Real Estate Agent Podcast Episode 67: Pets and Real Estate
Let the world know that you are a pet-friendly agent who is wanting to find the dream home for not only your client but your client’s pets.
Brett Van Alstine
About This Episode
Many people view their pets as part of their family, and they take their pets’ opinion very seriously when shopping for a new home. As a real estate agent, it’s important to know how to factor pets into every real estate decision that you make with your clients, whether cats and dogs or birds and horses.
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JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha, and on this episode we’re talking pets and their unique place in the real estate transaction.
JON: First up, I have Brett Van Alstine, Regional Content and Social Media Specialist at The CE Shop, joining me to talk about how pets factor into the real estate conversation.
JON: Brett, thanks for joining me.
BRETT: Thanks for having me.
JON: Yeah. So let's talk pets and real estate. So what percentage of American homes actually have pets?
BRETT: So there's 67% of us households own at least one pet. The majority of those households own dogs, with second being cats.
JON: And what's the third most popular?
BRETT: I think it's birds and then horses is a close second.
JON: Okay. That makes sense.
BRETT: And I don't know if people would necessarily consider fish a pet, maybe like an exotic pet, but fish rank up there pretty high as well.
JON: Yeah. My parents had fish. I never considered them pets. That's just weird.
BRETT: The least the lowest maintenance animal you could possibly have.
JON: Yeah, that's true. So as far as popularity of pets, what region has the most?
BRETT: I think pet ownership is the highest in the West coast and in the mountain states. So I think Washington and Oregon and California on the top to the West coast. And then soon after that, it is Montana and Colorado.
JON: And what about the least amount of pet owners?
BRETT: Yeah, so the lease comes on the East coast just due to the more urban environment. I'd say it's not as conducive to owning a pet. I think Maine is probably the top owning state in the East coast, but other than that, it's pretty low across the board.
JON: Hmm. Interesting. Many pet owners treat their pets like their children. How can agents make sure to please the pet as much as the owner?
BRETT: So I think when it comes to that, you really have to put yourself almost in the pet owner's shoes. What would you like to see them do? So you really have to pay attention to their pet. Sounds strange, but almost pay as much attention to the pet, if not more attention than your client, let them see how involved and passionate you are about being around pets and how you really want to help them find the best fit for not only them, but also their pets.
JON: Yeah. So if there's an agent listening who has never had pets and may not understand why they're so important for some of their clients, what would you suggest?
BRETT: Yeah. So if you're not a pet person, it's hard to wrap your head around why pet owners are so involved and love their pets so much. So to kind of get a better understanding, I would recommend either reaching out to your friends and family, that own pets too, you know, obviously spend some time with them and kind of get the nature of the companionship or even better yet you can double down and pet sit for a weekend or a couple of days, and really kind of immerse yourself in that and get a better understanding just so you can understand one, the companionship that the pet brings, but also kind of the give and take of that relationship and why there's so much love behind it.
JON: Yeah. Great advice. So for the pet owners themselves, what are some considerations that agents should keep in mind?
BRETT: Sure, sure. So for pet owners, I think the key for them is to be able to communicate much like you would communicate with your pet. You want to be able to communicate with your agent exactly what your wants and your needs are and how that kind of fits into your function as if they're an individual or a family unit. And then where, of course the pet plays a role in all that.
JON: And what are some tips for helping clients find the dream home, not just for them, but also for their pets?
BRETT: Sure, sure. So I think top of the list would be understanding the breed’s characteristics. So whether that would be a cat or a dog or horse breed, but for dogs, especially if you have a very energetic dog, then you are gonna want a larger backyard or just being in close proximity to dog parks. So you can kind of go out and let them get rid of all that energy. But of course, if you have some birds, then maybe you don't need that backyard, but you might need some extra room in your house so that it could be another, another bedroom or a spare office, maybe the bird cages and all of their food and whatnot. So you really have to understand obviously what sort of read your animal is what those characteristics that I'm, that, and then really understand what your animal needs and wants to who, I don't know if their best life as well. Yeah.
JON: Yeah. So just as parents may look out for their children also, you know, pet owners looking out for their pets.
JON: So what are some hurdles that may arise when you're working with pet owners?
BRETT: Yeah. So for both, they're kind of the give and take is really understanding what your limitations are. Certainly, if you own a dog or you own some cats, then you're going to have to figure out what sort of space that requires and then also whether or not your neighborhood or community is going to be friendly towards that. So really finding what's going to be the best fit for you and your pet and knowing that the environment that you're in also is kind of supporting that.
JON: And how can you brand yourself as a pet friendly REALTOR®?
BRETT: This one you can kind of have fun with, especially if you are a pet lover yourself, really use that as a competitive advantage and make your branding kind of surrounding that you're pet friendly realtor. So on your business cards and your flyers, maybe on your social media profiles, let the world know that you are a pet friendly agent who is wanting to find the dream home for not on your client, but your client's pets. You're gonna want to obviously keep them in mind throughout the whole process, if it's allowed, invite the pets to come with, invite them, to come to the meet and greets, invite them to come to your open houses, just so you are showing your client that one, you truly care about their pet, and you want to keep them in consideration throughout the process, but also really building that relationship with both of them. And then outside of that, once you are through that process and you've either bought or sold, you can leave some closing gifts for your clients. So that could be another, could be toys that could be treats that could be recommendations on groomers or dog parks nearby, or even pet sitters that you really trust. So really showing them that all encompassing, you are considering the pet the whole way.
JON: Awesome. Well, thanks, Brett.
BRETT: No problem.
JON: After the break, we take a look at what you should be doing with your buyers and sellers to better accommodate pets.
JON: You know people love their pets, and maybe you even have some furry creatures in your own household. When pet owners go to find their dream home, they need the best real estate agent they can find, which is why so many of them choose to learn with The CE Shop. Learn online with our mobile-friendly courses and save 25% right now with promo code SHOPTALK.
JON: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27% of homes have a child under the age of 18, which is far less than the 67% of households that include pets. Historically speaking, pets have been a hindrance in the buying or selling of a home. When shooting listing photos, most agents wanted not a hint of an animal having ever lived there, and when showings happen there better not be a scent of a dog or a cat - or something even more exotic - floating around.
JON: Like so many things in real estate, those preferences seem to be shifting. For one, the COVID-19 pandemic broke down the walls between our personal lives and everything else in our world. If you have a dog or a cat, they’ve likely showed up on Zoom work meetings, and rarely does anyone mind. Working remotely and being confined to our homes more than ever has made it acceptable to let strangers into your world just a little more than we ever did before.
JON: Even before the pandemic, NAR did a study in 2017 that showed consumer thoughts on animals, with 99% of respondents saying they consider their pet to be a member of the family. 95% of home buyers with pets believe it’s important to choose an animal-friendly community, and 89% said they would not give up their pet if their housing situation required it.
JON: Here in Denver, none of these stats are surprising. Go to a park on a warm Saturday and it seems like everyone in the city has a dog or two, and maybe it’s the same where you live. So if we as real estate professionals no longer have to hide that a client has animals, where does that leave you?
JON: As Brett mentioned at the start of the show, there are many ways to incorporate a client’s pets into the transaction. Most dog owners want at least a moderately-sized yard, and then there are the things that humans and their pets can agree are great - big windows, open spaces, and uncluttered floor plans. One way you can stand out as a pet-friendly agent is to consider what the move will be like for the pets. Does an otherwise great house have a noisy dog next door? That could be a mark against the listing that your client may not think about.
JON: On the seller side, now that you know that a strong majority of American homes live with pets, how can you attract pet owner buyers? When staging a home or making some last-minute improvements before listing, think about how you could make life on four legs a bit easier. This might mean more pet-friendly flooring by replacing carpet with vinyl, wood, or tile. A big consideration for dog owners is a sizable yard, but how is the fence in that yard? Does the landscaping or grass need a refresher? Some of these changes may sound like a costly expense, but it can also add considerably to the kinds of offers that roll in.
JON: As any owner of an energetic dog can tell you, dog parks are a godsend. Knowing there’s one within walking distance of a house can score big points in that listing’s favor. Having a vet nearby, or a viable dog sitter or dog walker, can also make a big difference for buyers.
JON: From a rental perspective, pet deposit fees are a big source of income for property owners, but there are plenty of other reasons to allow animals to cohabit a space. There was research done by FIREPAW, Inc., an animal welfare nonprofit, that said vacancy rates for pet-friendly rentals were lower than in housing that prohibits animals. The average tenancy was 28 months longer in a pet-friendly rental, and the landlord spent less than half as much money advertising their pet-friendly units. Amenities are the name of the game for apartment complexes in competitive urban areas, and adding pet-specific ones has become very popular in the last few years. Things like designated pet bathing areas, dog-friendly open spaces, and nearby doggy day care options are quite popular in apartments nowadays.
JON: We’ve established by now that pet owners are a growing majority and that catering to the needs of their furry children is a worthwhile investment, so now let’s talk about the dark side of pets. You hope that every dog is an angel that only gets rowdy in a park when there’s a branch nearby to bite, and that every cat sticks strictly to peeing within the confines of their litter box, but this unfortunately is not the case. There are poorly-behaved animals, and more to the point there are plenty of pet owners who just don’t care what their pets do or how they do it.
JON: And thus, dear listener, you are likely to experience - or may have already experienced - a listing that is plagued with all kinds of unpleasant evidence of misbehaved animals. I’m talking about carpets that reek, door frames that have been chewed to pulp, and deep scratches clawed into windows.
JON: Houses that have been mauled by animals present a unique challenge, and just like any other home, you and the seller have to do your best to return it to a neutral state. If replacing carpet is out of the question, at least rent a carpet cleaner and be liberal with the soap. Be sure to vacuum the hard-to-reach places, as an unsightly ball of fur rolling into view might just be enough to convince a potential buyer that they should look elsewhere.
Neutral scents rule the day for any listing, and a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for covering odd marks on walls and doors. A big consideration is to run an air purifier capable of clearing pet allergens out of the air, because as much as 20-30% of adults have some kind of sensitivity to pet allergens. For many things not tackled before actually listing, be ready to make a concession. As an agent, you know that people can have vastly different ways of living, and the same goes for what someone wants out of their house. All you can do is highlight the property’s potential and detract from its imperfections, and this of course means that every seller will have to remove their animals from the house during showings. That’s really a non-negotiable fact of showing a home, as the whole point of this is to sell their property and not to have some strangers play with their cool cat for 15 minutes.
JON: In regards to using pets in your marketing, it’s a great way to stand out from the pack, especially if you already are a pet person. Any way you can use your personality or hobbies to market your real estate services is a win, so long as you don’t do it in an obnoxious or offensive way. If you know your clientele are especially likely to own pets - like in Wyoming, which has the nation’s highest percentage of pet owners - or if you’re advertising to a pet-friendly community, then it’s an especially good idea.
JON: In a main marketing piece, such as on a business card or your website, it may be a good idea to keep things pet-free and neutral. Just like you want to cast as wide a net as possible with your listings by making it easy for a buyer to imagine themselves living there, with or without a pet, you want to market your services as perfect for anyone in your area. Whether they have kids, pets, or if they spend every waking moment disc golfing, it makes no difference to you. You have the skills they need to get a great price on their dream house.
JON: That’s it for this episode, thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the episode, you can subscribe to us and leave a review on your podcast player of choice. Join us next time for a talk on branding, and how to better stand out from your fellow agents. Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.