct cleaning might be necessary to remove dog odors.
• Put away dog toys, leashes and other clutter when showing your home.
• Check for dog damage such as scratched floors and ripped screens or trampled bushes, and make repairs.
Ruiz says that they had wanted to stay near their old neighborhood but that their budget limited them to a condo in that area.
“We sacrificed location and walkability, but we love that we are getting to know all our neighbors and have space for our animals.”
Millennials, in particular, are often motivated by their dogs when house hunting, according to a recent survey of that generation of homebuyers conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage.
The survey found that the desire for a better space or a yard for a dog influenced their decision to buy their first home. Dogs were among the top three motivators — cited by 33 percent of buyers, compared with 25 percent who mentioned marriage and 19 percent who mentioned the birth of a child.
About 68 percent of American households have pets, 60 percent of which are dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners survey. There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in the United States.
Advice for buyers
Homebuyers with dogs, whether they are looking for an urban condo or a suburban house with a yard, often place a high priority on their pets’ happiness. Some communities have become more pet-friendly than they had been by developing dog parks where canines can run free. Condominiums and apartments are also catering to pet owners.
But even though a condo says it’s pet-friendly, says Lindsay Dreyer, broker-owner of City Chic Real Estate in D.C., it’s best to check the fine print, because there could be restrictions on the size of your pet, the breed and the number of pets allowed.
Lisa Groover, a real-estate agent with McEnearney Associates in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, specializes in working with dog owners.
“A lot of people don’t realize that various jurisdictions have regulations about the number of dogs you can own or how much space you need to have,” Groover says. “On top of that, homeowner associations and condo associations often have rules, too.”
If you’re looking for a single-family house, your focus is most likely to be on finding a place with a fenced yard.
“Don’t assume you can add a fence,” Groover says. “You may need to get the approval of an architectural review board and get permits. It’s important to get that information before you sign a contract.”
Even an electric fence might require approval by a homeowners association, Dreyer says.
Most homeowner associations and condo associations, even if they are pet-friendly, have pet regulations. “It’s essential to get that information or to ask your agent to get that information for you ahead of time,” Groover says.
Sometimes you’ll need to pay a special fee for having a pet or need to make a special request for your pet to be approved. That, too, is something it’s best to know about before you make an offer on a home.
“Some condos have rules about how much of your floor must be covered with carpeting, but a lot of people prefer hardwood,” Dreyer says. “You can end up in a dispute with your neighbors if your dog’s nails make noise on the hardwood, and you could be forced to cover your floors.”
Dreyer says some condos have quiet hours, so you could have to pay a fine if your dog barks.
“If your dog is afraid of elevators or kids or other dogs, you might be better off looking for a first-floor unit with a patio or for a house,” Groover says. “But if your dog barks every time someone walks by, you might be better off with an area that can be fenced off and separated from nearby foot traffic.”
Dreyer says that lower-level units in condos are often popular with dog owners who like having a private patio and not having their dogs climb stairs.
Advice for sellers
When Julie Ackerman Montross and her husband, Jeff Montross, were selling their home, Groover discussed their options for taking care of their English bulldog, Winston, while making their home attractive to buyers.
“Our dog is a big shedder, and we have dark floors, so it was hard to stay on top of that to keep the house in perfect shape,” Julie Montross says. “We decided that in order to maintain our sanity, we’d board our dog with friends. It was a difficult four weeks and hard to adjust to living without the dog, but it was definitely the best choice for us.”
Julie Montross says their dog “spooks easily” and is young, which also convinced them that keeping him out of the house when strangers visited was best.
“Sometimes it works fine to keep a dog in a crate, but remember to think about whether your dog will bark or be stressed by visitors to the house,” Groover says.
Valerie Grange, a sales manager with McWilliams Ballard condo resale division in D.C., recommends putting explicit information in your listing about whether you have a pet in residence.
In addition to concern for your pet, it’s important to remember that some people are allergic to dogs or simply afraid of them.
Dreyer says that if you can’t send your dog to day care or to a friend, you should at least take the dog out during showings. However, she warns, restricting showings too much to remove the dog first can hinder a quick sale.
Dog odors can be disturbing even if someone isn’t allergic. Groover recommends having a friend who doesn’t own a pet come by for a “sniff test” to see whether you’ve cleaned adequately.
“Remove your dog beds and toys, and repair anything the dog has damaged, Groover says. The goal is to make it as if a dog doesn’t live there, so you don’t distract from the house.”
At the same time, Groover says, the fact that a community is dog-friendly can be a positive marketing tool for a property.