It’s not that kitchen island that offers more entertainment space for those weekend gatherings. And it’s not the relaxing master bathroom with two (count ‘em, TWO sinks) that drive millennials into taking the mortgage plunge. It’s their dogs. “It’s a dog’s life” may be truer than ever before, driving millennials to look all-important dog-friendly amenities when buying their first home.
A 2017 Harris Poll conducted by Sun Trust Mortgage revealed that a full one-third of millennial home buyers’ decisions to buy homes is driven chiefly by their desire to have a dog or have space for a dog that didn’t require them to head down a set of apartment stairs at 6 am every day. In fact, dogs outranked weddings and kids as one a prime incentive for buying a house.
It isn’t just the inconvenience of having to walk a dog several times a day that is at the heart of this, however. Much of it is tied to guilt — guilt over owning a dog that is forced to stay cooped up each day. With dog rescues becoming a lasting trend, millennials’ desire to give one's dog the best life possible is one that real estate brokers see more frequently than one would imagine.
Ask any Realtor who specializes in the millennial demographic, and they’ll describe how their buyers will go into the house, through the kitchen, and then walk directly into backyard, assessing it for their dog(s).
This phenomenon is also a reason homebuilders and remodelers are seeing a surge in amenities like dog-washing stations, retractable kitchen drawers for dog bowls, and under-stairs retreats designed just for canines. A nearby dog park is a huge neighborhood feature as well. Think about it. How many romantic comedies involve two people meeting over a dog romp? It seems having this trait in common with others that live nearby forms bonds between people that eclipses the neighborhood barbecue or yard sale day.
Another feature millennials look for in their to-be neighborhoods are dog-friendly restaurants. Eating establishments are rising to the occasion, with entry areas that offer fresh running water, patios that offer seating for pet owners with their pets in tow, and even a standard free menu treat. Starbucks now offers a free “puppacino” — a frothy concoction in a cup that will have your dog sporting one of those “Got milk?” smiles all day long.
Millennials also take note of the number of walking trails nearby and if they don’t exist, will bolster efforts to add pet waste stations to keep things looking good. Sound a little extreme? It’s obvious millennials regard their pets as family members — arguably more so than any previous generation. In an NBC News article on the topic, Laura Schenone, author of The Dogs of Avalon: The Race to Save Animals in Peril, says, "Millennials have grown up in a different world than boomers and Gen-Xers, and it has impacted the way they see dogs. For one thing, this generation is more educated than any before: 27 percent of millennial women have a bachelor's degree, compared with 14 percent of boomers and 20 percent of Gen-Xers. There is research to show that the college educated are more aware of the environment and the natural world, which includes animals.”
Compare this to the childhood many baby boomers experienced with larger dogs or those that shed relegated to the backyard, when responsible dog ownership included rolled up newspapers and choke collars, and routinely putting pets to sleep instead of spending the thousands of dollars dog owners now spend to keep Fido around for even six more months.
Part of this dog-centered penchant on the part of millennials may also be due to how they
wait to have kids or decide not to have them at all. "Some millennials say they are having dogs [instead] of children," says Schenone in the article. "That's a leap, but not hard to believe; after all, they are less well off than boomers and Gen-Xers were at their age, and more burdened by student loans and debt. Everybody needs love and a family: dogs are cheaper, easier, and provide love.”
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