The neighborhood is going to the dogs
An FKD Feature exclusive

Millennials’ love of pets is so strong that it’s affecting their housing decisions.

Young Americans are less likely to be parents, own a house or have a car, but they are more likely to have dogs and more likely to move into a house because of their pet.

A recent survey by SunTrust Mortgage shows that about one in three millennials who have recently purchased a house reported that their decision was influenced by the need to have space for a dog. When young homebuyers were asked why they were buying their first home, the third most popular reason was needing space to keep a dog, surprisingly ranking above children and marriage. More personal living space and the opportunity for building equity held the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.

Millennials love dogs

About three-quarters of Americans in their 30s have dogs and just more than half own cats. That is significantly more than the overall population — about 50 percent of the overall population own dogs, and 35 percent own cats.

Researchers say that the recent trends toward delaying marriage and parenthood, as well as the demand for flexible work arrangements, are facilitating a higher demand for furry companions.

A different mindset about pet ownership

Millennials have a totally different mindset about pet ownership compared to previous generations. The average millennial got their first pet at age 21, while the average Baby Boomer didn’t get a pet until they were 29. While both groups think of pets as family, many millennials see pet ownership as practice for future adult responsibilities.

Young couples might get a dog to gauge their interest and aptitude for raising a child together, without the commitment of just going for it. For people who approach pet ownership with this mindset, having a dog brings both companionship and a sense of responsibility, but with less required maintenance and a lower level of commitment, often an ideal fit for a time when many millennials’ lives and relationships aren’t fully stable.

A health-conscious generation

Millennials are way more health conscious than past generations, and that translates to the way they’re raising their pets. About 25 percent of millennials use food and fitness apps to help track and improve their own habits. More people are seeking wellness-oriented lifestyles, and health insurance and exercise are growing concerns for the millennial population. Corresponding with these trends, pet insurance has steadily gained more popularity, especially for dogs. Millennials are more willing to cater more than other groups to their pets’ comfort and well-being — and spend more money on their pets — which may contribute to the growing trend of moving into houses for a beloved pet’s sake.

The benefits of having dogs

While millennials may be spoiling their dogs, the dogs bring their owners a higher quality of life in return. Having a dog leads to lower reported stress for the owner.  Researchers also have shown that dog owners are more active on a day-to-day basis than those who don’t own dogs, consistently taking more steps per day when walking or playing with their pets.

Some studies show that dog owners take about 2,760 more steps per day on average compared to non-owners, which amounted to an additional 23 daily minutes of moderate exercise. Consistent daily moderate exercise has huge health benefits for owners and has been linked to lower blood pressure, increased heart health, better cholesterol and possibly even lower long-term medical costs.

Takeaway

The trend of single dog owners buying houses is big, growing and not going away. According to the SunTrust Mortgage survey, 42 percent of millennials who who have never purchased a home said that their pet would be a key factor in any future homebuying decisions. So, for now, you might say that the neighborhood really is going to the dogs.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 08.10.2017 - 01:39 pm EDT