It’s 10 pm on a Wednesday and I have readings to finish, a discussion post to write, and a graphic or two to make for my internship. Do you think you’ve found me in the library, working diligently on those tasks?
Probably not. More likely, I’m procrastinating by browsing Zillow listings. Turning my laptop screen to my roommates, showing them this horrible paint color choice or that oddly shaped bedroom. Oohing and ahhing at exposed brick walls and in-unit washers/dryers.
Am I looking for somewhere to live? No. At the moment I’m a second-semester senior with only a wisp of a post-grad plan.
You can blame the pandemic, or you can blame the financial constraints that make homeownership wishful thinking, but for some reason, millennials and gen-Zers love browsing Zillow and other real estate websites, even when they’re not looking to buy or rent.
In 2020, Zillow surged to 245 million unique monthly users, a clear sign that the first iteration of quarantine had us all itching to leave our homes, even if only digitally. A Surety First survey found that out of over 1,000 respondents, 47.6% said their Zillow browsing increased over the pandemic. Overall, the survey also found that 55% of respondents spent at least one to four hours a day browsing Zillow.
Personally, I think this escapism goes both ways. Earlier in the pandemic, it makes sense that people would spend more time browsing real estate listings just to escape being stuck at home.
However, I’d also chalk this up to daydreaming for generations that find themselves in a less financially stable position than previous ones. With student loans, the rising cost of housing, and tougher lending standards, I don’t know when I’ll be able to own a home. No worries though, that doesn’t stop me from scrolling through million-dollar townhouses in Beacon Hill and equally expensive seaside getaways on the Cape.
When I’ve run out of apartments in my city to flip through, TikTok has become a great second source for fueling my real estate interests as well. Whether it’s apartment tours by tenants with their perfectly curated furniture and decor or real estate agents showing off empty or sparsely-furnished spaces that are for rent, I love seeing walkthroughs of all the unique spaces people live in.
The most interesting content though, at least in my opinion, is apartment hunting videos on Youtube. After watching this apartment hunting video by Best Dressed, I completely fell down a rabbit hole of these videos, especially the ones based in New York City, where the housing market is especially competitive, expensive, and fast-paced.
Some people have taken their real estate hobby one step further than browsing online content as well. As a side hustle, (especially in NYC where many people move from out of state) some people offer to tour apartments for you if you are unable to make it to the city yourself. As an unbiased third party, they might be a useful alternative to a virtual tour from a realtor.