For many people, pets are family members. That’s why 81 percent of consumers say they’ll take animal-related considerations into account when deciding on their next living situation, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 report “Animal House: Remodeling Impact.” To meet the growing demand for pet-friendly apartments, Kristen Gucwa, vice president of national lease-up operations at Richman Signature Properties, says her company is “reinventing rental living and what that looks like.”
The Richman Group, a rental property development company and seventh largest owner and operator of residential apartments in the country, has 15 Richman Signature Properties in Florida and Texas, with more to come in Denver and Los Angeles. These projects range from 240 to 417 residences, depending on their location and market. Some are in urban areas and others in suburban settings, with studios to three-bedrooms ranging from $1,200 to $2,800 per month. What they all have in common is accommodations for pets. Gucwa says it’s one of their best strategies for staying competitive. “The statistics out there dictate how you need to adapt to the market; everyone is going to have to grow and adapt to what renters want today,” she says. “Most aren’t willing to give up their pet to move into a rental property.”
Indeed, NAR’s study found that 89 percent of respondents would not give up their animal because of housing restrictions or limitations. That’s why higher-end multifamily developers like The Richman Group are focusing on providing more resort-style amenities for four-legged tenants. Gucwa describes the properties she oversees as having dog parks, open spaces, and even agility courses on the grounds. Some have “pet salons,” which include tubs where residents can wash their dogs.
The Richman Signature Properties’ websites clearly spells out its policy: “We are a pet-friendly community; cats and dogs are allowed.” The message appears next to professional photos of the communities and residential units and is highlighted among other amenities, such as pools and charging stations for electric cars. It’s included in their marketing and mentioned during onsite tours.
The pet-friendly emphasis is part of an overall lifestyle marketing initiative, highlighting a live-work-play atmosphere. The company has adapted their fitness centers to include on-demand video trainers. Property management teams will coordinate social groups, get-togethers, and outings. The activity calendar, which includes wine clubs, running clubs, book clubs, fishing clubs, and even beer clubs, also appears on each community’s website. Each property is developing its own personality, Gucwa says.
Looking ahead to the opening of properties in Denver and Los Angeles, Gucwa sees two trends continuing to grow in the multifamily home sector: pet accommodations and local business partnerships. Richman Signature Properties is starting to team up with local shops and boutiques in the area to offer amenities and services to residents. They’ve also recently partnered with Barkbox, a pet toy and treat service, to provide residents who own pets with a three-month subscription as a move-in gift.
“We want to make sure it’s more than just a temporary living space,” Gucwa says. “Pet-friendly developments encourage a sense of community amongst residents.”