Is Marketing ‘Pet-Friendly’ Enough?

pet-friendly and pet-inclusive marketing

By Judy Bellack, Industry Principal, The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative

Exploring the Perception Divide Between Pet-Friendly and Pet-Inclusive Rental Housing

In recent years, the relationship between humans and their animal companions has evolved dramatically. Pets are no longer just animals. Our companions are valued members of the family, deserving of love, care, and accommodation. This shift in perception has significant implications, particularly in the realm of rental housing. Owners and property managers are no longer faced with the decision of whether to allow pets on their premises; rather, which pets to allow. The term “pet-friendly” has become a buzz-phrase when marketing to pet owners. But is positioning a property as “pet-friendly” hitting the mark with today’s renter? Are prospective residents savvy enough to know that a pet-friendly may not be “pet-inclusive”? And do words truly matter when marketing to pet owners? Let’s delve deeper.

Understanding the Difference

At first glance, the terms “pet-friendly” and “pet-inclusive” may appear synonymous. A pet-friendly rental typically means that pets are allowed on the property. But it may come with caveats such as breed restrictions, weight limits, and multiple additional fees; and will usually include some basic pet amenities. On the other hand, a pet-inclusive rental goes beyond pet-friendly. A pet-inclusive rental actively embraces and accommodates pets – without size or breed restrictions – as integral members of the community. This could entail amenities like designated pet areas, pet waste stations, or even pet-friendly events, tech and services. In a pet-inclusive community, reasonable pet-related fees are perceived as acceptable.

 The Savvy Renter

Today’s renters, particularly pet owners, are more discerning than ever before. With access to vast amounts of information online and a plethora of options at their fingertips, they’re empowered to make informed decisions about where to live based on their unique needs and preferences. This includes considering not only the affordability and location of a rental property but also its pet policies and amenities. In fact, pet owners are less likely to compromise (page 14) on inclusivity than on location or even budget. As such, owners and property managers must recognize that transparency and clarity in their pet policies can make all the difference in attracting and retaining residents.

The Importance of Transparency

When marketing to pet owners, words matter. Simply labeling a property as “pet-friendly” without providing further details can lead to confusion and frustration for both operators and prospective residents. All too often, online property marketing doesn’t get specific, prompting a phone call to the property. Pet owners want to know exactly what to expect: Are there any breed or size restrictions? Are there additional fees or deposits? Are there amenities specifically designed for pets? By clearly outlining these policies upfront, operators can establish trust and credibility with potential residents while minimizing misunderstandings down the line. This type of transparency produces more qualified leads, and respects everyone’s time.

Creating a Pet-Inclusive Environment

While being pet-friendly is a positive step, truly embracing a pet-inclusive mindset requires an understanding of the historical misconceptions behind typical restrictions. Rental housing operators can differentiate themselves in the market by actively catering to the needs of all companion pets and their owners. Moreover, fostering a sense of community among pet owners can enhance the overall living experience. This contributes to a positive rental environment for all residents, as well as increased retention (a huge financial benefit) for operators.

Overcoming Challenges

Of course, transitioning to a pet-inclusive model is not without its challenges. Concerns about property damage, noise disturbances, and liability issues may deter operators from fully embracing pets on their premises. However, many of these concerns may be mitigated with thorough screening processes, pet agreements, and clear community guidelines. By implementing detailed policies and fostering open communication channels with residents, concerns may be addressed proactively while still reaping the benefits of a pet-inclusive approach.

The Bottom Line

The distinction between pet-friendly and pet-inclusive rental housing is more than just semantics. The difference reflects a fundamental shift in attitudes towards pets and their place in our society. Today’s renters, particularly pet owners, are savvy enough to recognize the difference and prioritize transparency and inclusivity when choosing where to live. By adopting a pet-inclusive mindset and implementing clear and comprehensive pet policies, property managers can attract and retain residents while creating a welcoming and vibrant community for all residents, furry or otherwise. So, is it enough to be pet-friendly? In a competitive rental market, perhaps not. But being truly pet-inclusive? That’s a game-changer.

For more information and resources on how to transition your community from pet-friendly to pet-inclusive, please visit the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative.