Big or Small, let’s Welcome them All!
We were taking a tour at a multifamily rental development in San Francisco with a property manager in January. We stood by the property’s dog park and watched as all sizes and breeds were racing around, playing off-leash. Having toured many multifamily developments across the States over the years we noticed something unusual. The dogs. Many of them were big. And there were many of them.
“Those dogs are way bigger than the normal allowances we see, what’s the story with that?” we asked.
“That,” the property manager said, “was the best thing we ever did. We lifted the weight restrictions on dogs. And it’s been a game changer for us.”
“We’ve had a phenomenal increase in interested renters and a much greater choice of qualified renters. We can pick and choose who we want from a better pool than ever before.”
We watched a German Shepherd tug-of-war with a lab. “Didn’t this create problems with other renters or cause tension between pets?”
“You’d think, but one year in and not a single complaint. And our retention rate has increased like crazy – folks don’t want to leave and will absorb rent increases so long as they can stay. We’re expanding this to our entire portfolio. It pays.”
The top three most popular breeds in the United States fall foul of most current weight restrictions on multifamily rentals – Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. Those renters have money to spend and if your multifamily cannot accommodate them, they will find one that does – and pay top dollar for the privilege. In short, going the extra mile to make pet owners feel welcome has paid off in increased interest and renter quality, increased loyalty and retention, and rent increases and absorption. In short – pets pay.
Pets matter to the bottom line.
More than kids.
If you do not think pets are a big deal, deal with these numbers:
More than 50% of apartment seekers claim they do not secure a lease because of restrictive or unattractive pet policies.
Those numbers, and the opportunity and money they represent, are way too big to dismiss. And as the number of empty nesters and young people who delay marriage is growing, so is the number of pets – they’re filling a void of companionship for a growing number of Americans. An American Veterinary Medical Associations research survey found dog ownership is now growing at a good clip among renters.
And when we say pets, we’re not talking about people thinking of their pets as furry toys with four legs. It’s a serious emotional thing for them – 80% of those pet owners claim they care for their pets as if they are their own children. Pets are serious business and an as-serious emotional attachment for multifamily renters. They decide from their pet’s perspective as much, if not more, than their own, and the number of multifamily properties with pets are currently more than double the number of those with kids. Simply put, by not being pet-friendly, they lose half their potential renters.
So, what are multifamilies doing to pamper pets?
Pet-friendly no longer just means pets are begrudgingly allowed. It means a lot more. With multifamily, the vast bulk of pet pampering is geared towards dogs. Which makes sense. Cats, birds, fish, snakes, gerbils, and others are a lot easier to keep inside all day. Dogs not so much. So, what are some of the things multifamily is doing these days that we can learn from and be inspired by? They range from the pure practical to the purely indulgent:
- Get to know your pet owners. Interview pet-owning renters and their pets before signing a lease. You’ll do your renters a courtesy by vetting the bad apples from the good ones. For example, an aggressive dog that ends up injuring someone can be a liability, as well as a legal and financial challenge. Educate new residents on pet policies, make sure pets are registered with the leasing office, that pets have their vaccinations, and build in a pet-introduction tour. This gives you an opportunity to assess, mitigate, or avoid risk.
- Give pet owners a fair deal. Think about creating reasonable pet deposits that consider the type of pet and the statistical likelihood of damage rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. This gives everyone more options without placing undue financial burden on those with politer pooches. Help them understand the difference between pet rent, fees, and deposits if needed. The effort will be reciprocated with loyal, steady tenants.
- Think about pet concierge services. For pet owners who spend most of their day working, a multifamily property that provides in-home services like pet sitting, dog walking, training, feeding, or grooming for dogs (and cats) is a great amenity to provide. You can do it through third party businesses like Baroo, Bark Buildings, or Wag!. The ever-popular dog-wash stations in the building can provide a great doggy spa experience and not mess your apartment hallways with muddy footprints or your apartment tubs with hair and scratch marks.
- Arrange pet services discounts. Strike tenant deals with local vets, pet stores, daycare, and other pet services. Americans spend $72 billion dollars a year on their pets, so it’s an expensive line item for tenants. For example, our client AvalonBay Communities partners with their local VCA Animal Hospital as an amenity for residents. Some perks include a first free wellness exam, 10% off veterinary services, and home delivery of pet food and medication.
- Create great pooch-speriences. The 2019 Multifamily Amenities Report survey found that dog parks were in the top four desired amenities. So, it would benefit you to work in fenced-in green spaces (also known as bark parks) for owners and pets to meet, greet, and cavort. An indoor version for rainy days will also help a lot. They could be rooftop dog parks or special outdoor or indoor areas for dog walking and playing. Think about throwing in some agility equipment and liquid refreshment, as well as trash cans and supplies to clean up messes.
- Consider Pet Events. How about special events for pets to create a positive pet vibe. Doggy paddle pool parties? Howl-O-Ween costume contests? Yappy Hour? Pet of the Month Awards? Tenants and pets can have fun, get to know each other, and build a stronger sense of community and home. In fact, pet owners are more likely to stay in a community because of a friend they have met at the dog park.
Finally, market your pet-friendliness!
Now that all of your great policies and activities are in place, it’s time to share them with potential renters that both own and love pets! Here are some great ways to spread the word:
- Post pictures of pets on social media – businesses that use pet photos in their content see an increase of 295% overall engagement, with an 89% increase in comments and 15% increase in likes.
Source: Newswhip Content & Analytics Platform
- Create renderings with pets to use in preleasing.
- Run social advertising that features pet-centric photos and copy, then target these ads to pet-owners or utilize behavioral layering to reach pet-owners on mobile.
- Switch up your email marketing and send an email to prospects exclusively about how your community is pet-friendly.
- Run giveaways or social contents that residents and prospective residents can participate in to promote awareness of your pet-friendly property.
- Consider partnering with “pet-influencers” to affordably promote your brand to new, already cultivated audiences.
- Remember: Humorous and relatable content goes a long way for brand trust and customer retention.
Compare the costs of a more pet-friendly property to that of the potential revenue increases. Those who have think it’s worth it to go the extra mile and roll out the red furry carpet.
From planned pet events to social campaigns to professional photography marketing your pet-friendly community is a must.
A Luxury Pet-Only Community
Pet-friendly marketing is so beneficial that Greystar wanted to create the first pet-only community. The catch? It was for April Fools. They tasked Primary with creating a 3D rendering of how the community would look, scratching post doors and all. Come see a closer look.
Avalon’s WAG Promotions
They took their pet-friendly communities to the next level by creating timely promotions to boost brand loyalty and keep their pet-loving residents engaged. Check out how we helped build out this one-of-a-kind program.
Professional photography shows potential renters you’re serious about your pet-friendly community.