Apartment Life with Pets
Apartment Life With Pets
By Randa Griffin
Most Americans love pets, with surveys showing that more than two-thirds of American households have at least one pet. And those pet owners are willing to put their money where their heart is, spending a whopping $72 billion last year on pet food, toys, medical supplies, veterinary bills, grooming, and more, according to the American Pet Products Association. That number has doubled since 2005.
It’s no wonder that apartment communities are transforming their pet policies and community culture not only to allow pets but to go a step further and welcome them as residents.
Today’s apartment communities are as likely to offer pet amenities as to provide a community pool or gym.
Among the most popular are dog play parks or open, fenced-in fields. These exercise areas are essential for an animal’s health and temperament, said Erin Toung, owner of ET&T Distributors, an outdoor furniture supplier. A large open area is great for dogs to run around in, but installing an obstacle or agility course will enhance the experience for the animal and owner, said Toung, who has dogs of her own.
“The benefit is that the owner and the dog can work together and it's a bonding experience for them,” Toung said. “When you take them to the dog park and play with them on these apparatuses it stimulates their brain.”
Some communities with less open outdoor space have opted for putting dog treadmills in their clubhouse or gym.
Palm Bay Club, a Fort Family Investments community in Jacksonville, has a pool designated for dogs. The distinctive pool is shaped like a dog-bone and even has a red fire hydrant fountain in the middle.
“We probably have more dogs come to that pool than people to the resident’s pool,” said Camy Bermudez, community manager of Palm Bay Club. “They absolutely love it.”
Bermudez said about 75 percent of residents in the community own some type of pet, with dogs being the most popular. Palm Bay Club is able to maintain such an open pet policy by requiring their residents to have pet insurance in case of any damage to the apartment.
“The growth for pet ownership is on the rise, so we want to make sure to accommodate people,” said Jody Mayor, director of property management at Fort Family Investments.
After a long day of playing outside, bathing a pet is essential. However, it can be difficult for residents to bathe their pets in a small bathtub inside the apartment and pet hair can potentially cause damage to the apartment’s plumbing. Pet spas or pet grooming stations are becoming more and more popular in communities as a way for residents to conveniently pamper their pets.
Palm Bay Club has a dog wash area right next to their play park that has hot water, pet shampoo, and a dryer.
“We even have pet towels that have little paw prints on them,” said Mayor.
Some communities take their pet accommodations to another level by offering pet-sitting, walking, and feeding services.
Toung said pets aren’t the only ones who benefit from these amenities. They have huge curb appeal for communities and show prospective residents that the community cares for their pet as much as they do.
Community events are a common way to get residents interacting with each other and build a community culture — so why not include cats and dogs?
Patty Morgan-Seager, founder of Seager marketing, said a lot of communities have begun doing pet photo shoots, which gets the residents more involved and gives them a chance to meet other pet owners. She said a lot of communities even do them around the holidays so residents can bring in their families or their pets, to take pictures with Santa or the Easter bunny.
Palm Bay Club does a lot of social community events that involve pets. They host “Yappy Hours” a pet version of happy hour, have pet costume contests, and have even done pet interviews they posted on social media. The community also has a bowl of dog treats in the leasing office, so residents can come in and get a treat for their pet anytime.
Morgan-Seager said creative and personal touches can have a huge impact on residents.
“I know many of my clients are now not only sending birthday cards to the residents, but also making sure they send birthday cards to the pets as well,” she said.
Some communities are even sending out get-well cards to pets when they hear about an animal who’s recently had an illness or surgery.
Having a pet-friendly community is important, but it’s even more important to get the message across to future residents that your community will welcome them and their furry friends. Morgan-Seager, said even doing small things like posting signs around the community and including photos of pets on your website, can send an inviting message to potential residents.
Morgan-Seager said she works with a community who puts signs at every entrance that say, “We love pets!”
“That way when people drive by, even before going in, they know the community welcomes pets, which is a great marketing idea,” she said.
Morgan-Seager said communities will often give out move-in swag, like t-shirts or sweatpants, to new residents as a marketing tool to welcome them into the community.
“Now they're doing things for the pets like a personalized water bowl or personalized leash,” she said.
Photos taken at pet themed events, like “Yappy Hour” or pet costume contests, make great posts for social media, Morgan-Seager said. It’s a way to have fun with residents, and then share that fun with others, while driving traffic to your community’s sites.
One marketing avenue communities might not have considered is animal rescue organizations. The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, for example, was seeing too many pets surrendered by owners who couldn’t find pet friendly housing. Owners who can’t find an apartment that will welcome them and their pets will face a difficult decision.
“This can force owners to either lie, move outside of where they need to live, or go through the emotional turmoil of facing the decision to get rid of their companions,” said Heather Papoulis from the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.
In order to help residents find accommodating homes and promote pet-friendly communities, the Pet Alliance started an apartment registry of pet friendly apartments, which are listed on the organization’s website. Papoulis said this is beneficial not only to pet owners, but to apartment communities as well.
“Pet owners remain in their rental twice as long as those without pets,” she said.
Dwell Luxury Apartments in Maitland has found a way to promote their pet-positive attitude by posting local veterinary clinics on their website.
“Most pet owners, especially if they are new to the area, want to know if there is a vet close by should they need one, as their pets are family to them,” said property manager Nikki Cannatelli. “It is just one more way of offering customer service to our potential future residents, just as we would tell them the local schools we are zoned for and the closest shopping areas.”
Morgan-Seager said to some people their pets are their babies, which is why personalization and going that extra step are so important.
“When you embrace pets, you're sending a message to your new residents and current residents that you care,” Morgan-Seager said. “If you care about their pet, you care about them.”