Pat Kuzel loves the view from her new lakeside home in Buffalo, Minnesota.
Her dogs Bernadette and Grizzly, who can’t climb stairs anymore, love that their new, single-level home also has a ramped entrance built just for them.
“Bernadette, my Saint Bernard, is 12, and Grizzly, my Husky-Lab mix, is almost 15,” said Kuzel, who had been subletting space at a friend’s home, but wanted to find a home of her own.
“We’ve been together for a long time,” she said of her dogs. “They were a major factor in the home I bought. We love it and couldn’t be happier.”
Kuzel is not alone in her desire to find housing that meets the needs of her pets.
A realtor.com® online survey found that 80% of 1,000 homebuyers surveyed who bought homes in 2018 were pet owners. All rated their pets as important factors in their home purchase, and 75% said they would have passed on their dream home if it didn’t accommodate their pets. This number was even higher — 79% — among 18- to 34-year-olds.
According to the National Association of Realtors® 2017 “Animal House: Remodeling Impact” study of U.S. households, 89% of consumers were unwilling to give up their pet over housing. All rated their pets as important factors in their home purchase, and 85% said they wanted a home large enough to accommodate their pets.
In the association’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (PDF) of more than 7,000 recent buyers, it also found that 15% of all buyers pick their neighborhood for its pet-friendly green spaces. This number was even higher — 27% — among buyers under 28 years old.
Liz Bryant, who leads Wells Fargo Home Lending’s national team of more than 4,000 mortgage consultants, said a recent study Wells Fargo commissioned of 1,0041 people age 21 and older further underscores pet power in home buying.
Of those surveyed, 41% of Americans cited space for pets as important to have in their dream home — even more important than space for kids (34%).
“When you’re buying a house, you’re looking for something that fits your lifestyle and your family, so if pets are a part of your family, you look for a home that fits their needs, too,” said Bryant, who bought a home near a park where she can walk her 1-year-old French bulldog Rudy and 8-year-old pug Momo.
“Our job at Wells Fargo is to help customers get the financing they need so they can achieve their homeownership goals, no matter what that goal is,” Bryant said. “If their goal is a home with space for their dog, we want to help them get there.”
In Kuzel’s case, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Consultant Lynn Bohm — a 39-year company veteran — helped her find a home that worked for her, Bernadette, and Grizzly, and also fit her budget, through a Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, or MHFA, program.
The program included homeownership counseling and allowed Kuzel to buy the home with a $2,000 down payment, preserving some of her savings. The rest of the money needed came from MHFA’s down payment assistance.
“A friend of mine told me about Lynn,” Kuzel said. “I didn’t know if I’d qualify for a loan with the savings I had — I knew I did not want to touch my 401(k) — and it was like she was a godsend to me when she said, ‘I can probably help you out with that.’ She then told me about the homebuying assistance program and guided me through all the steps.”
“This is a great program, because many people have the steady job, decent credit, and acceptable debt-to-income ratios, but just lack the down payment,” said Bohm. “Programs like MHFA, our yourFirst Mortgage®, and NeighborhoodLIFT® allow people to buy homes much sooner, instead of waiting until they save up a lot of money, which can be a significant barrier to homeownership.”
“It’s endings like this that make all the difference to me and what I get to do each day so incredibly satisfying,” Bohm said. “When you get to help someone like Pat who maybe didn’t believe they could be a homeowner become one, you can’t put a price tag on that. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Pet power here to stay
Whether it’s driving purchases of pet-related products or homebuying decisions, said Jessica Lautz, vice president of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for the National Association of Realtors, pet power shows no signs of slowing as a retail force.
Since the association’s 2018 study of pets and homeownership, Lautz said, there has been a continued increase in the number of unmarried couples buying homes that offer green spaces for their dogs, or are close to parks and veterinarians.
“Twenty percent of unmarried couples chose their neighborhood for their pet needs,” she said. “These buyers won’t even look at homes in areas that don’t have those features, as their pet is considered a member of their family.”
For Kuzel, letting the needs of her dogs guide her choice of home couldn’t have worked out better. “My dogs love it here,” she said. “It’s so peaceful. I can sit out on the deck looking at the water and enjoy a cup of coffee with Bernadette and Grizzly right there beside me.”