Is Real Estate TikTok the Secret to Finding an Apartment?
From renters to agents, the social platform has become a valuable resource
By Katherine McLaughlin -
No longer just a social media platform, TikTok is also a secret weapon when it comes to real estate.
In March of 2022, Ashley Kim, a virtual reality product designer, was living in Providence, Rhode Island, while finishing up her joint Master of Design Engineering at Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. “I’m a huge planner, so I was starting to put things into motion for my post-grad life, and moving to New York City had always been my goal,” she recalls. Knowing how competitive real estate can be in the city, she started reaching out to friends who could offer tips and strategies for apartment hunting in one of the most hectic and fast-moving markets in the country.
Around that same time, Casey Han was experiencing a housing change of her own: Her best friend and roommate was planning to move out of their apartment in Brooklyn to San Francisco, and Casey needed someone to fill the room ASAP. While she knew a few mutual friends who might be interested in the space, she decided to list the apartment online—only instead of posting on StreetEasy, Apartments.com, or Facebook Marketplace, she made a TikTok video.
Call it luck, fate, or just a really advanced algorithm, but the video soon made its way to Ashley’s feed, and the two creators connected. After a brief chat on Instagram DM, they set up a FaceTime call and soon decided to live together. “I think what had cloaked me in some form of confidence was that we were the same age, shared South Korean roots, clearly enjoyed the art of cooking and holistic living, and liked to be creative through content creation,” Ashley says. Casey shared similar sentiments, and both agree that living together has been nearly perfect.
While it may not seem like it, stories like this aren’t that unusual. As Gen Z’s unofficial search engine of choice, TikTok has become a valuable tool for anything one might have once typed into Google—including finding an apartment. The hashtags #nycrentals, #brooklynrentals, and #nycrealestatehave been viewed 42.5 million, 1.5 million, and 376.1 million times, respectively. While notably a more general hashtag, #nycapartment has racked up 2.1 billion views globally.
Similar hashtags can be found for other cities as well as realtors, renters, and people like Casey and Ashley flock to the app as a one-stop resource for finding a place to live.
Much like the app itself, 2020 changed the course of real estate TikTok. “When the pandemic started, we weren’t sure what our responsibilities were as agents and what we were allowed to do,” explains Madison Sutton, a real estate agent at Serhant. On her TikTok page, Madison posts both lifestyle and real estate videos under the username @thenycagent for her audience of over 100,000 followers. During the height of the pandemic, sharing video tours of the available units became one of the safest ways to conduct real estate transactions, according to Madison. “It has been an interesting thing to watch the industry adapt to; when I first started doing it, everyone thought it was a bit ridiculous.” Clearly it’s not: In the past 18 months, Madison estimates she’s conducted about 150 rental deals through TikTok alone, adding that she didn’t post those units on StreetEasy or other platforms. It’s not just a benefit to Madison; that’s also 150 tenants who have found their home on the app.
While it’s true that TikTok was built for social media and not real estate hunting, it’s in this function that the platform might actually get its leg up. “I’ve had people see a video of a unit I posted, inquire about it, tour it, put in an application, and they rent it,” says Sarah Alister, a real estate agent at Compass.
However, she notes that one of the biggest benefits of TikTok over other places realtors could share listings is the social aspect of it. In addition to sharing available apartments, she also posts educational content about moving to New York. “I’m very vocal about being a Jewish Manhattanite, born and raised on the Upper East Side, so I consider that a factor as to why I stand out as a real estate advisor here in the city,” Sarah adds.
Potential clients often reach out to her not because they’ve seen a specific unit they like, but rather because they’re drawn to her as someone who can help them navigate the complexities of house hunting. Once this connection has been made, she can direct renters to off market units or those that aren’t shared as widely, but affirms that TikTok is always the start of the equation—both for her and people looking for units. “One hundred percent of my leads are coming from TikTok,” she says.
For those familiar with the trade side of social media, TikTok’s merge from a social platform to a house-hunting asset is hardly surprising. Realtors and others in sales roles have long used social media as a marketing tool, and Facebook Marketplace offers crucial time-tested proof that these websites and apps can be used both for connection and commerce. However, when it comes to real estate specifically, the video nature of TikTok can make it a particularly useful player compared to its stationary competitors.
“Videos don’t lie,” says Elana Delafraz, a real estate agent at Real New York. She and her business partner, Adam Hakimian, run the account @nofeeapartments, which has helped them close around three deals a week in the peak summer season alone. “On TikTok, there are no edited pictures, no brightened rooms, you get exactly what you see,” Elana emphasizes. She and Adam will often take this a step further and frequently tell viewers directly whether they believe listings are worth it or not—another characteristic that has helped the two grow their following to almost 50,000 people.
“New York City is dominating real estate ’Tok right now,” Sarah says. “But I am starting to see some realtor friends in other cities jump on the train and put out tours and other similar content.”
While TikTok likely isn’t going to replace traditional real estate websites any time soon, it’d be rash to discount the platform entirely. As millennialsand Gen Z become major players in the real estate market, it's unsurprising their go-to platforms will become essential tools in their search.
And as more renters and agents find TikTok’s value, many experts expect it to expand past the über-competitive markets like New York and make its way into the rest of the country. “TikTok is the future,” Sarah concludes. “With everyone utilizing it as a search engine platform, it's only going to make sense that others get involved.”
And you, could you imagine find your home with Tik Tok ?