SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd
Source: SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd

I was walking my youngest dog when a neighbor saw me and waved for me to come over.

"I know that you are really into matters related to dogs, " he said, "while I am a real estate agent and mostly concerned with housing and condo prices. However I just ran across a study which might interest you. It suggests that dog-lovers may be having an influence on house prices. I know that house prices around here have been steadily rising because there just aren't enough single homes on the market. If I believe this study then dog-loving millennials may be a major factor associated with a high demand for houses."

I hadn't heard of such research. He explained that the reason that he had encountered it is that he tries to keep up with housing trends and financial matters associated with housing, and this was a report that was based on a survey published by SunTrust Mortgage, a division of SunTrust Banks. When I expressed my interest he gave me a copy of it.

The data was actually collected by the Harris Polling group, the people known for doing political polls and public opinion surveying. The data was collected online and involved millennials (adults 18 to 36 years of age) in the United States. This is the age group of people who are most likely to be purchasing their first home. The researchers collected data from 412 adults, among whom 248 had already bought their first home and 135 who have never purchased a home. The participants in the survey were asked why they had bought a home, or (if they did not already own a house) what factors would cause them to want to buy a home.

The interesting result is that the survey found that one third (33%) of the millennials who purchased their first home claim that they did so because it had a yard and better space for their dog. To understand just how high this percentage is relative to other reasons to buy a house, you have to understand that this means that millennials were more influenced by dogs then by concerns associated with marriage (25%) or desiring more space for their children (19%).

Only two factors came in higher than matters associated with dogs, and these were the desire for more living space (66%) and the opportunity to build equity (36%).

Dorinda Smith, the CEO and president of SunTrust Mortgage summarized the results by saying that  "Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs, so it makes sense that their furry family members are driving home-buying decisions."

Of course a major factor in the decision to purchase a home if you own a dog (or want to own a dog) comes from the fact that living with a dog in a residence other than a house that you own may be difficult and stressful. Many apartment and condominium complexes put major restrictions on dog ownership in their units, some instituting outright bans, while others impose strict rules, size limits, and additional charges for those residents who want to have pet dogs. To avoid the stress and cost associated with such living situations many families feel that their only alternative is to purchase their own house.

One notable finding is that among those millennials who had never purchased a home, the influence of being a dog-lover is even stronger. In fact 42% of these individuals say that their dog, or the desire to have one, is a key factor in their decision to buy a home in the future. In other words, dogs have not only already influenced the purchase of houses by first-time homeowners, but apparently will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time home buyers in the future.

It is interesting to consider the implications of these results in marketplaces where house prices are rising because the demand for single homes is much greater than the available supply. If I were a public planner, or a politician, who had to deal with the problem of rising housing costs, and the fact that it is difficult to increase the supply of single homes, this data would suggest an alternative. If municipal authorities had the ability to remove or prevent the imposition of bans on dog ownership in apartments and condominiums, then this would relieve some of the pressure that pushes families toward the purchase of a single home. This would have the effect of increasing the supply, since now an apartment, condominium, or townhouse would allow the family to live comfortably with their dog and not drive families toward the purchase of their own house to better accommodate their pet. Simply put, this would lower the demand for single homes by providing alternative, acceptable, living space, and as a result house prices should begin to drop.

So in a way my real estate agent neighbor is correct that dog-loving millennials are driving house prices up — however this need not be the case.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Gods, Ghosts and Black Dogs; The Wisdom of Dogs; Do Dogs Dream? Born to Bark; The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

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