“A bird may love a fish, but where would they make their home together?” playwright Joseph Stein famously wrote.
It’s a poetic musing too familiar in Durango, where owning a pet seems almost a requisite, yet finding housing options that are welcoming to animals is a struggle.
A new report from the National Association of Realtors indicates that pets have an influential role on their owners when it comes to buying, selling, renting or renovating a home.
According to its first-ever Animal House: Remodeling Impact report released this month, 81 percent of the more than 3,000 respondents in the U.S. said pets are a consideration in decision-making when it comes to finding a home.
Sixty-one percent of surveyed pet owners said it was difficult to find a rental property or home owner association that allows or accommodates animals.
“We’ve heard a lot from our members and some of the struggles they go through,” said Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communications for the National Association of Realtors. “And we’ve found that pets are a strong influencing factor. ‘Fur babies’ absolutely are a driver for some.”
As evidenced by real estate agents’ accounts, pet owners’ personal narratives and even social media pleas for help finding pet-friendly living quarters, the same is true for Durango animal lovers.
For Three Springs home owner Jennifer Henry, not just any house would do for her dog, Gracie, and three cats: Chiwii, Lily and Hope. Henry’s house has doors leading from outdoors into her garage, and from her garage into her house.
“They can come and go when I’m gone,” she said.
Henry bought her house in 2015 because of its proximity to a Horse Gulch trailhead to take Gracie on walks, fenced-in yard and front porch, and low traffic volume that would be welcome for her indoor/outdoor cats.
Incidentally, the windowsills were also built wide enough to let the cats sit comfortably to spy on outdoor activity.
“I haven’t rented much because I love animals and it’s such a struggle for some people to find a place if they have pets,” Henry said. “People are worried about damage to the house, but that usually depends on how humans take care of their pets.”
According to the Animal House study, 31 percent of real estate agents polled said often or very often their clients refuse to put in an offer on a house because it isn’t ideal for their pets, and 67 percent agreed an animal has a moderate to major effect on selling a home.
Todd Sieger, a local real estate agent, said he’s known buyers to refuse homes that were great fits because there were restrictions on pets.
“Finding a home that has a fenced yard is important to pet owners, and I have had buyers not pursue an offer on a house because it didn’t have a fenced yard for their dog or the ability to have a fenced area for their dog,” Sieger wrote in an email. “I have also had buyers who have planned to spend hundreds or even thousands fencing a yard for their dogs after closings.”
Real estate agent Jeremy Christensen also said his clients put their pets’ needs high on their checklist, with some factors even being deal-breakers, including fenced yards, separate mudrooms or entryways and proximity to grooming services.
“Pets are part of the family and people factor them in like they would look for proximity to schools for their kids,” Christensen said. “They look for things that make it easier when you have a pet.”
For whatever reason, Christensen said, the people drawn to the Durango area for the active, outdoor lifestyle often seem to have pets, especially dogs. And for those people, trail and public land access is a great asset.
“It’s kind of like having a Subaru or a Tacoma, to have a furry buddy,” Christensen said. “It’s part of the Durango package.”