But when a pet lover turns into a home buyer, look out. Like parents who research the best school districts when considering neighborhoods in which to shop for a home, home buyers with pets have specific requirements, too.
1) Check County & City Code Restrictions
Imagine my shock when the city of Costa Mesa, CA, informed me that I was not allowed to own a goat. Notwithstanding, I did, in fact, own a Nubian goat. Even though my neighborhood was called Goat Hill, the city ordered me to find another home for my goat. Many cities restrict the number and types of pets allowed within city limits.
2) Read Home Owner Association Documents
Not every HOA allows pets. If the homeowner association permits pets, most likely the association bylaws will address restrictions on numbers, types, sizes, heights, noise factors and whether pets are allowed to freely roam the premises.
Many HOAs strictly enforce their bylaws. Don't fall into the trap of thinking the bylaws won't apply to you because they are silly restrictions or that the HOA won't enforce its own rules. Many homeowner association covenants carry severe penalties for those who violate their HOA regulations.
3) Consider the Home's Features
A Sacramento buyer was adamant that she would not buy a home with carpeting. She wanted a home for her Schnauzer with wood or ceramic floors throughout and did not want to deal with ripping up carpeting. Another first-time home buyer adopted a cat who ate fabric, so the home could not have drapes covering any of the windows.
Perhaps an outdoor faucet is important for bathing your dog? If so, check to make sure the home has exterior faucets; it's an easy thing to overlook. Make a list of your desired preferences before going home shopping to find the right home.
4) Examine the Home's Layout
Aging pets might have trouble climbing stairs, so for some home buyers with senior pets, a single-story home is ideal. Cats like windows, and those with window ledges or low to the ground are preferred by felines. Is there a playroom for your pets? Plenty of closet space for storing pet supplies? Your cat will appreciate a private place for a litter box, and you may prefer to keep the cat box out of sight.
Pets love to run and chase each other in circles -- will your home allow a race around the house? If you keep your pets confined to certain rooms, is the layout conducive to that arrangement? It can be expensive to pay for a pet-friendly home remodel.
5) Inspect Street Traffic
Sometimes, even the most well behaved dogs bolt when the front door is opened. Cats are inquisitive, and a curious cat can find a way to push open a screen door to get outside. In an unfamiliar surrounding, pets can dart into the street. To prevent tragedy, it's better to pass on buying a home that is located on or near a busy thoroughfare.
6) Ask About Previous Pets in House
If the seller is selling a home where pets live, check for pet damage, especially under rugs. Look at the backs of doors for scratches or gouges. Ask about pet accidents. Inquire about fleas in the house.
Pet odors are almost impossible to eliminate from a home but might not be noticeable to you, so bring along a friend who does not own a pet to act as your official sniffer. Cats, especially, mark territory; and if you own a cat, you don't want the process of improper elimination to repeat itself.
7) Find Out if the Neighborhood is Pet Friendly
Drive around the area to see if you can spot neighbors outside walking their dogs or notice cats sleeping in sunny windows. Look for community-placed receptacles for waste deposits. Consider whether you would prefer an area where dogs are on leashes and the owners carry plastic bags, or a community where dogs run free, chasing cars, while the pet owner, say, staggers behind, slurping from a can of beer?
8) Locate Pet Services
If you are buying a home in a new area, ask your agent and the neighbors for referrals to pet vendors. For example, where can you find the best:
- Pet food store
- Veterinary clinic
- Doggie day care center
- Pet sitter
9) Search for Local Dog Park
A great way to meet your neighbors and make new friends is at the local dog park. Here are few questions to ask about the dog park:
- Will you be expected to keep your dog on a leash?
- Are dogs encouraged to play with one another and socialize?
- Who maintains the park?
- Does the park provide stations and containers for picking up after your dog?
- Are you restricted from going to the park during certain hours of the day?
- Can you hear dogs barking at the park from your new home?
10) Is the Yard Fenced?
If the yard does not have a fence, and you want to provide a safe play area for your pets, find out how much it will cost to construct your own fence. If the home has an existing fence, make sure it is gated, the gate latches, and the fence is high enough so your dog can't jump over it. Inspect for loose fence boards that may need to be replaced.
Moreover, if you plan to buy a swimming pool home, either get a cover for the pool or install a security gate around it.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.