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The Home-Buying Guide for Pet Parents

Several factors can impact your decision to buy a new home. Homeownership is a wealth-building opportunity, and a new home can make room for a growing family. For pet parents, the decision to buy a house may be to accommodate their furry friend and their needs. 

43% of homeowners are willing to move to find a better home for their pets. Dog ownership has grown by 39% over the last 10 years. Home buyers with pets feel a responsibility to look out for their best friend’s interests. This is why 68% of REALTOR® clients choose their new home with pets in mind.

This guide highlights what to consider as a pet parent so you can get pre-approved and house hunt confidently. 

Questions to Ask Yourself When Checking Out a Neighborhood

The area you move to may be as important for your pet’s well-being as the home you choose. Keep these questions in mind as you search for your neighborhood so you can make the best choice for yourself and your pet.

Illustration of a dog playing lists key features of a pet-friendly yard.

Is the neighborhood pet-friendly?

The basics of a pet-friendly neighborhood include sidewalks, nearby parks, and shade to keep cool in the summer. These features make planning daily walks easy knowing that you’re safe from passing vehicles and inclement weather.

Walk the neighborhood a few times to watch for off-leash and stray pets so you know what to expect on your walks. This is especially important if you allow traditionally indoor pets like cats and rabbits outside. 

See what plants are growing in the area, especially near sidewalks where your pet can eat them. If your dog responds well to “leave it,” this may not be a problem. Stay vigilant if your dog is known to eat leaves or stray “snacks” on the ground. 

Similarly, there may be new wildlife to be aware of. Learn what kinds of wild animals live in the area and take proactive safety measures, like snake aversion training.

Small outdoor animals, like chickens and rabbits, should have an enclosure to protect against potential predators in the area.

Remember: most environments are pet-friendly when you identify concerns and train for safety first. 

Are there any HOA or local pet laws to know?

Many cities and neighborhoods have specific laws for pets, particularly dogs, and each community may have its own guidelines. Look into local breed restrictions before you move.

HOAs may also have rules about the number of pets in your home, the size of your pets, and spay or neuter guidelines. 

Consider your dog’s behavior when reading local laws, too. Talkative dogs may be better suited in a home with a large yard rather than a neighborhood with homes built close together. Dogs that play rough outside may also make it difficult to keep up with guidelines for yard appearances.

City and HOA rules also affect what structures you can put in your yard. These rules may limit the types of fences you can install and may limit the construction of other structures, such as an outdoor cat patio.

Read your local laws and neighborhood rules before buying to make sure your home and neighborhood accommodate your family. 

How close are your vet and the nearest animal hospital?

Depending on how far you’re moving, you may have to find a new veterinarian. Ask your vet for recommendations if you choose to switch offices. 

Regardless of the vet you choose, you should identify an emergency veterinarian nearby in case of an accident. Young and senior pets may be especially prone to emergencies.

Features of a Pet-Friendly Home

After you’re sure the neighborhood works, here are some features to consider in your future home.

Illustration of a woman and her cat list 4 safe home features for your pet.

1. Durable and pet-appropriate flooring

As a homeowner, you get to choose your home’s flooring.

If you prefer carpet, purchase appropriate cleaning supplies to remove dirt and dander. Carpet care with pets may require:

  • A vacuum designed with pets in mind 
  • Pre-treatment sprays for any accidents 
  • A plan to shampoo carpets each season

If you prefer hardwood floors, consider large rugs and runners to minimize damage.

Also, scratch-resistant floors are popular because they limit the damage of rough play and claws. Textured floors also help pets avoid slipping, especially if they’re getting older. 

Flooring experts recommend these floorings for pets:

  • Vinyl 
  • Tile
  • Laminate
  • Cork
  • Bamboo 

Choose the flooring that fits your lifestyle and tastes best. Add carpet runners and rugs for extra comfort and traction.

2. Space to play inside

Give your pet space to play inside. Cageless pets should have a designated space where you keep their bed, toys, crate, and food and water. This gives them space to rest on their own and can keep your home organized.

Indoor-only pets should also have a pet-proof space to run and play safely. Make use of vertical space with cat trees or floating ledges that your cat can enjoy without tripping over your family and furniture. 

Small pets have specific space needs, too. Small mammals like rabbits should have at least 12 square feet of space in their cages to play. They also need supervised play outside of their cages each day. Be sure to protect wires, furniture legs, and baseboards that may otherwise become chew toys. 

3. Flexible layout and design

Consider your pet’s age and breed when deciding if a multi-level home is right for you. 

Small dogs and those with long spines, such as Dachshunds and Corgis, may need extra help to climb stairs safely. Larger breeds that are prone to joint complications, including German Shepherds and Labradors, may also need help as they age. 

If your home has a spacious first floor, you can gate the stairs so your pet can’t access them. You may also install automatic night lights and a stair runner carpet to help them climb more safely

Consider what other spaces you want to be pet-free. For example, a kitchen doorway that’s easy to gate will thwart a food-motivated pet who’s always looking for treats.

4. Appropriate yard size and location

Yards are a great way for your pet to get daily exercise. A big yard may be ideal for active breeds, like Australian Shepherds and Huskies, while a small yard would work for most toy breeds and smaller pets like guinea pigs. 

Consider a fence for your furry family. Most dogs are safe behind a five-foot fence. If your dog is a jumper, though, opt for a six-foot fence or install a coyote roller to keep your pet in and other pets out.

Consider what type of fence works best for your family, too. Chain link and split rail fences can be great for friendly neighbor dogs to greet each other, but a privacy fence can help your dog relax outside without distractions. 

The location and environment of your yard also affect your pet. If you live near a creek or heavily wooded area, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes may be frequent visitors so you’ll have to treat your pet and yard appropriately. 

Take a tour of your yard before you move in to make your home move-in ready and safe for your furry family. 

5. Space for baths and clean up

Pets need baths and your new home should have room to clean your pets. 

Large pets will fare best in a bathtub, and small pets can be sometimes bathed in a sink. 

Plan for rainy days, too. A mudroom or patio can limit the amount of mud and dirt that enter your home; and paw plungers, towels, and wipes can remove dirt and pollen from fur. 

Regular baths keep your pet and home healthy and clean.

How to Introduce Your Pets to Their New Home

Start slow and follow your pet’s lead to keep them comfortable. Know your pet’s behaviors and try some of these tips to help your pet adjust to their new home.

Man and woman cuddling with their cat.

Walk the neighborhood

Plan a trip to walk the new neighborhood with your dog before you move so the location isn’t totally new to them. Let your dog sniff all of the new scents and explore local areas like parks and walking trails on a few trips. 

This also gives you a chance to meet your neighbors and see how your dog interacts with neighborhood pets. You’ll both better understand the area and will feel more comfortable in a familiar space. 

Plan to play before move-in day

Finish the majority of your move before you bring your pet home. Moving and unpacking can be stressful for them and poses an escape risk as you’re constantly going in and out of the home. 

Spend plenty of time playing and exercising before you move your pet in. This allows them to relieve extra energy and remain calm in a new situation. 

Prepare enrichment activities like treat-stuffed toys, snuffle mats, and scent games to keep your dog engaged. Puzzle games let your pet direct extra energy into a mental challenge instead of eating your new moulding. 

Puzzle feeders and toys are great for all pets, not just dogs. Small mammals like rabbits and rats can enjoy freeing treats from cardboard tubes and boxes. Cats enjoy treat-dispensing balls they can hunt and play with.

Once everything begins to settle, give your pet dedicated attention and playtime. This helps them feel secure in a new space.

Take introductions slowly and stick to a schedule

Start slow and introduce your pet to their new home on a leash or limit their exposure to a single room. This allows them to get used to new smells and surroundings without being overwhelmed. 

Keep your pet in a crate or restricted space if you have to leave for extended periods of time to prevent accidents.

Different pets have different needs, so follow their lead for what’s comfortable. Some pets may be eager to explore while others are hesitant. Take it slow and keep pet items and schedules familiar. 

Just like us, pets have a daily routine they follow and it’s important to stick to that schedule. Feedings, walks, and play times should all stay similar to provide a sense of normalcy and comfort.

Reward calm and collected behavior

It’s common for your pet to pick up new behaviors when they’re presented with big changes. Reward good behavior to prevent unwanted habits from developing. 

Reward your pet with treats or toys when they’re relaxed and behaving how you’d like them to. Providing praise when they greet nicely or play well can also prevent habits like unnecessary barking from developing.

Practicing basic obedience lessons before the move can help prevent new behaviors from developing, too. This way, you’re reinforcing what your pet has been practicing in a new space. Daily training also helps you and your pet bond, which is great when entering a new experience together.  

Delay doggy playdates

While you may be eager to meet the new neighbors, give your pet some time to adjust before planning any doggy playdates. 

Once your dog builds confidence walking the neighborhood and seeing other pets from a distance, you can schedule walks together and begin making new friends. 

If your next-door neighbors have dogs, be proactive and introduce yourself before you move. Ask about their dog’s behavior and exchange contact information. This way, you can prevent any stressful situations or schedule a time to properly introduce your pets. 

Take extra precautions for a safe move

Take proper precautions to prevent any accidents since pets can behave unexpectedly in a new home. Move and unpack as much as you can before moving your pet in, and be sure to keep them in a crate or carrier while you’re moving.

Don’t rely on your pet’s recall ability until they’re fully acclimated to their new home. Keep dogs leashed and under your control for the first few weeks until you both feel confident.  

Moving to a new home has huge benefits for you and your pet. Prioritize their safety and be proactive in making sure the neighborhood and home are a good fit for your family. 

Happy homebuying!

Infographic shares tips to buying a pet-friendly home for your furry family.

 

Dan Green

Dan Green

Dan Green is a former mortgage loan officer and an industry expert. He's appeared on NPR and CNBC, and in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and dozens of local newspapers. Dan has helped millions of first-time home buyers get educated on mortgages, real estate, and personal finance. Have mortgage questions? Ask Dan in the chat.

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