There’s not much that true dog or cat lovers won’t do for their pets.
Standard Pacific Homes is testing that theory by offering an optional pet suite in the high-end homes it builds in California, Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas, Texas and Florida.
The 11th-largest U.S. homebuilder says it is the first of its competitors to offer the upgrade: a 170-square-foot space just for Fido or Fluffy, complete with a walk-in bathtub with a handheld spray; easy-to-clean tile floors and walls; a commercial-quality pet dryer; pet-size bunk beds; storage for toys and treats; a mini washer/dryer combination; and a door that leads to a dog run.
The suite even comes with a flat-screen TV so Rover can watch his favorite shows.
Jeffrey Lake, the Orange County, CA-based big builder’s vice president and national director of architecture, told the Associated Press that homeowners treat their pets as family. “Devotion to pets is second to none,” he said.
If the spending habits of the 68% of Americans who are pet owners is any indication, Lake is correct. The American Pet Products Association estimates that they spent more than $58 billion on their furry family members in 2014.
Pet-savvy homebuilders and remodelers are cashing in on the trend, and at just the right time: APPA’s 2015-2016 industry survey found that money, in most cases, is no object for the devoted dog or cat owner when it comes to spoiling a beloved pet.
“What no longer seems to be a factor on pet spending is the state of the economy,” the association said in a release.
In fact, the APPA suvey revealed that 74% of those with animals at home “are not influenced by the economy” when it comes to spending on their pets. In the survey, fewer pet owners this year reported spending less money on their animals, and fewer said they had to give up their pets for economic reasons.
The marketing pros at Standard Pacific found similar sentiments when they conducted “livability” studies with potential homeowners.
10 ways to pamper pet lovers
Here are 10 ways homebuilders and remodelers can help their homeowner-clients pamper their pooches — through upgrades that can bolster both business volume and the company’s bottom line:
1. Put together a pet package
Standard Pacific’s doggie suites add approximately $35,000 to the price of a new home. In a community where homes start at $710,000, well-off pet owners are willing to pay for the luxury, which can be amortized over the 30-year life of a mortgage like any other optional upgrade. In some other Standard Pacific communities, the builder offers scaled-down models starting at 60 square feet for $8,000.
2. Design for humans
As much as people want to pamper their pets, they don’t want their homes to look like they’ve gone to the dogs. Adam Cowherd Construction in Ozark, MO, built a pet station in the kitchen near the room’s island — its centerpiece. “Owners want it uniquely functional, very contemporary and something that catches the eye,” he told the Associated Press. Another remodeler built a couple of bowls into a shelf that slides right into an open-faced kitchen cabinet for a homeowner with a large dog. Next to it is a deep, pull-out bin that the owner keeps full of kibble. Both match the rest of the room's cabinetry.
3. Sell convenience
Pets don’t “need” their own washrooms, but homeowners like them because they isolate the mess a dog can make at bath time. Plus, a dedicated space with a big wash basin can come in handy for the homeowner who has large, non-pet items — or growing kids — to keep clean.
4. Cater to cats
Dogs are larger and need more space, but cat owners are equally enamored of their small pets. Design scratching posts that complement living room furniture or kitchen decors; build in hiding places and staircases that fit neatly against walls or near ceilings; and incorporate nap and feeding areas that “go” with bedrooms and kitchens.
5. Size up the client
Design center managers often ask prospective buyers about their children or their plans for aging in place as they try to discover which kinds of upgrades and amenities might meet their needs. Add a question about pets: Once you know you’re selling to a cat or dog lover, you can introduce some must-have, pet-friendly options.
6. Upsell specialty rooms
The homeowner who thinks a dedicated pet room is too extravagant might consider adding a mud room or laundry room with easy-to-clean floors and shelving and a dedicated feeding or cleaning station for the dog. One New York townhome owner with two small dogs had a remodeler design a station where the dogs can eat and where the owners can store their coats, booties and leashes.
7. Consider the next owner
Address your client’s concerns that a dedicated space for a pet might not appeal to potential buyers when the original owner is ready to resell the home. Design the pet space so it can be easily converted for another use. The kibble bin, for example, could be used as a place for a trash can instead of for dog food; the dedicated pet room could have shelving and crannies that could transform into storage space for the next owner.
8. Push the limits
Builders and remodelers — especially if they don’t own pets themselves — might not believe a homebuyer would be willing to pay for heated ceramic floors in a dedicated pet space just because they love their dogs. But plenty of them will, so offer the option. One Chicago homeowner designed his $3 million home with his five dogs in mind.
9. Customize cabinets
Or find a cabinet maker who specializes in pet products. Built-in beds, grooming tables and even changing tables where owners can dress up their dogs are becoming as popular with pet owners as baby furniture is with new parents.
10. Make any home pet-friendly
Builders, remodelers and interior designers who specialize in multifamily housing also have an opportunity to upsell to pet owners — or to appeal to them by making their buildings pet friendly. As more millennials opt to rent instead of buy their homes, the market for pet-friendly apartments is set to grow. The latest National Pet Owners Survey found that more than 10% of pet owners have recently adopted their first pets, and that most first-time pet “parents” are members of Generation X and Generation Y.