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pet_perksPets have found their way into the hearts—and homes—of over 125 million households across the country. Now, more so than ever before, pets are warranting consideration beyond that of their owners. On the house hunt, pets are playing a foremost role in the homebuying and renting decisions their owners make.

“I can easily say 80 percent of my buyer clients either have pets or are planning on getting one once they are in their new home,” says Beth Atalay, broker/owner in Clermont, Fla.

Pets, Atalay says, must be taken into account when working with pet-owner buyers. But gone are the days of the no-doggy-door-deal-breaker. Pet owners today are seeking homes with amenities that marry community comforts and smart design, all catering to the very specific needs of their four-legged companions.

Some home builders have already answered that call, offering floor plans with pet-designated rooms. Mega builder CalAtlantic Homes recently began presenting buyers with customizable “pet suites” with options for built-in cabinetry, a pet-friendly shower and more.

“Including a space for pets acknowledges that most people have and love their pets,” says Daniel Swift, president of national architecture firm BSB Design. “Even just a little access point off the kitchen, a way to get outside and get back in, tells our buyer, ‘We know and understand how you live.’”

Builders have also been challenged to incorporate pet-centric conveniences without sacrificing style, like under-cabinet food stations and in-island kennels or litter boxes, in addition to smart home technology, such as electronic pet doors.

Standard, yet deliberate, features are a plus for pet owners, as well, says Jane Maxson, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, who has carved out a pet-friendly niche in her market. These features range from hard-surface flooring colored to disguise shed pet hairs to extended window sills wide enough for cats and anything in between.

“Fully-fenced yards, an outside cat enclosure with access to and from the home…and having a cool basement is always an advantage on days when temperatures reach unbearable numbers, or even a shady spot in the yard if the pet is kept outside during the day,” Maxson says.

And for both buyers and renters, pet-friendly amenities must extend beyond the four walls of the home. According to research by the National Multifamily Housing Council,  apartment residents desire communities that offer pet facilities and services, such as shared washing and exercise stations, a dog park, drinking fountains, and even pet treats in the lobby.

“Communities that are not pet-friendly are definitely a deal-breaker for those who have pets or are planning on getting one,” says Atalay. “Pets are part of their families, no different than their children.”

“Sometimes the most pet-friendly house has little to do with the house and everything to do with location,” adds Maxson. “Close proximity to off-leash dog parks, parks with good walking trails…and most buyers with pets pass on buying a home located on or near a busy thoroughfare.”

Ultimately, whether buying or renting, pet owners want the best of both worlds—a home that combines a pet-ready interior with communal pet perks. “I don’t think pet-friendly amenities make a difference in monetary value,” Maxson says, “but a well-appointed home will make it more emotionally valuable to a buyer with pets.”

For pet owners, it’s worth it.

This article originally appeared on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for more real estate tips and trends.