A little over a year ago, I was desperate to get out of a bad living situation. At the time, my roommates didn’t take COVID-19 as seriously as I did. I desperately searched Streeteasy, Zillow, and Facebook Marketplace to take advantage of those COVID discounts before it was too late.
I quickly found my dream apartment. It was a beautiful apartment with three bedrooms, several beautiful balconies and a dishwasher. The location was almost perfect for my needs. I loved it. I was ready to make a deposit but was unfortunately rejected for the apartment.
Three weeks later – while postponing my responsibilities – I stumbled upon that same apartment on… Cash Jordan’s YouTube channel. At that point, I thought to myself, “Does anyone really find an apartment this way?”
For Johanna Umek, that’s a yes.
Umek is 21 years old and a transplant from Austria. She moved to New York, ready to pursue a career as an actress. Unfortunately, like many newbies, she didn’t know a single person to help her navigate real estate in New York City.
Her knowledge of the city was based on TV and movies. The West Village apartment from friends or Carrie Bradshaw’s Place in Sex and the city are not exactly the best reference points to start maneuvering in New York’s notoriously unforgiving real estate landscape. It’s no surprise that she didn’t know which neighborhoods were desirable and which were right for her needs as a student at the Strasberg Institute.
For Umek, TikTok was more than just a fun way to procrastinate, it was a lifeline.
It’s hard to meet people in New York, let alone navigate the cultural intricacies that make each individual neighborhood so unique. Even in its best moments, New York real estate is unforgiving and unforgiving.
“I started looking for apartments at the beginning of the year and had been quite unsuccessful,” Umek told Passionfruit.
Between the endless pool of options on Streeteasy and Zillow or the scammers on Facebook Marketplace, it’s easy to get lost, cheated and scammed.
“I sent a lot of messages to groups and to people who wanted to rent out their houses. Either people didn’t respond at all, or I got a lot of responses that didn’t fit into my thinking about how I wanted my life to be here,” Umek added. “If you’re looking for something in particular, there’s so much that comes at you that you’re very overwhelmed.”
By chance she came across an agent and influencer Andy Klaric on TikTok.
let’s find one for you! 🙂
“I was looking for people living in New York who would post about their lives in New York,” Umek said. “I would look at the places they visited, what they were doing, how they were furnishing their apartment, and what to think about.”
That’s when the algorithm picked up on her interest in starting a life in New York and connected her to Klaric. She messaged him and within a month she got her apartment.
TikTok has clearly been a successful path for Klaric. He says 100% of his direct leads that aren’t referrals go through the platform.
Klaric gets a diverse clientele ranging from Umek to those looking to buy high-end real estate.
“I just sold a Japanese-style apartment for $472,500 about two weeks ago. We concluded on that. That was a big TikTok campaign. I literally sold the apartment through TikTok,” Klaric told Passionfruit.
The rise of TikTok real estate has mainly arisen as a result of the pandemic. COVID made it nearly impossible to physically visit an apartment. That phenomenon didn’t stop as places opened up and personal trading once again became a mainstay.
The contents of real estate persisted for a variety of reasons, including the agents’ personalities. For Klaric, it’s not just about entertainment, it’s also about putting potential tenants and buyers at ease.
“They come to me because I made that brand and I’m a beautiful person,” Klaric said.
An affable persona online can really make a difference in leads for many agents.
“Social media allows me to connect and build trust with a large number of people,” influencer and real estate professional Christina Kremidas told Passionfruit. “If you’re considering buying or selling real estate, would you rather do business with any random person, or someone you consider a friend? Of course you would choose a friend. My social media accounts allow me to build friendships with people who value NYC Real Estate as much as I do, and over time, when my followers decide they are ready to transact, they come to me to help them out .”
Demand is still very high and inventory is relatively low. In Manhattan is the vacancy of the apartment less than 2%. In other hot markets like Austin, Texas, vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2014 on 4.6%. In Phoenix, Arizona the vacancy is about 3%. Rental vacancy in Seattle, Washington are less than 5%. For future owners, it’s even tighter. There is a vacancy rate of 0.4%.
These terms mean lines out the door to glimpse a future apartment in most major cities in the United States.
However, this could soon change. The construction of new apartments has increased enormously. According to RentCafe, there are currently more than 420,000 new units set to hit the market in the not-too-distant future. That’s big news for New York City and quite a few cities in the Sun Belt. For example, in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the housing stock increased by more than 10,000 since March.
Not only is that good news for renters and buyers, it’s also good news for real estate influencers charged with spreading the word like Klaric.
Real Estate TikTok is more than just offers for savvy 20-somethings or first-time homebuyers trying to figure things out. It’s high-end real estate that caters to the richest of the rich, like a $25 million penthouse in Midtown Manhattan.
That’s where Kremidas is on a mission: to document this beautiful apartment with her iPhone. The apartment itself has a breathtaking view of the iconic Empire State Building, of which whoever eventually occupies this apartment will especially enjoy the jacuzzi on the terrace.
While the apartment is delightful, it has been on the market for months. So, Serhant, the real estate company representing the seller, brought in a plethora of influencers like Kremidas to check it out and send it to her more than 14,000 Instagram followers and over 19,000 TikTok followers on social media.
“My social media audience trusts me, and for that reason, when I share an ad on social media, I immediately understand that the apartment I share with them is desirable,” Kremidas says.
“I get serious interest from viewers every day that results in in-person screenings of NYC apartments in all price ranges,” she adds.
Even accounts solely for entertainment have sparked serious interest in a listing. Samir Mezrahi is the brain behind the Instagram account”Zillow has gone wild” showing all the weird, eye-catching homes for sale in the United States, like this one in Michigan and this in south carolina.
While Mezrahi didn’t have any specific stats to share, he says he saw that there was actually a contract not long after he posted about it.
“I’ve definitely seen houses that I’ve put up go on sale within a few days or within a day,” Mezrahi told Passionfruit.
Mezrahi says this happens about 50% of the time. He also says that real estate professionals have approached him for partnerships, but ultimately this is an afterthought that he does as a hobby.
During the pandemic, TikTok’s user base grew by 75% just within the first wave. Unlike other apps that have experienced tremendous growth during the pandemic, it has not stagnated nor become less relevant to everyday life, such as Zoom has. As people continue to rely on platforms to find what they’re looking for, the agents who spoke to Passionfruit believe TikTok and Instagram’s role in the real estate industry will only grow and become more important in the coming years.