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Pets Influence Many Older Homeowners' Real Estate, Decorating Choices

Survey finds some would even bring their dog or cat along when shopping for a place to live

a cat and dogs sleep on the bed

Liliya Kulianionak/Getty Images

En español | Many pet owners are thinking of their animals when they plan home renovations, do some redecorating or even shop for a new place to live.

About 7 of 10 boomers and Gen Xers — generations that together now range in age from their 40s to their mid-70s — own pets, and many take their animal companions into account when it comes to real estate. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults released by Ally Home, the mortgage division of banking and financial services outfit Ally, 30 percent of Gen Xers and 34 percent of boomers reported having made changes of some sort to their homes because of their pets. Twenty-four percent of Gen Xers and 19 percent of boomers give their dogs, cats or other animals a dedicated space inside their homes.

These statistics resonate with Gen Xer Rosie Aguilar Gutierrez, who completely remodeled her family's Silver Lake, California, home to accommodate her seven rescue cats. Gutierrez ripped out the basement wine cellar to install kitty-friendly cubbyholes as well as a corridor leading to the first story of the house to give her felines room to run and play — not to mention some much-needed mental stimulation.

"If you love animals enough, you're going to do what's right for them,” she says.

Turns out, those feline-focused upgrades were what sold the house to the couple who bought it from Gutierrez when she decided it was time to move out of the city. The buyers had two domestic cats as well as a Savannah — a hybrid of a domestic cat and a wild African cat. To get the house and its pet-friendly amenities, the couple was willing to pay $200,000 over market rate.

A bed big enough for humans and pets

Pamela Chavez Hutson's dogs

Courtesy Pamela Chavez Hutson

A garage converted into a dog run.

According to the Ally survey, 20 percent of Gen Xers and 19 percent of boomers say they would actually bring their pets along with them when shopping for a home — or have done so already.

While Pamela Chavez Hutson, 70, and her wife didn't bring their pets with them in 2015 when they were looking for a house, they insisted on having a yard big enough for their Weimaraners to run around. “They've got to get exercise, and I'm getting too old to run them around the block,” she says.

Since buying their home, which sits on four and a half acres in Acton, California, the couple has designated one room in the house as “the dog room,” where their canine companions sleep at night. They also converted their garage into a giant dog run, so if it's raining or cold, the dogs can hang out in their own space during the day.

The couple is also looking into installing easy-to-clean wainscoting in their hallway to prevent the walls from getting dirty as the dogs sprint down the hall. Those types of decisions are reflected in the Ally survey, in which older pet owners reported that their choices about furnishings and home organization are also influenced by their animals. Six percent of Gen Xers and 9 percent of boomers say they've purchased a bigger bed so that their pets can sleep with them. (Millennials, it seems, can be even more pet-crazy, with 26 percent creating dedicated spaces for their pets and 11 percent buying bigger beds to accommodate furry foot warmers.)

While sellers might be wary of allowing a golden retriever to roam the premises, a prospective home buyer might opt to take a pet on a walking tour of the neighborhood and check out attractions such as dog parks, noted Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavior insights for the National Association of Realtors.

Lautz said the association's research shows that many people take their pets into consideration when shopping for a new place to live. The most sought-after pet-friendly feature is a fenced-in yard. Others seek windowsills wide enough for pets to lounge on or a closet that can be used to keep a cat box out of view.

"Pets absolutely are the decision-maker for many homebuyers,” Lautz said.


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