By Kameryn Griesser and Sofia Barrett | CNN

In the midst of a global pandemic, the real estate market is on fire.

Housing demand soared, pushing prices to record highs. The competition is so intense that homes are selling out in record time, with multiple offers and cash offers.

Last year, a Zillow survey showed that 36% of buyers would even buy a property without seeing it. But despite all the desperate buyers willing to skip the in-person viewing, most people still expect to see a home first.

At the height of the pandemic, real estate agents across the country found the social media platform TikTok to be an ideal way to safely show homes to potential buyers. Now some say the video app has revolutionized the way they sell real estate – and it’s here to stay.

New York real estate agent Madison Sutton started featuring homes on TikTok at the start of the pandemic. Now she gets 100% of her business from TikTok. (Courtesy of Madison Sutton on TikTok)

Hundreds of requests

Madison Sutton is a 25-year-old agent in New York. She specializes in off-market transactions and what she calls “hidden treasure apartments”. But during the pandemic, she was looking for leads because so many people were leaving town.

Sutton created his TikTok account, @TheNYCAgent, in early 2020. She had “no expectations about it,” citing the pandemic as the catalyst for opening her account. But as soon as she started posting apartment tours on the app, she said interest in her TikTok and properties grew.

“There were days when I received two or four hundred requests for an apartment,” she recalls. “What TikTok did, I couldn’t have expected, planned or calculated in my entire life. It completely changed my life.

Sutton said 100% of his business now comes from TikTok and his commissions have almost doubled.

Almost three-quarters of TikTok users spend more than an hour on the app each week, according to Statista. Endless scrolling and the use of algorithms keep users coming back for more. It is in this format that Sutton finds an asset. “Where else in New York could you see 10 apartments in 10 minutes other than TikTok?” Suton said.

And while typical house hunters worry about scheduling in-person viewings, those who are online savvy can view detailed videos that Sutton makes with the flick of a finger.

Part of what makes TikTok so useful for realtors is the fast video interface and algorithmically curated For You page. The videos that appear on a user’s For You page are collected based on their unique interests, region, search history, and interactions with advertisers. Since TikTok uses such engagement metrics to determine interest in a video, a new content creator doesn’t need a large audience or paid promotion for their video to go viral and reach a wide audience.

It only took Prince Whiting, a realtor from Fort Worth, Texas, a week on the platform to get his first shot. Since the creation @TheHouseofWhiting in January 2021, he amassed 2.2 million likes on his videos. The exposure he gets on his content is virtually free, unlike his previous method of paid print advertising.

“I would say about 90% of the views are on the For You page and not on the people who follow me,” Whiting said. “Everyone has the opportunity to go viral. It’s not because you have 100 million or a million subscribers and that tick to verify.

Whiting said that unlike other social media platforms, the popularity and consistency of TikTok hashtags like #homesforsale (24.4 million views) and #luxuryrealestate (556 million views) make it easier for her to reach people ready to buy.

As with all new social media, there is of course a learning curve. With six years of real estate experience and no knowledge of TikTok, Dallas real estate broker Joseph Felling admits it took him a few tries to find his footing on the platform.

Felling said he’s found the most success showcasing Dallas’ low home prices compared to other major U.S. metropolitan areas. More than any other platform, TikTok has allowed it to reach customers outside of Texas.

“I think Covid has really brought people to life for the most,” Felling said. “It’s so crazy how many California buyers I’ve had in the last year because they were able to sell their million dollar property in California, move to Texas and get a much bigger property. for $500,000.”

He said he now gets around 75% of his leads from TikTok and his sales have almost quadrupled. As a result, Felling ceased marketing his properties in print publications.

The future of real estate

The brokers CNN spoke to all joined TikTok within the past two years, and they all believe the app is the future of real estate.

It certainly sparked a huge following: in September 2021, TikTok hit 1 billion monthly active users.

“We live in such a visual society,” Felling said. “Video is the wave of the future. This is how you will get people’s attention.

Sutton also said a more visual medium allows potential buyers to imagine themselves living in a particular town or city. She often mixes local video content into her feed, showing off her favorite restaurants and markets in nearby neighborhoods.

Importantly, real estate agents can use TikTok to strike up a conversation with their buyers. Sutton said she has created lasting relationships with customers on TikTok who often come back to her for the next leg of their house-hunting journey.

“[TikTok] creates this relationship that is much more long-term,” she said. “I may not have had access to those clients, or they may not have been exposed to someone like me.”

According to Sutton, there is no downside to opening an account. “If you are a real estate agent, you should be on TikTok. No questions asked,” she said. “Even if a video performs poorly, it’s not a performance issue. If any of those people who see that video find their home…I’ve done my job.

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