What's A Dog Got To Do With It?
The solution to all of your problems: dogs.
OK, maybe not, but multifamily margins are tightening and competition for residents is increasing, making the right amenity mix key.
Experts say one of the hottest, most effective strategies is to focus on pet amenities because of the large number of pet owners and their willingness to go the extra mile for their fluffy friends. Pet-focused products can increase interest in multifamily projects, and can build community.
These days, new builds do not go up without pet amenities and most older properties are getting retrofitted, according to Lincoln Property Co. Vice President of Asset Management Theresa Kaiser-White.
“Pets are just part of people’s lives. They’ve always been part of people’s lives, but in the last five to eight years owners and developers are catering to the pets because it is an important part of people’s lives,” Kaiser-White said.
Experts vary on their estimate of how many multifamily residents have pets, but a conservative estimate is 30%, and the upper estimate is 55%.
Kaiser-White said she has seen multifamily management put increased emphasis on pet-specific amenities in the last five years, like dedicated dog parks and that more and more, even the leasing offices are stocked with dog treats and/or dog waste bags.
"This is a fairly recent change. Whereas five to 10 years ago, most of the time we allowed pets to live at properties and charged a fee, now we plan ahead to create amenities for the pets and the pet owners as part of the ecosystem for our properties. It went from access for pet owners to being able to walk their pets to dedicated space [for] and design specific for pet needs and wants," Genesis Real Estate Group President and CEO Gordon Ip said.
The new focus relates to another shift in multifamily design: the desire for community. Multifamily developers are finding that pets are one of the best ways to get residents to meet one another and fulfill, in a roundabout way, their need for community.
Kaiser-White said she has seen multifamily properties move toward creating events where residents can gather with one another via their pets. One example of this was an animal-themed "paw-ty" she observed at a community where residents brought their pets and socialized with one another.
Ip, too, has seen success in creating a community around pets. At his property, Katy at Victory Park, his company dropped a mid- to high six-figure sum in the creation of a roughly 6K SF rooftop dog park complete with a heated area for the humans and places for them together in hopes that it would create opportunities for socialization.
“There’s a social aspect to the pets. Literally, we are not only a pet-friendly community, we are somewhat pet-centric,” Ip said. “What we’ve found is, the pets [create community], if you create the right amenity to allow the people to get together … so what we’ve done is we’ve allowed the pets to create a sense of community for our community because we know the pet owners are going to gather around the dog park.”
Ip said the dog park at Katy at Victory Park has become so well-known that people are starting to cite it as a reason that they choose Ip’s community over others in the area.
“We’re known for our dog park now,” Ip said. “It’s interesting. We have many, many residents say, ‘hey, we’re choosing you because you have the best dog park in Dallas.’”
Ip cites stellar performance in the historically slow month of January as proof of the success of Katy at Victory Park’s model. In January alone, 30 leases were signed in the 463-unit community. He said the bottom line for going all-in on pet amenities has everything to do with the way it makes people feel about themselves.
“[It makes people think], if this is how we treat your pet how much more will we treat you?” Ip said.