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‘TikTok changed my life.’ Real estate agents find huge success on the app

<i>TikTok/CNN Business</i><br/>During the height of the pandemic
TikTok/CNN Business
During the height of the pandemic

By Kameryn Griesser and Sofia Barrett, CNN Business

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

Demand for homes has soared, pushing prices up to record levels. Competition is so intense that homes are selling in record time, with multiple bids and all-cash offers.

Last year, a Zillow survey showed that 36% of buyers would even purchase a property sight unseen. But despite all the desperate buyers willing to skip the in-person showing, most people still expect to actually see a home first.

During the height of the pandemic, real estate agents across the country discovered that social media platform TikTok was an ideal way to safely show prospective buyers homes. Now, some are saying the video app has revolutionized the way they sell real estate — and it is here to stay.

Hundreds of inquiries for one property

Madison Sutton is a 25-year-old agent in New York City. She specializes in off-market deals and what she calls “hidden-treasure apartments.” But during the pandemic, she was scraping the barrel for leads because so many people were moving out of the city.

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

“There were days I was getting two or four hundred inquiries for one apartment,” she recalled. “What TikTok did, I couldn’t have expected or planned or calculated in my entire lifetime. It’s completely changed my life.”

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

Nearly three-quarters of TikTok users spend more than an hour on the app weekly, according to Statista. The endless scroll and use of algorithms keep users coming back for more. It’s this format that Sutton finds an asset. “Where else in New York City could you see 10 apartments in 10 minutes other than TikTok?,” Sutton said.

And while typical house hunters fret over scheduling in-person tours, online-savvy ones can view in-depth videos that Sutton makes with the flick of a finger.

Part of what makes TikTok so useful for real estate agents is the quick-fire video interface and algorithmically curated For You page. Videos that appear on a user’s For You page are collected according to their unique interests, region, search history, and interactions with advertisers. Because TikTok uses such engagement metrics to determine interest in a video, a new content creator does not need a large following or paid promotion for their video to go viral and reach a broad audience.

It took Fort Worth, Texas, realtor Prince Whiting just a week on the platform to get his first hit. Since creating @TheHouseofWhiting in January 2021, he has 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’d say about 90% of the views are on the For You page and not the people that follow me,” said Whiting. “Everybody has an opportunity to go viral. It’s not because you have a 100 million or a million followers and that check mark 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 him to reach people who are ready to buy.

As with all new social media, there is of course a learning curve. With six years of experience in real estate and zero knowledge of TikTok, Dallas real estate broker Joseph Felling admits it took him a few tries to find his niche on the platform.

Felling said he’s found the most success by showcasing Dallas’ low home prices relative to other major metropolitan areas in the US. More than any other platform, TikTok has allowed him to reach clientele from outside of Texas.

“I think Covid really made people experience what more there is,” said Felling. “It’s so crazy how many California buyers I have had in the past year because they’re able to sell their million-dollar property in California, move to Texas and get a much larger property for $500,000.”

He said he now gets about 75% of his leads from TikTok, and his sales have nearly quadrupled. As a result, Felling has stopped marketing his properties in print publications.

The future of real estate

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

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

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

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

Most of all, realtors can use TikTok to engage their buyers in a conversation. Sutton said she’s created lasting relationships with clients over TikTok who often return to her for the next step of their house hunting journey.

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

According to Sutton, there are no downsides to starting an account. “If you’re a realtor, you should be on TikTok. No questions asked,” she said. “Even if a video performs poorly, it’s not about the performance. If one of those people who sees that video finds their home … I’ve done my job.”

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