More and More Zillow Users Surfing for ‘Wild’ Real Estate vs. Their Next Home
By: Charles Sells
If you have always wanted to see what the inside of a multimillion-dollar bunker or a 19,000-square-foot castle looks like, then the advent of Zillow has probably made most – if not all – of your dreams come true. Increasingly, the real estate data behemoth (and listing site) is serving as entertainment fodder for its users rather than a source of properties to buy.
“Zillow surfing,” the act of scrolling through Zillow as a spectator sport rather than for the purposes of getting a somewhat-dubious price estimate on your home, took off during the COVID-19 pandemic and spawned numerous social media accounts dedicated to helping users look at properties they would never buy.
Of course, sometimes it turns out that those surfers would buy those properties, and the more off-the-wall the property, the better for short-term rental investors hoping to create attractive vacation experiences for future renters. Amanda Pendleton, a Zillow home trends expert, calls this benefit “online curb appeal,” and notes that this includes anything that might “stand out online and possibly make…listings go viral.”
At this point, featuring inflatable tyrannosaurus rexes or adorable dogs in listings in hopes of going viral is commonplace, but properties with unusual amenities like brick bunkbeds built into the foundation and styled to look like medieval castles or features like canvas-and-foam dome construction still stand out. The property with the medieval bunkbeds had been listed for nearly five years when an Instagram account dedicated to unusual Zillow listings posted pictures of the home. Within days of the posting, the owners had received multiple offers. The fact that it had gotten so much attention was a bonus for the eventual buyers, who plan to turn it into a short-term rental.
“Just more eyeballs on it [was] more social proof that it is an interesting house,” explained the buyer. “If we did not buy it, someone else would have.”
For real estate investors buying more, ahem, traditional properties, there are uses for online curb appeal as well. While you may or may not successfully go viral with your listing, you can highlight interesting things about your property in order to get potential tenants’ attention.
Many investors are also beginning to include interesting information about properties and locales in their market research and analysis as more Americans search for interesting places in which to spend large quantities of time post-pandemic.