Marketing Pet-Friendliness to Renters; Do Your Campaigns Speak Pet?

marketing to renters

Marketing Pet-Friendliness to Renters; Do Your Campaigns Speak Pet?

Written by Judy Bellack, Industry Principal, Pet-Inclusive Housing, Michelson Found Animals

August 10, 2022

As any good rental housing marketer knows, connecting renters with their apartment home “must haves” is critical to a good search experience and creating results that lead to signed leases.

We also know that most people will begin their hunt for an apartment home on Google. Along with the usual search criteria – location, price, reviews, bedrooms, etc. – have you considered the pet component when marketing your properties? If not, you should, and here’s why:

  • 70% of households in the U.S. have a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), up from 67% in 2019
    • Which means over 2 out of 3 prospective renters are likely looking for pet-friendly housing
  • 98% of pet owners consider their pet to be an important member of the family, according to the 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Report
    • Which means they are looking only at rentals that will allow their pet
  • U.S. pet owners spend over $103 billion annually on their fur babies
    • Which translates to a willingness to spend a little more for market-rate rental housing that accommodates their pets
  • Pet-owning renters stay an average of 21% longer according to the 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Report
    • Which means fewer turnover costs and greater lifetime value; see this Multifamily Dive article which estimates an average cost of $4000 to replace a resident

According to the marketing minds at 30 Lines, “The best way to be discovered in search is to deliver the best, most relevant answer to the question the prospect is typing (or saying) into Google.” 

So, consider this . . . Jane types into the search engine that she is looking for a “two bedroom apartment near UCLA pet-friendly to 80-pound dog.” Chances are, you may return on many of those keywords, including “pet-friendly.” But what about “80-pound dog?” When Jane clicks through to your website or your ILS listing, will she be able to find that specific information? Or will she have to call your property to find out? While most property marketing contains “pet-friendly” information, almost all require the consumer to do a fair amount of digging to determine if there are breed or weight restrictions that may rule out their pet. This becomes a time-consuming and frustrating exercise for pet owners.

Of course, if you have no breed or weight restrictions – kudos! – you are on the leading edge right now and should be marketing the heck out of this competitive advantage. But if you do have restrictions, it becomes important to communicate this to your audience so that they, and your leasing agents, aren’t wasting time. For your property websites, you may want to consider building in some additional filters (pet-friendly with restrictions, pet-friendly no restrictions) and making your specific pet policies more prominent in the property details. 

Speaking of filters, an article from Booking.com has some compelling stats to support the importance of making your pet status known, especially in a post-pandemic environment where more people than ever have pets. From ‘20 to ‘21, their site’s use of the pet filter more than doubled; additionally, the pet-friendly filter is the third most-used filter in the facilities section of the site (behind pools and parking). As we’ve seen time after time, what happens in hospitality is a precursor to what happens in rental housing. This article really is worth the read, especially for insight into how some of their partners have made pet-welcoming amenities a unique value proposition.

Some of the most pet-forward marketing I’ve seen in our space belongs to MAA; just take a look at their home page, where you’ll immediately see their “Four Legged Friends are Welcome” section. Click through to see how easy they’ve made it for consumers to experience how focused on welcoming pets they are – with no breed or weight restrictions.

So, what steps can you take to help renters connect more easily to your properties that will accept their particular pet?

  • Detail your pet policies as much as possible in your online advertising, including the specifics of any size or breed restrictions, number of pets allowed per unit, any move-in requirements and all pet-related fees
  • If your property websites utilize AI chatbots, insure these same specific details are included in questions keywords and programmed responses
  • When receiving inquiries via email or phone, be prepared to relate comprehensive pet-policy information, saving both you and the prospect time
  • If your properties have no size or breed restrictions, consider the right keyword buys to more effectively connect with this renter market; the PIHI report tells us that 72% of renters say pet-friendly housing is hard to find, so you have an enormous opportunity to capitalize on this segment.

Of course, one of the most impactful measures is to reconsider any pet restrictions currently in place. Removing restrictions or even easing them by raising your weight limit or minimizing breed restrictions only to those stipulated by any local ordinances, makes life easier for everyone!