As a majority of Americans continue to work and learn remotely, the concept of the “quarantine pet” has evolved from a suggestion into a very real trend.

While the isolation of the past year has taken a significant toll on everyone, pets offer consistent companionship. Owners also have ample time to train and play with their new pet, unlike previously when they may have been concerned that the pet would be left home alone.

At the same time that apartment buildings are getting used to more pets, it seems like many other industries, from retailers like Nordstrom’s in Seattle, to restaurants such as California Pizza Kitchen in Arlington, Va., are finding new and innovative ways to become more pet-friendly.

According to 2020 CoStar data, pet-friendliness ranks in the top three amenity searches and remains a competitive advantage for apartment communities. During the past several years, we’ve seen the industry as a whole move toward scaling back on regulations, such as size and breed, and introducing custom pet spaces and services.

As we continue grappling with working from home, here’s how apartment communities are continuing to adapt to accommodate the whole family — pets included:

Dedicated recreational space

When searching for an apartment, convenience and proximity to outdoor space for pets to walk and play is at the top of the list for many residents.

Communities in urban areas may dedicate a small courtyard area for dogs, or even offer a pet-friendly rooftop lounge. “Bark parks” where dogs can run and play off-leash have become increasingly common, particularly in suburban communities where there is more green space. Even if the community itself has limited outdoor recreation areas, property managers will be familiar with the surrounding community to direct you to safe nearby parks and walking trails.

Concierge services

In addition to dedicated outdoor space, more apartment communities are introducing pet amenities that treat your pet like a true resident. These may include pet spas, grooming stations and even fitness options such as dog treadmills. Pet spas in particular have become more popular in recent years, giving residents the space and tools to wash their dog without having to use their own shower or bathtub. Communities may also partner with an outside vendor to offer services such as grooming, dog walking or pet sitting.

If you’re interested in these options for your pet, be sure to ask how they are calculated into your pet fee. Some communities incorporate these services into a flat pet rate, while others may offer the choice with a small additional charge for use of specific amenities.

Pet-centric activities

Because many residents view their pets as members of the family, a pet can influence a prospect’s decision just as much as other key factors, such as whether a community has a pool or in-unit washer and dryer.

As a result, apartment communities are being more intentional about demonstrating their affinity for pets, from offering dog treats in the leasing office, to spotlighting a “Pet of the Week” on social media and hosting special events tailored just for pets. For example, communities may offer monthly “Yappy Hours,” host an end-of-summer dog swim or partner with a local humane society for an “Adoption Day” to raise awareness for rescue dogs.

As the industry continues to evolve and innovate, it’s important for prospective residents to keep a few key questions in mind:

  • Are there size or breed restrictions? Most apartment communities will still have size and breed restrictions depending on the size of the community and behavioral tendencies of certain breeds.
  • Are there designated pet-friendly spaces? This doesn’t just apply to bark parks or amenities. Some apartment communities may limit the buildings or floors where pets can live to contain noise disruption or allergy concerns from other residents.
  • What is the fee structure? Most operators will charge a pet deposit to protect against potential unit damage, in addition to a monthly pet fee. If the community offers special concierge services, there may be additional fees for use.
  • What paperwork is required? You probably will need to provide your pet ID paperwork and past medical records. Some communities require proof of vaccination or pet insurance.

Whether you’re searching for a new place with your current pet or thinking about adding a furry friend to the family, staying proactive can help to avoid any confusion and ensure you fully experience the amenities and services your apartment community has to offer.

Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, headquartered in Arlington, Va.

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