Condos Denver

Homes that are pet friendly

The Denver Post: March 10, 2007

By Jan Thomas
Special to The Denver Post

To seal the deal, always negotiate with the party who has the most impact on the buying decision.

That's basic sales theory, but in downtown Denver, real estate developers are finding that the party with the most influence may very well be the family pet.

"Pets are family. If you're choosing between a family member and a place to live, more often than not the family member is going to win out," said Scott Menefee, senior director of real estate development for Opus Northwest.

"If you ignore that and are pet-unfriendly, you're risking a huge portion of your buying population and alienating the very people you want to attract."

Statistics support Menefee's claim. Metro- area residents own 18,000 licensed dogs and 2,050 licensed cats. When unlicensed pets are added to the mix, that number increases to more than 300,000.

Pet owners are older (average age: 47) and earn $4,000 to $6,000 more per year than their non-pet-owning counterparts, according to a national survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Many also say their homebuying decisions are influenced by the ability to own pets.

Nearly 40 percent of the downtown residents recently surveyed by The Genesis Group said they would buy only in buildings that allowed dogs. Of those younger than 35, more than half said they would refuse to buy in buildings that prohibited dogs.

"I think developers are realizing that many of the people moving into the lofts and condos are empty-nesters and pet owners," said Tim Kilgannon, broker/owner of HomeToDenver LLC. "They're definitely the clientele who can afford properties in Lower Downtown."

With Denver's housing market still rocky, developers are looking for ways to attract these potential buyers.

East West Partners, developer of LoDo's Riverfront Park and Glass House, is leading an effort to build a dog park at 19th and Bassett streets, on property owned by the city. Four employees, including marketing director Caroline Ellet, spend much of each workday planning the construction of Railyard Dogs.

"There are several dog parks in Denver, but nothing close to us," Ellet said. "The city said it would hand over this land to develop a dog park. If we brought it up to the standards of a city park, Denver would take it over."

A dog park would be a welcome amenity. Nearby properties range from $170,000 to $3 million, and more than half of the homeowners also own pets. Letting dogs run loose in nearby Commons Park can alienate non-pet enthusiasts - and can net a hefty fine from Animal Control.

"We're trying to raise $450,000 to complete the park. So far, we've raised $150,000 to $200,000," Ellet said.

Residents and supporters are chipping in by buying bricks, at $120 each, for the space beneath the park's cabana. In addition, Community Banks of Colorado donated $5,000, Purina contributed an undisclosed amount, and the Riverfront Park Community Foundation will match up to $50,000 in donations.

Straddling the line

Adding pet-centric amenities won't satisfy all potential buyers, Menefee said. Developers also need to consider the concerns of non-pet lovers when rules are developed.

Opus Northwest has specific rules for pets residing at The Pinnacle, a luxury high-rise in City Park South. When transporting pets to and from the building, pet owners may enter through the main lobby but must use the freight elevator to travel from the lobby to their home. In addition, owners are required to clean up after their pets and have their pets licensed, leashed and under control at all times.

"Some people are afraid of pets or are allergic to pets, so these rules benefit all residents," Menefee said.

Opus is thinking about building a dog wash in the parking garage and partnering with a dog-walking service so residents could, for a fee, schedule their pets' exercise through the concierge. Both amenities could change once 70 percent of residents move in and the homeowners association assumes control of the building.

Western Development Group has equally strict rules about licensing and leashing pets at the Northcreek Tower, another luxury building currently under construction in North Cherry Creek. Dawn Raymond, a broker associate for Coldwell Banker Devonshire, said the policy benefits both pets and people.

"Pets will have full access to the development's landscaped, private courtyard, but leashes will protect them from nearby busy streets," Raymond said.

Leashes won't be required for first-floor owners at The Cortona, an 18-unit condominium complex on East First Avenue. The six ground-floor units have small, private yards where pets can roam freely.

"They're designated as little pet yards," Raymond said. "And for a Cherry Creek condominium to have a yard is really a unique thing."

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