A little over a year ago I really wanted to get out of a bad life situation. My roommates at the time didn’t take COVID-19 as seriously as I did. I scoured Streeteasy, ZIllow, and Facebook Marketplace desperately to take advantage of these COVID discounts before it was too late.
I quickly found my dream apartment. It was a beautiful three bedroom apartment with several stunning balconies and a dishwasher. The location was almost perfect for my needs. I loved it. I was willing to pay a deposit but unfortunately was turned down for the apartment.
Three weeks later — while hesitant about my duties — I stumbled across the exact same apartment on Cash Jordan’s YouTube channel. Then I thought to myself: “Can someone like that actually find an apartment?”
For Johanna Umek that is a yes.
Umek is 21 years old and a transplant from Austria. She moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. Unfortunately, like many newcomers, she didn’t know a single person who could help her find New York real estate.
Her knowledge of the city was based on television and films. The West Village apartment friends or Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and the City aren’t exactly the best reference points for navigating New York’s notoriously reckless real estate landscape. No wonder that as a student at the Strasberg Institute she didn’t know which parts of the city were desirable and which made sense for her needs.
For Umek, TikTok was more than just a fun way to procrastinate — it was a lifeline.
It’s difficult to meet people in New York, let alone navigate the cultural intricacies that make each neighborhood so unique. Even at their best, New York real estate is ruthless and unforgiving.
“I started looking for apartments earlier this year and was pretty unsuccessful,” Umek told Passionfruit.
Between the endless plethora of options on Streeteasy and Zillow, or the scammers on Facebook Marketplace, it’s easy to get lost, duped, and scammed.
“I’ve sent out a number of messages to groups and to people looking to rent out their home. Either people didn’t answer at all, or I got a lot of answers that didn’t fit my idea of what my life should be like here,” adds Umek. “When you’re looking for something specific, there’s so much that comes your way that you get very overwhelmed.”
By chance, she came across agent and influencer Andy Klaric on TikTok.
Let’s find one! 🙂
♬ Benny and Chiquitita – Reymifasol
“I was looking for people who live in New York and post about their life in New York,” Umek said. “I would look at the places they went, what they did, how they decorated their homes and what things to think about.”
At this point, the algorithm picked up her interest in starting a life in New York and matched her with Klaric. She sent him a message and within a month it ended up at her apartment.
TikTok was clearly a winning path for Klaric. He says 100% of his direct leads, not referrals, go through the platform.
Klaric has a diverse clientele ranging from Umek to those looking to buy high-end properties.
“I just sold a Japanese style condo for $472,500 about two weeks ago. We have concluded that. That was a big TikTok campaign. I literally sold the apartment through TikTok,” Klaric told Passionfruit.
The rise of TikTok real estate was mainly born as a result of the pandemic. COVID made it nearly impossible to physically inspect an apartment. This phenomenon did not abate as places opened up and personal commerce once again became a mainstay.
Real estate content has persisted for a variety of reasons, including agent personalities. For Klaric, it’s not just important to be entertaining, but to familiarize potential renters and buyers with him.
“They come to me because I created this brand and I’m a likeable person,” said Klaric.
An approachable online personality can really make a difference in leads for many agents.
“Social media allows me to connect with a large number of people and build trust,” Christina Kremidas, an influencer and real estate expert, told Passionfruit. “If you are considering buying or selling real estate, would you rather do business with a random person or someone you consider a friend? Of course you would choose a friend. My social media accounts allow me to form friendships with people who appreciate NYC Real Estate as much as I do, and over time, when my followers decide they’re ready to do business, they come to me for help to help you.”
Demand is still very high and inventories are relatively low. In Manhattan, the vacancy rate is less than 2%. In other hip markets like Austin, Texas, vacancy rates are at 4.6%, the lowest since 2014. In Phoenix, Arizona the vacancy rate is around 3%. Rental vacancies in Seattle, Washington are below 5%. It will be even tighter for those who are interested. The vacancy rate is 0.4%.
These conditions mean queues at the door in most major cities in the United States just to get a glimpse of a potential apartment.
But that could change soon. New housing construction has increased significantly. According to RentCafe, there are currently more than 420,000 new units set to hit the market in the not too distant future. This is big news for New York City and some Sunbelt cities. In the Phoenix metro area, for example, the housing stock has increased by more than 10,000 since March.
This is not only good news for renters and buyers, but also good news for real estate influencers who, like Klaric, are tasked with spreading the word.
Real Estate TikTok is more than listings aimed at savvy 20-year-olds or first-time homebuyers trying to figure things out. These are high-end properties aimed at the richest of the rich, like a $25 million penthouse in midtown Manhattan.
Kremidas is on duty there – she documents this breathtaking apartment with her iPhone. The apartment itself has stunning views of the iconic Empire State Building which whoever ends up taking this apartment will particularly enjoy from the Jacuzzi on the patio.
While the apartment is gorgeous, it has been on the market for months. So Serhant, the real estate company representing the seller, brought in a variety of influencers like Kremidas to review it and showcase it to their 14,000+ Instagram followers and 19,000+ TikTok followers on social media.
“My audience on social media trusts me, and when I share an ad on social media, it’s immediately clear that the apartment I’m sharing with them is desirable,” says Kremidas.
“I get serious interest from viewers every day, which leads to in-person showings of NYC housing listings at all price points,” she adds.
Even accounts whose sole purpose is entertainment have also helped generate serious interest in listing. Samir Mezrahi is the mastermind behind the Zillow Gone Wild Instagram account, which showcases all the weird, flashy homes for sale across the United States, like this one in Michigan and this one in South Carolina.
While Mezrahi didn’t have any specific metrics to share, he says he saw that the deals were actually contractual not long after he posted about them.
“I’ve definitely seen homes that I’ve posted for sale within a couple of days or a day,” Mezrahi told Passionfruit.
Mezrahi says this happens about 50% of the time. He also says real estate professionals have contacted him about partnerships, but ultimately this is a side hustle that he pursues as a hobby.
During the pandemic, TikTok’s user base grew by 75% in the first wave alone. Unlike other apps that have experienced massive growth during the pandemic, it is not stagnating or becoming less relevant to daily life like Zoom has done. As people continue to rely on platforms to find what they’re looking for, the agents who spoke to Passionfruit believe the role of TikTok and Instagram in the real estate industry will only grow and become more important in the years to come.