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Peeved buyers demand pet-friendly apartments

Bans on bringing four-legged family members to apartments have long proved a peeve for prospective buyers in Sydney, and over the past year, demand for pet-friendly apartments has risen dramatically.  

The big increase in pet ownership since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a shift in buyers’ expectations, with approval for furry friends becoming a must-have for apartments in Sydney’s north shore area.

Mary-Jane Hamer, urban living specialist at leading real estate agency Ray White Lower North Shore Group, said the shift in buyer expectations was posing a problem for some apartment blocks with legacy policies on pets.

“Buyers today have enduring demand for car spaces, sunlight and balconies but most are seeking a pet-friendly building, of which there are few in our market,” Ms Hamer said.

She said buildings that were “strictly no pets” – and also those with a “you can bring your elderly pet but if it dies you can’t replace it” rule – would likely deter about half of their prospective buyers.

A recent five-year court case involving a miniature schnauzer named Angus living in the Horizon building in Darlinghurst may prove to be a game-changer, according to Ms Hamer.

Angus was at the centre of a NSW court ruling, with his owner’s case against her strata building making its way to the NSW Court of Appeal last year.

In a unanimous ruling in October, the highest court in NSW struck down the ban, and explained why the strata’s bylaw barring pets was oppressive.

“That is because it prohibits an ordinary incident of the ownership of real property, namely, keeping a pet animal, and provides no material benefit to other occupiers,” the court stated

The court noted that a bylaw limiting the property rights of lot owners is “only lawful (valid) … if it protects from adverse affection the use and enjoyment by other occupants of their own lots, or the common property”.

Ms Hamer said apartment sellers in complexes that banned pets were missing out on huge buyer demand brought on by working from home, lower interest rates and surplus cash saved by the lack of overseas holidays.

“The influx of returning expats has conflated the already strong demand for light and liveable lower north shore apartments,” she said.

“Two-bedrooms, three-bedrooms and house-size apartments are selling strongly, but buyers are becoming more discerning when it comes to small spaces and anti-pet buildings.”

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