The backyard dog house just got a little bigger -- by about 2,000 square feet.
According to a recent survey by SunTrust Mortgage, 33 percent of millennials (defined as those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium by Pew Research Center) were influenced more by dogs than marriage or children when purchasing their first home.
According to USA Today, “The desire for more space and opportunity to build equity were the only two factors that topped having room for a dog.”
Among those millennials who have never purchased a home, 42 percent said that their dog, or the desire to have one, would influence their future home buying decisions. The survey said this suggests dogs might also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers.
“Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs," Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage president and CEO, said in a statement. "It makes sense that their furry family members are driving home buying decisions."
This comes as no surprise, considering that "millennials are now the primary pet-owning demographic, at 35 percent of U.S. pet owners," according to a report from the American Pet Products Association.
“For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle,” Smith said. “Homeownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation.”
She also said while the trend of millennials purchasing homes is on the rise, their reasons for buying homes are different from previous generations.
Smith added that her own millennial daughter, who recently purchased a house, made sure to find one with a yard because she planned on getting a dog.
Buying a new home for a pet alleviates the stress of finding a pet-friendly apartment or condominium building and community. A 2015 study by Trulia, an online residential real estate site for home buyers, sellers, renters, and real estate professionals, found that it’s nearly impossible to rent in some cities with a dog.
Most landlords charge a pet fee, too. According to MarketWatch, in nearby Washington, D.C., pet fees top out at $427.
The SunTrust CEO believes that this trend aligns with the millennial generation’s tendency to wait longer for traditional milestones like getting married and starting a family. Their main priority tends to be landing a career-building job then buying a pet.
This trend doesn’t stop at homeownership either. Millennials are now adjusting their finances based on their furry companions.
Behind saving for travel, savings accounts and emergency funds for pets are a priority for millennials.
“We have more clients with dog savings accounts than the kids savings accounts,” Shannon McLay, founder of The Financial Gym in New York City, said to MarketWatch. “We have more clients with dogs savings accounts than housing savings account.”
She suggests that her clients put away between $150 to $300 per month for pet expenses, including vet visits, food, and recreation.
Overall, the American Dream has slightly changed for the most influential purchasing generation. Millennials still desire to move out of their parents' house, buy their own home, get married, and have children.
However, the dream has been delayed for a bit -- and not because they purchase too much avocado toast or try to travel to Europe every year. These milestones are hindered by stagnant low wages, massive student debt, record-high rent, and a shallow housing market.
To gain a sense of identity and independence without the full commitment of adulthood (defined by most as paying bills by the Daily Mail), these first-time home buyers are owning dogs. When they decide to finally take the next step and buy a new home, they're prioritizing their dogs.
Thankfully, homeowners association-regulated communities like ours are making strides to accommodate dog owners of all generations by building dog parks. To keep up with the progress of Overlook Park in Brunswick Crossing (and see our other resort-style amenities), click on the button below: