Every year, researchers at the national realty company Zillow survey homebuyers on the factors that most impact their choices. This year, they were struck by an unusual finding: Many buyers picked property with their pets in mind.
“Pets are widely considered part of the American family, so it follows that they can factor into moving decisions,” says Manny Garcia, a population scientist at Zillow.
The new Zillow research, drawn from its “Consumer Housing Trends Report,” shows that those currently planning a property purchase are more likely than in the past to be pet owners, which is affecting buying trends.
Indeed, Garcia says pet ownership can be the “catalyst for a move, along with other factors, such as remote work and shifting family priorities.”
Buyers with pets typically want a property with substantial internal and external space.
“Pet owners are more likely to buy homes larger than 3,000 square feet and with at least four bedrooms. They consider outdoor space very or extremely important,” according to Garcia.
Daniel Boitel, a real estate agent specializing in luxury home sales, says the pandemic, along with an increase in pet ownership, has helped to revive interest in communities with large properties that were previously considered less desirable because of their outlying location.
“Buyers with furry friends want a property that’s move-in ready -- ideally one with a large, flat and fenced-in yard,” Boitel says. He’s currently working with a family of seven who own two oversized Labrador retrievers. They’re searching for a spacious place that accommodates both pets and small children.
He's found that the pet-owning parents of young kids typically want similar home features for the kids as for their animals.
“For the entire family, if possible, they wish to live on a dead-end street that’s quiet and sheltered from traffic. A cul-de-sac is perfect, as is a fenced-in yard,” Boitel says.
Most real estate markets are less fiercely competitive than they were during the worst of the pandemic. But the reality is that prices continue to escalate, although more slowly, and nearly all home buyers must confront trade-offs in lifestyle to attain the most they can afford.
Where you choose to live has countless implications, says Doro Kiley, a certified life coach who’s helped many clients navigate real estate transitions. She urges clients to make a home choice within the context of their overall life plans.
“Always begin by thinking about the end product -- what you’d really like as opposed to what you would settle for,” Kiley says.
Here are a few pointers for buyers:
-- Consider the pros and cons of a large yard.
Recalling their own easygoing childhoods, some parents assume their kids need a similar setting to be happy. But what was important in your formative years isn’t necessarily vital for your children now, says Eric Tyson, a personal finance specialist and co-author of “Home Buying for Dummies.”
“These days, children are much more heavily scheduled with sports, lessons and numerous other activities,” Tyson says.
Now that most kids are back to their in-person classrooms, he encourages parents to think less about yard size than the outdoor features of a neighborhood as a whole, such as parks and open space.
Surprisingly, neighborhoods where yards are smaller are often more child-friendly than those with oversized grounds.
“It’s good for children to live close to their neighborhood friends. That way they don’t have to be driven around to see playmates,” Tyson says.
-- Place a premium on a floor plan that works well for your family.
Tyson says it’s more important for families with young children to have a floor plan that encourages togetherness than to own a property with an exceptionally large yard.
“Many people only use a formal dining room on major holidays, such as Thanksgiving. But a family room connected to an eat-in kitchen is used all year long,” he says.
Large, comfortable common rooms -- often called “great rooms”-- help draw children out of their bedrooms, thereby allowing parents to monitor their kids at homework time, for example.
“It’s important to know if your kids are spending too much time playing video games rather than doing their work,” Tyson says.
-- Think of interior as well as exterior space.
Newly built houses with a wealth of elbow room typically feature spacious master bedroom suites. In such houses, secondary bedrooms, designed for children and guests, are usually much smaller.
But Tyson says it’s more important for families to have an adequate number of bedrooms than a luxurious master suite.
“People who have fond memories of sharing a bedroom with a sibling may be fine with that sort of setup. However, nowadays most buyers really want a separate bedroom for every kid, so all the children can get enough sleep, even if they have different school schedules,” he says.
-- Realize that a two-story house should give you more space for the money.
Many current buyers favor single-level living. Those who’ve hit middle age or beyond are especially likely to prefer a one-story house that won’t compel them to rely on stairs.
But Tyson says people with school-age children might wish to consider the advantages of living on two levels. That’s because it’s easier to contain the noise and mess of growing children if their bedrooms are separated from the family’s common living space.
With a two-story house, parents can entertain guests on the first level while their kids are playing upstairs. Also, young families can typically get more space for the money in a two-story house.
“In most areas, the key component of housing costs are land costs. Because two-story houses require less land, you usually get more house for the same price,” Tyson says. (To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)