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Cover story: Buyers, sellers need to consider pets
Question of the Day
Although Harry S. Truman may never actually have declared, “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,” the sentiment certainly holds true for increasing numbers of Washington-area residents.
Who else but your pooch is so happy to see you at the end of a long day - except maybe your cat, who can curl around your ankles with all the intensity of a K Street lobbyist, without the hidden agenda. When it comes to buying or selling a home, however, owning a pet - or having a pet own you - can pose some challenges.
“This is a time when pets are viewed just like children in a family,” says Devon Thompson, manager of animal care programs at Petco. “People are really focusing on their pets, from high-quality foods and accessories to in-home pet services.”
So having to sequester or even remove a member of the family can be difficult for a seller to do, particularly for those already grappling with the emotional strains of readying a home for sale. Meanwhile, homebuyers need to consider how well their pet will fit in a new home and a new neighborhood.
With a little extra work and planning, just about any pet-related challenge can turn into an opportunity.
For prospective homebuyers with pets, the Greater D.C. area is an excellent hunting ground for pet-friendly situations. Pet parks abound, and more and more are being planned as neighbors learn to appreciate the value that outside time with pets brings to their community experience.
“In my neighborhood, there are always lots of people out walking with their pets,” says Adrian Hunnings, president-elect of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors, who lives in 16th Street Heights. “It’s how we get to know each other. We just moved to have a dog park, funded by the city and the neighborhood. That’s an asset that just about any dog owner would love.”
But some neighborhoods work better for some pets than others, particularly larger pets that need some space to run.
“It’s important to think about what kind of pet is suitable to the environment,” Mr. Hunnings says. “If you are shopping for a home or a condo, your pet should be your top priority.”
Other things that homebuyers should be on the lookout for, real estate professionals say, are outdoor faucets for washing, carpets that can forgive an accident or two, and neutral colors that won’t show stains.
“Eco-friendly works well with dogs,” says Jill M. Landsman, spokeswoman for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. “Lots of pet owners like to avoid carpet altogether in favor of ceramic tile or vinyl. Area rugs should be durable. Leather can work better than fabric upholstery.”
Consider, too, an aging pet that may not be able to navigate lots of stairs. For cat owners, access to windows is important. Today’s small urban spaces may not lend themselves to the indoor cat trees and perches that were mainstays in your last home.
“They take up a lot of space,” says Kelly Hartshorn, co-owner of Metro Mutts, a pet care business that opened last spring in the District’s up-and-coming H Street Northeast corridor. “Not a lot of people in town can afford the space for that.”
If you are planning to buy a condo, be sure to read the fine print about pets - and be sure the bylaws you have are current. That proved to be a problem for one Northern Virginia woman, who discovered - after rescuing two elderly English bulldogs that she thought would be within the condo’s 70-pound weight limit - that the bylaws that had been given to her when she bought her garden-apartment-style condo were out of date. A neighbor complained, and suddenly, new bylaws with reduced limits for weight and the number of allowable pets were produced.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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