Luxury condos and town homes are going to the dogs and cats
From “Yappy Hours” to “Bark Parks” and “Doggie Spas,” the most important family member is pampered to the max in luxury urban condos. Condo developers have caught on to the importance of pets to buyers and are finding new ways to lure pet-owners to their buildings.
Eighty percent of homebuyers own a pet, according to Realtor.com’s survey earlier this year, 87 percent of whom considered their pets’ needs when shopping for a home. While a large yard is a priority for many pet owners, city dwellers love their pets, too, and look for ways to keep their pets happy and healthy in a high-rise.
“Ten or 15 years ago, lots of buildings wouldn’t accept dogs,” says Clint Mann, president of Urban Pace, an advisor to developers and sales and marketing firm for new construction based in Washington, D.C. “Even if you could find a building that was pet-friendly, there were often restrictions on the number of pets you could have, the weight of the animal and the breed.”
Over the past few years, a complete flip has occurred, says Mann, and it’s rare to find a new building that doesn’t accept pets.
“You see pets allowed now in hotels, offices, planes and trains, so creating a pet-friendly environment in a rental or condo building is just part of this cultural shift,” says Mann.
Millennials are more likely to own pets than any other demographic, according to Realtor.com, and they’re also the most likely to prioritize their pets more than any other group.
Pet Pampering Services
Upscale condo buildings in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. go beyond just “accepting” pets: they encourage them.
“At Fifty-Third and Eighth, a luxury condo in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, we have a ‘Pup Park’ that only residents can use,” says Carolyn Sebba, senior vice president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing in New York City. “It’s a lovely private outdoor space, which is rare to find in Manhattan.”
The “Pup Park” is a 1,200-square-foot offshoot from a garden for residents and includes a mural, landscaping and a magnolia tree. A hose in the park can be used to rinse off dogs before taking them indoors. Sebba says about 25 percent of the condo owners have pets.
“It’s nice for dog owners to have a place to walk their dogs right outside their building, especially in the winter or when it’s hot in the summer,” she says.
At 1000 S. Michigan in Chicago, the developers are planning a residents-only dog park, a dog spa and a separate elevator for people with dogs, says Ben Creamer, co-founder and managing broker of Downtown Realty Co. in Chicago.
“It’s standard in many buildings to have a dog run alongside a building or at least to locate a high-rise adjacent to a park where people can walk their dogs,” says Creamer. “Sometimes they’re even indoors. Especially in Chicago, it’s good to have a nearby place to take your pet.”
Most buildings that offer a dog washing station supply the equipment and a space so that pet owners don’t have to wash their dogs in their units, says Creamer.
“Some buildings will have a third party provide dog spa treatments that residents can schedule,” he says.
Dog washing spaces used to be in the back alley behind a building, says Mann, but now it’s more common to see them decorated with murals and located off the lobby where residents can see pets as they come and go.
In one large New York City condo, a “doggie day care” is available exclusively for residents.
“You need a really large development to do this, but they have a pet spa, a full-time dog walker and residents can drop their dogs while they’re at work and let them play with other dogs they know from the building,” says Mann.
Some buildings have a conveniently located doggie day care on the ground floor that serves residents as well as the public, says Creamer.
Pet-sitting or dog-walking are among the services that a concierge can organize.
“In one of the rental buildings we work with, homeowners with cats can arrange to have their cats fed while they’re out of town,” says Creamer.
An amenity in many buildings that pet owners appreciate is electronic doors.
“People like it that they can give the code to a dog walker or pet-sitter,” says Mann.
Pet-centric Social Life
Pets bring their owners together, says Sebba.
“There are definitely social benefits for neighbors to meet up with other dog owners,” she says.
Many larger developments have frequent “Yappy Hours” where residents can bring their dogs and socialize with their neighbors, says Creamer.
“Lots of buildings have a ‘Pet of the Month’ photo by the front desk so residents can get to know and recognize each other’s pets,” says Mann. “Sometimes buildings will organize holiday-themed photo shoots and bring in a photographer and costumes.”
Where are cat lovers in all this pampering? Just happy to have a home that allows them to keep their furry friends.
“It’s not a lack of interest in cats that you don’t hear about cat amenities,” says Mann. “Cats are just so domesticated that they don’t really leave their condos.”
For developers, the idea of providing pet services and amenities is just one more way to appeal to consumers and bond with them around what they love, says Mann.
“Including pet amenities is definitely a trend that will continue,” says Sebba. “People won’t choose a building if they can’t bring their pets.”
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.