The one-bedroom co-op is in a pet-friendly building. Otten, who lives in Brooklyn Heights, was fostering two abandoned dogs in her apartment that were in desperate need of forever homes.
“I thought if I could bring my foster pups with me on buyer tours, then I could expose them to a larger pool of potential adopters,” she said.
Otten, like a growing number of brokers and real estate agents across the country, has been bringing her love for animals to work and using some of her listings to bring exposure to shelter animals.
For some agents, this means partnering with local animal shelters to host adoption events at open houses, showings and properties. For others, like Otten, it’s as simple as bringing a small foster dog along in her purse on a property tour.
“A lot of co-ops have weight and breed restrictions, so bringing certain foster dogs to showings can be tricky,” she said. “Purse dogs are a good way to play it safe.”
Otten has been working with Paws4Survival Rescue, a nonprofit organization that rescues abandoned dogs and cats in Puerto Rico, since 2013.
In support of the organization, Otten fosters up to two dogs at a time in her Brooklyn home, which often requires weekly trips to the airport for their transport. When she has showings at pet-friendly apartments, she brings the foster dogs with her in hopes of finding them a home while also closing a real estate deal.
Clients and potential buyers or renters are rarely put off by the presence of an animal in need, Otten said, but she takes care to bring dogs along to listings and viewings only when she knows the client is an animal lover. “I do my best to be mindful and get permission beforehand,” Otten said. “Most of the time, people are just super excited to see a dog.”
Michael Zuckerman said he was thrilled when Otten asked permission to bring a dog to an open house at the former home of his late aunt at 80 East End Ave., which he had been tasked with selling. The building is dog-friendly, and Zuckerman said that even if Otten brought a big dog, “what better way to demonstrate that all kinds of dogs are allowed in the apartment than to have one present at a showing?”
Otten has helped place 15 dogs in permanent homes in the past three years. Word of her work on behalf of rescue animals also has helped her drum up some real estate business.
When Eileen Mandel, a retired fashion designer from Milwaukee, started her search for a pied-à-terre in Manhattan, she sought out Otten. Mandel and her husband, Barry, have three rescue dogs, including one adopted from a shelter in Puerto Rico. So securing a pet-savvy broker was an absolute must. “My top priority was finding a place that would accommodate all of my dogs,” Mandel said.
With Otten’s help, she bought a one-bedroom co-op in the Hampshire House at 150 Central Park South in 2017. “I just feel like when you meet someone that’s so dedicated to helping animals in need, there’s a certain level of trust present that doesn’t need to be built over time,” Mandel said. “You already know they have a good heart.”
The presence of a four-legged companion doesn’t necessarily help sell a property, but “even if a potential buyer doesn’t want to adopt, bringing the dogs on showings still helps generate leads,” Otten said. “Having a cute little thing running around brings a levity to the whole experience.”
At 420 E. 51st St. in Turtle Bay, Domingo Perez Jr., an agent with Warburg Realty, was searching for an innovative way to draw attention to the pet-friendly building, where he has several listings. The Morad Beekman, unlike many co-op buildings in the city, has no restrictions on weight, breed or number of pets allowed — as well as a 1,300-square-foot first-floor terrace that residents (and their animals) are free to use.
In late June, he and Kathryn Landow, a fellow Warburg agent who formerly worked for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, partnered with Animal Haven, a nonprofit organization that finds homes for abandoned cats and dogs throughout the tri-state area, to host an adoption event with rescue animals during a real estate preview on the terrace.
The event, which drew a crowd of around 50 and featured two kittens and three dogs from the shelter, allowed Perez to present the spacious outdoor terrace, as well as the homeless animals, to a whole new crowd of people — including potential buyers, sellers and adopters.
“We’re in the business of finding a home for everyone, both two- and four-legged,” Landow said.
Last October, Ryan Serhant, an associate broker with Nest Seekers International, hosted an event to showcase a model residence at 145 Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, a pet-friendly building that includes 17 condos and a town house.
In addition to having an ice-cream truck and a Halloween-themed party with face-painters and refreshments, Serhant called on Bideawee, one of the oldest no-kill animal welfare organizations in the country, to bring over a mobile adoption van that was filled with adoptable puppies and was parked in front of the building for the duration of the event.
“I wanted to do something that engaged the neighborhood and not just potential buyers,” Serhant said.
And it worked. Serhant said that traffic was “backed up and down the street” and that he sold the town house right after the preview party ended.
“We got a lot of families who just came through to see the dogs and then wound up interested in the properties instead,” he said.
These kinds of combined showings and adoption events aren’t unique to New York City — or to dogs and cats.
In Los Angeles, agents Lori Cordero and Sara Magers make up The Rescue Realtors team at Pacific Playa Realty. Whenever they come across a listing that offers enough outdoor space (and has the homeowner’s approval), they call on Linda Baley, of Redondo Beach, California, who runs Too Many Bunnies Rabbit Rescue, to hold an adoption event during the open house, with homeless bunnies and sometimes a dog or two.
“We’re not just helping a potential buyer or seller with real estate, we’re helping raise community awareness about the homeless animal population,” Cordero said.
Real estate agents have also found ways to use their offices or facilities at apartment buildings to help homeless animals.
In Westhampton Beach, New York, Ashley Farrell, a Corcoran associate broker and rescue-dog owner, regularly hosts mobile adoption events with Bideawee in her real estate office’s parking lot on weekends, when there’s more foot traffic in the area.
“We love working with Realtors because they’re at the forefront of finding people new homes and lives,” said Leslie Granger, the president and chief executive of Bideawee. “That may include finding a four-legged family member.”
In May, Dog City, the full-service dog care program run by the Related Cos., which currently serves five of its buildings, held a canine adoption event with Animal Haven in the courtyard of Abington House, a rental building on West 30th Street.
The adoption event was part of Related’s Spring Into Wellness Event, an annual showcase that is open to all Related residents and this year drew over 400 residents (and potential adopters). It included yoga, guided meditation, healthy food samples and a handful of shelter pups.
“The more eyes you get them in front of, the more likely they are to find homes,” said Shannon Kirkman, director of marketing at Animal Haven. “Being able to visualize having a dog in your new home doesn’t just help market the property — it helps a homeless animal in need.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.