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Every dog has its day as more homeowners put their pets’ needs first

The popular saying ‘A home without a dog is just a house’ rings especially true as a growing number of animal lovers put the needs of their pets first when it comes to deciding where to live

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By House & Garden South Africa | June 26, 2021 | Trends

At least 60% of South African households reportedly own at least one pet, and global indicators suggest that most of these pet owners are millennials under the age of 40. With many of this generation opting to forego children for financial or lifestyle reasons, their four-pawed or feathered companions have become part of the family. “Pets are also popular with empty-nesters and single professionals seeking companionship,” says Coetzee.

“South Africa’s pet economy is booming. With research from the Flux Trends consumer research group showing that South Africans spend between R300 million and R600 million a year on pet food alone, it’s evident that pets’ needs form part of a household’s budget and influence spending decisions,” says Coetzee. Single professionals, who don’t want to have children but have the disposable income to spend on a pet, will pay premium prices for daycare, training and even on specialist food for their animals.

“These pet priorities have spilled over into the property market as well, and buyers are willing to spend more on a property that will put a wag in Fido’s tail.” A recent survey of estate agents in the United States revealed that a third of their pet-owning clients would not buy a home if it failed to meet their animals’ needs, while 19% said they would move to better accommodate their pets. “This means that homes with fenced-in gardens, or access to nearby parks, have become increasingly popular. Home buyers want to know that there is a pet shop, vet and even a pet daycare in the area before they settle,” says Coetzee.

He adds that many people, feeling isolated because of social distancing, have turned to animals for companionship. A UK survey found that 90% of pet owners said their animals had helped them cope during lockdown. In the US, the pandemic has resulted in a 33% increase in people fostering or adopting a pet to fill the social void created by lockdown. “South Africa ranks among the top 20 countries globally when it comes to dog and cat ownership, so it’s likely that pet adoption numbers here will have increased too,” notes Coetzee.

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

“Working from home has provided greater opportunity to own and look after a pet. It’s possible to squeeze in a quick dog walk between Zoom meetings,” notes Coetzee. Remote working has also encouraged buyers to consider areas further away from the city, as this usually means they can look for properties able to accommodate more pets. “Country towns, once viewed as weekend getaways, are seeing an uptick in buyers seeking a better quality of life. Properties here may have larger plots and gardens, and it may even be possible to own a few horses and other animals.”

While it’s often possible to negotiate with a landlord about having a dog or cat, rental properties are usually not pet-friendly. Research by credit bureau TPN revealed that about 7% of residential tenants would like the option of a property that will accept pets. Most sectional title complexes have restrictions on pet ownership, and may only allow cats and dogs - often with size restrictions - on the ground floor. “Familiarise yourself with the body corporate rules on pet ownership before you consider a buy-to-let sectional title property. You are also more likely to attract tenants if your rental property is pet-friendly,” says Coetzee. “Pet lovers usually opt to own their homes so that they can accommodate their four-legged family members without having to abide by a landlord or body corporate’s rules.”

Also be mindful of the animal bylaws in your area, adds Coetzee. “Some neighbourhoods have restrictions on the number of cats or dogs you may have. So, owning your property may not necessarily mean that you can have an unlimited number of pets.” Find out whether you need a permit for the pets on your property. If you want to invest in a rental property that will be pet-friendly, make sure it has a fenced-in patch of grass, says Coetzee. Opt for tiles instead of carpets, as these are easier to maintain if there are pets in the home. It may be worth adding more storage options for pet food and accessories. If there is a pool, make sure it is closed off or there is a pool net. Ground floor units are usually more popular with dog-owners, especially if the animal is a bit older, while cats are quite comfortable living a few floors up.

Coetzee advises that a landlord must set out in the lease exactly the number, size and type of animals allowed on the property. Be clear that any damage caused by the animals to the property must be fixed by the tenant before they move out. “The upside of making a rental property pet-friendly is that the tenants are likely to stay for longer. The tenant is also likely to take better care of your property, as owning a pet shows a level of responsibility and stability,” says Coetzee.

“Pets have become so much more than just animals to have on a property for security or distraction. They have become much-loved companions who enjoy pride of place in our homes. Pet owners will therefore do their best to meet the needs of their four-legged friends, and this starts with finding a suitable home to buy or rent,” concludes Coetzee.

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