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SCapitalizing On The Pet Phenomenon

As published in by Carrie Rossenfeld
Nov 7, 2016

SAN DIEGO—According to recent data from research firm GfK, more and moreMillennials are opting for pets versus parenthood, which is playing an important role in apartment renters’ decision-making process, Sunrise Management’s CEO Joe Greenblatt tells In fact, he says, Millennials have supplanted Baby Boomers as the largest US pet-owning population. And according to data from the American Pet Association, 60% of all Americans own at least one pet. As a result, the once pervasive “no pets” policy is increasingly rare at rental communities, and property owners and operators are focusing more and more on pet-friendly amenities and services. We spoke exclusively with Greenblatt about the uptick in services and amenities for pets and pet owners at multifamilyproperties. What is driving people, particularly Millennials, to value their pets more than they have in the past?
Greenblatt: There is a clear understanding that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Millennials is that they are deferring—relative to previous generations—key decisions such as marriage, starting a family and buying homes. Pets fill a nurturing and companionship need that otherwise might be met through parenthood and are comparatively affordable and convenient. How are multifamily communities and other areas of real estate adapting to this heightened value of pets?
Greenblatt: We are seeing pets play an increasingly important part in the renter’s decision-making process, and as a result have seen a significant shift to pet acceptance at multifamily communities, which has become more the norm than the exception. Pet rent has also become an accepted practice in many markets and yields ancillary income, helping mitigate the liability and property-damage risks associated with pets. What are the most popular pet amenities?
Greenblatt: We have installed dog parks at many of our communities. Pet-comfort stations and pet washes, as well as pet-sitting, pet-walking and pet-grooming services also top the list of amenities. Another popular onsite phenomenon: yappy hours, at which community members and pets convene to socialize, as well as pet concierges and even pet spas. It’s also important to keep grounds clean, so we often install dog-waste bags and dog-washing sites throughout communities. Where do you see this trend heading?
Greenblatt: Pet acceptance is here to stay; however, pet popularity may wane as this generation moves on to raising families. Millennials will not be young forever! What else should our readers know about pet-friendly amenities?
Greenblatt: Like other amenities, pet amenities must be well managed and maintained. While renters may appreciate pet acceptance, and owners and managers welcome the ancillary income, there are important operational and risk issues to consider. These include the annoyance of barking dogs, or even worse, the liability risk of aggressive dogs. Such issues should be carefully addressed in a well-thought-out and -implemented pet-acceptance program. Anything else property managers should know about having pets on the premises?
Greenblatt: With an increase in pets on property, multifamily managers may opt to use pet-DNA testing and registration. This is a best practice. It has two important applications: first, to help manage breed restrictions (which are important because most property owners’ liability-insurance policies specify that certain breeds are excluded from coverage). Secondly, using registration facilitates practical and fair management of pet waste (traceable back to the pet owner through DNA testing—since not everyone is a responsible pet owner). This maintains the quality of the environment for both pet-owning and non-pet-owning residents.

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