DINKS, Dogs, and Real Estate: Exploring the Desires of a Powerful Demographic


couples without children want pet friendly homesAmerica’s generation Y, those young adults born in the late 70s-early 80s, is the largest population since the Baby Boomers. So, for real estate professionals, tracking the habits and desires of said generation is important. One interesting trend with direct impact on real estate: today, young, educated and affluent couples are having less children. Or no children. But over half of these couples have a pet, most often a dog. So what does a DINK (dual income, no kids) couple want in a house?

Fewer Parents in the Population

Why the trend toward childlessness? The economy, of course, plays into the situation. According to the Huffington Post, “Many young Americans are postponing starting their own families because they are struggling to stay afloat. Some 22 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say they have delayed having a baby,” largely in response to the uncertain economy. “Americans are having fewer babies than the British and the French -- not enough to maintain the size of the U.S. population without immigration, according to the Economist.”

But it’s not always because of fear that people forgo parenthood—sometimes the choice is a happy one, made largely because in this modern age, DINKs have that choice in the first place.  DINK  Life, (a site for dual income, no kids couples)reported in March, 2012 that recent U.S. Census data show declines in both Gen-Y and Gen-X parenthood:, as much as 50% in some age groups when compared to 1970s data. And, a 2011 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy confirms the trend: A “surprisingly large number…..are delaying parenthood or forgoing it completely.” Why? Yes, the economy came up, but so did “extreme work schedules, strong career ambitions….. and less societal pressure.”

Pets Instead?

But, that doesn’t mean they don’t have pets. In fact, According to a nationwide survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, just fewer than 62% of households or a total of 71 million homes, included a pet in 2009 and 2010.That number was down, per USA Today reports, in 2012 for the first time since 1991 (another victim of the economy) but still shows a striking love of dogs. “Most American pet owners have dogs: about 70 million of them in 36.5% of U.S. homes.” DINKs, apparently, have an even higher percentage of pet ownership, and they also spend more on their pets than families with kids. When it comes to buying a house then, DINKs will look for pet friendly factors. In the case of dog owners who treat their dogs as children, their needs are remarkably similar to those of parents of young children.

Personal Testimony

My husband and are a prime example. We have no actual child, but our dog Buckley is about as close as he can get: utterly pampered, his every need seen to. And you better believe his welfare came into play when we chose a house. We wanted a yard, a quiet street for safety, and close proximity to more than one park for walks. These considerations closely mirror those of parents, I realize; but in this case, we are Buckley’s de facto parents. We sacrificed “cooler” neighborhoods with more activity and urban buzz in favor of something that worked for us and for our four-legged baby.

The Verdict Is in: Pet Sells

We may have heard that sex sells, but some people have noticed that in real estate, “pet” also sells. SF Gate recently covered the use of pets as staging tools (rented out for the listing photos only) and the fact that many real estate companies seem to target pet lovers in their ad campaigns. Certainly then, the demographic of “dog lover” or “cat lover” has been noticed.

Seller/Buyer Lesson

What does all this mean to a seller? Consider featuring anything dog (or cat) friendly about your home—even if you don’t have a pet, a great yard or short walk to a park might suit someone who does. Buyers, talk to your Realtor®. Explain what you need and what your pet needs, so that agent can show you only the houses that suit your family.

Photo credit: Avalon Huntington Station

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert