Nearly 67 percent of households in the United States have at least one pet. Millennials, in particular, are proud pet parents: about 70 percent of this demographic has at least one critter, and almost 80 percent of home buyers from this generation said they’d only consider buying a home that fit the bill for any of their pets’ special needs.
No matter your age, you don’t necessarily need to give up the idea of your dream home to find a place where you and your best friend can grow old together, but there are some special considerations you should make. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to home buying for pet owners to help you move into the best nest for every two- and four-legged member of your family.
Note: our guide generally discusses considerations for dogs and cats, which are the most popular pets in the country. However, a lot of our research-based advice makes sense for other pets. If you have any questions about the type of home that will work best for your family no matter what kind of animal you have, be sure to talk to your veterinarian.
Obey Local Pet Rules
Before you get serious about house hunting, you’ll need to consider the community you’d like to live in. Certain neighborhoods and even some cities have rules about pet ownership, including:
- Breed restrictions
- Pet size and/or weight limits
- Number of pets allowed
Be sure you check local laws and look at the rules outlined by homeowners associations (HOAs), condo boards, or townhome communities for any homes you’re interested in making an offer on. You certainly don’t want to move into a home only to pay fines or even have to give up your pets because they’re not legally allowed to live there.
Don’t Ignore Mother Nature
Unfortunately, some of the otherwise most-desirable areas to live in suffer some of the biggest natural catastrophes. You may not be able to stop bad weather from coming to the area where you’ll be living, but you can control how safe you and your pets will be should disaster strike. Take these tips into consideration:
- In areas where evacuation may be necessary, as is the case with hurricanes, wildfires, and tsunamis, choose a home near an evacuation route so you can get to safety quickly.
- Choose a home in an urban area if you live where there are wildfire risks, which are less likely to fall victim to flames than those in wooded areas. This is especially important for people with outdoor pets.
- Homes in areas where tornadoes are a threat should ideally have a basement big enough for the whole family to take refuge in, including your pets. Note: If you live in an area where tornadoes are a threat, pets like dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals should all be kept inside of your home, since these storms come without much warning and usually don’t leave you with enough time to bring them indoors. Have a plan for larger animals that must live outdoors, such as horses.
Similarly, if you live in an area where predators are common, including wolves, coyotes, and alligators, opt for a place where you’re less likely to encounter this wildlife at home or in your neighborhood. You’ll not only have peace of mind when it comes to your pets, but also for the human members of your family.
Think About Your Commute
Especially in an emergency, you should be able to get to a vet’s office quickly. Similarly, you or a co-pet parent should also be able to make it home to your pet within an hour or so should your furry friend need you (if your dog walker can’t make it to their scheduled mid-day visit, for example). Whether you dream of living in the heart of a major city or in a remote cabin amid miles of country, make sure you have an easy and reliable way of getting your pet the care it needs, whether from you or a veterinarian.
There is a reason homes located on busy roads are often less expensive than similar ones on quieter streets: their potential for busy traffic makes them more dangerous. If you have a dog or cat, even one without a reputation for getting loose, carefully consider whether you want to live on a main road. It only takes a few seconds for a pet to get loose and a tragedy to occur.
Look for a Walkable Community
A walkable community is a necessity for dog owners. It’s not just about having a pretty neighborhood to walk in — it’s also a matter of safety for you and your pet during every outing. Think about these important factors as you’re scouting out a new place to live:
- Are there sidewalks?
- Are walkways well-maintained?
- Is there ample street lighting for nighttime strolls?
- Are there stray pets or wild animals wandering around?
- Are there speed bumps in the road?
- Are drivers obeying traffic laws, including driving at or below the speed limit, stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks?
- Are other people walking their dogs, and do they look confident doing so?
If you’ve found an otherwise-perfect home in a neighborhood with a low walkability score, it should ideally be a short drive away from a park where the two of you can walk together or a dog park where he can run freely, even if you have a large backyard. Walks are an important way to strengthen your bond with your pooch and reinforce your role as his master. Plus, dogs like to get out of the house once in a while, too!
Find a One-story Home for Aging or Injury-prone Pets
Stairs can be difficult to maneuver for older pets, and they can be dangerous for those that are prone to serious hip, back, and leg injuries, such as dachshunds and corgis. If you fall in love with a multi-level home, you can make it more pet-friendly by adding carpeting to stairs (runners work great, but be sure they’re securely fastened to the floor to prevent slipping and tripping) or blocking them off with baby gates.
Don’t forget to think about stairs outside. If your pet has to climb them every time he comes in from a walk, you’ll need to be mindful of his comfort in doing so.
Be Mindful of the Floorplan
While most cats are fine in — and sometimes prefer — confined areas, dogs typically do better in homes with open floor plans. Large breeds appreciate the room to roam without feeling claustrophobic, and you won’t risk stepping on small critters any time they follow you into a tight space.
Look for a Safe and Secure Yard
If you have a pet that spends any time outside, even on a leash or in a crate, having a fenced-in yard is critical for thwarting any escape attempts and preventing other animals from entering. Securing your perimeter also protects your neighbors and passersby. If your pet has a tendency to be aggressive, it’s critical your yard has a barrier your pet can’t jump over.
Keep in mind there are often restrictions on building a fence in communities with HOAs, including rules regarding material and height. Be sure you know this information ahead of making an offer on a home where you’d need to build one. Also remember that it can be expensive to install one, so this cost should be factored into your home-buying budget.
Lastly, be sure there are no outdoor hazards for your pet. Poisonous plants don’t have to be a deal breaker since they can usually be removed without any issues or much expense, but keep an eye out for these potential hazards that are worth some serious thought:
- Pools, ponds, and other water features can be hazardous for small pets, especially those that are old or have a disability. They can drown if they fall in and can’t get out quickly, or they could freeze if they take a tumble during extremely cold weather and aren’t able to warm up indoors right away.
- Large yards, even those that are fenced in, that have any wooded areas may be hiding animals that could harm your pet, like snakes.
- Elevated areas without proper barriers pose a falling risk, such as a raised deck.
Pay Attention to Flooring
Most furry pets shed, which can get trapped in carpeting and trigger allergies. Pets who aren’t fully potty trained can also have accidents inside your beautiful new home. In either scenario, clean-up is much easier on hard, non-porous flooring, like tile or vinyl, as opposed to carpeting and unfinished hardwood. Carpeting is also unforgiving when it comes to longevity because it gets dingy looking really quickly, especially with the wear-and-tear that results from claws and dirty paws.
While minimal carpeting is best, dogs and cats also have a habit of scratching floors, so look for durable materials if you’ve got a clawed critter. You can always add area rugs to bring some softness to a room, which are much easier to clean and cheaper to replace than carpet.
It’s also helpful to find a place with some space between your entrance and the main part of your home, such as an entryway where you can wipe Fido’s feet after taking him for a walk. This will help protect your floors and furniture.
Ensure the Windows are Secure
Cat owners should pay extra attention to a home’s windows, especially if it has multiple stories. Ideally, windows should all have screens and locks that keep curious kitties inside, although you can install these features after you move in. Just keep this cost in mind when putting in your offer, because this can be a pricey project.
Pet-proof Your New Home
Whichever home you choose, don’t forget to pet-proof after you move in. In addition to being mindful of the items in this guide, be sure to:
- Make sure all doors close securely and that they stay latched shut.
- Block off doorways to areas you don’t want your pet to enter as well as places where your pet could get stuck, like the space between your washer and dryer.
- Keep dangerous chemicals and objects out of reach of your pets. Anything left at floor level should be in a childproof cabinet.
- Cover electrical outlets, and hide power cords from pets with a tendency for chewing.
- Secure all trash can lids.
- Put fencing around gardens with anything they might be tempted to eat, such as vegetables or spices.
- Keep pools, ponds, and other water features secure by enclosing them with a fence or using alarms.
- Remove toxic plants from your yard. Keep them out of the house, too: cats tend to chew on eye-catching flowers in pots and vases, while dogs are apt to nibble up any petals and leaves they see lying around.
You probably won’t be able to find a home that meets every single item in our guide, and that’s OK. Do your best to find a place that has all or most of the must-haves unique to your pet, and take care of any critical issues after you move in. Taking these steps helps ensure that every member of your family lives happily ever after in your new abode.