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Lack of pet-friendly homes to buy or rent

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By John McGrath

The shift towards apartment living coupled with one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world has created a problem in the Australian property market – a lack of pet-friendly homes to buy or rent. 

It is standard practice in most strata schemes for body corporates to disallow pets among owners and tenants. This wasn’t a big problem in the past when affordability was less of a strain and pet owners in major cities could afford to buy or rent a house.

But today, with more of us living in apartments due to affordability or circumstance (such as living alone or as couples without kids – both growing trends), apartment living is on the rise and things are getting difficult for pet owners.

Last year, industry body released a comprehensive report on pet ownership in Australia. It described the rise of higher-density living in major urban areas as “the biggest current threat to pet ownership in Australia – particularly in the current environment of strict body corporate or strata rules that exclude pets in multi-dwelling developments”.

The report also noted a change in attitude amongst pet owners, with many seeing their ‘fur babies’ as members of the family, not just companion animals. “There has been a marked change in the role dogs and cats play in the household. The relationship between humans and their pets has become much closer with a significant lift in the proportion of owners who see their pets as members of the family rather than merely companions.”

The report found two-thirds of households with dogs (65%) and cats (66%) now regard them as part of the family, up from 59% and 57% respectively in 2013.

In the sales market, this means buyers are struggling to find a place to live. In most cases, their love for their pet will make them walk away from apartments that aren’t pet friendly. This is also causing sellers to lose money. I live in an apartment complex myself, so am very much aware of the issue at hand and have seen some vendors lose tens of thousands of dollars off their sale price because the building won’t allow pets.

In the rental market, tenants are struggling to find good quality homes because most landlords don’t want pets.

According to a recent newspaper report, the NSW Animal Welfare League says 12.8% of pets surrendered last year were given up by tenants who could not find pet-friendly accommodation. This represents an 8% increase on the previous year.

A new research paper from the University of Western Sydney titled ‘Renting with pets: a pathway to housing insecurity?’, found that many tenants had to rent poorly-maintained properties in poorer locations because they were the only ones that allowed pets. Other tenants were living with unauthorised pets, causing feelings of insecurity and stress due to the constant threat of eviction.

I think all apartment buildings should be pet-friendly, with appropriate rules. The property market needs to evolve in line with the lifestyle changes of the population. If apartment living is on the rise and our pets are meaning more to us than ever before, then the marketplace needs to adjust.

Over my 30-plus years in real estate, I’ve often found that problems in the market often come with opportunities and in my opinion, making your property pet-friendly will make it more valuable.

US research shows tenants with pets stayed longer in their rental homes than those without pets. This means lower vacancy periods, which is one of the most costly aspects of owning rentals.

For sellers, the more buyers you have, the better your sale price. We’re seeing plenty of evidence on the ground that buyers are walking away from apartments that don’t allow pets.

If you live in a pet friendly building, make sure this is highlighted in your marketing. Pet owners are motivated by love and emotion is a key element in how much a buyer will pay for your home. 

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2017


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