Expert Tips for House Hunting With Your Pets in Mind

House Hunting With Pets
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Finding the perfect house to buy can be tough, and for pet owners, there are sometimes additional hurdles to overcome. Not only do you need a house that meets your needs and fits your budget, but you also want one that will accommodate your pets, perhaps within a pet-friendly neighborhood.

So, what's a house hunting pet owner to do? We went to the experts for their tips on finding the right new home for you and your four-legged friends.

Step 1: Find a Realtor Who Understands You and Your Pets

Of course, it's wonderful to work with an agent who won't roll her eyes when you mention the fact that proximity to a dog park is a top priority for you and your pooch. But Rhona Sutter, president of Pet Protect, which owns The Pet Realty Network and Pet Friendly Rental Properties, says that there's far more to a true pet-friendly real estate agent.

"Just because an agent has a pet does not make him a pet-friendly real estate agent," Sutter says. She suggests asking him what he knows about town or city pet ordinances, what rules and regulations there are in certain homeowners or condo associations and whether he knows of any upcoming changes to ordinances or regulations. "Also, when out looking at homes, listen for mentions of local pet amenities instead of just, 'Great home, great price, must move quickly,'" she says.

If your furry family goes beyond cats and dogs and you need, for example, stables for your horses, there's more to consider. "The agent should be knowledgeable about the stables, running water and electricity, and whether everything is covered by planning ordinances," Sutter says, as opposed to an agent who simply notes an outside building and says it would be a perfect place for a horse.

Still, even if you're working with a real estate agent who is just as crazy about your pets as you are, it's a good idea to do your own checking — walk the neighborhood, chat with people out walking their dogs (or cats!) and check out shops and restaurants to get your own feel for the pet friendliness of the area.

Step 2: Refine Your Needs and Wants — Present and Future

Consider what you really need for your pets beyond making sure everyone will be legally allowed to reside in the house. That includes current needs and what might become important as your pet ages or when you bring home new pets.

"Keep a look out for buildings that actively encourage pets," suggests Michael Downing, co-founder and COO of Swapt, an online platform that helps renters find the perfect apartment, including those that are certified as pet friendly. "Some modern apartment complexes will go as far as having dog walkers on staff and designated dog parks." Condos and planned communities may offer similar amenities.

And remember, just because your pet would be allowed in a home or condo doesn't mean that dwelling is the right fit. A tiny one-bedroom with no yard might be fine for you and your cat, but your Weimaraner needs more space to play. And although your 120-pound Mastiff might navigate two flights of stairs perfectly well as a puppy, how will you help him up the stairs if his mobility is compromised in his golden years?

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