TikTok and Instagram have replaced HGTV as the go-tos for housing voyeurism–meets-education. It’s now common to find real-estate agents and enthusiasts on these platforms showcasing luxury homes, giving rundowns on the latest market trends, or firing off buying and selling advice in 30-second clips. It’s a local phenomenon, too, as real-estate influencers help hopefuls navigate the competitive Washington market or just fantasize about what they could snag if only the region weren’t so expensive. (The #dcrealestate TikTok hashtag has been viewed 48.8 million times.)
Agents using social media as a marketing tool isn’t new. But Covid made it almost necessary, as many of them were forced to find fresh ways to connect with buyers. Plus, with more digital creators posting about real estate, the bar has been raised—agents must be increasingly social-media-savvy, says Kim Kash, a Compass agent. In fact, a lot have become akin to influencers themselves, amassing their own followings. “It has become tremendously important to be [intentional] with photography and video, as well as our language around describing houses,” Kash says, adding that many potential buyers interact with a listing for the first time via social media.
Jamie Manning, who runs the popular real-estate platform Exposed Brick DC, thinks content creators are instrumental in producing interest for listings—Manning says agents often contact her to ask if she can cover their open houses. Arial Pegues, an RLAH agent, says many of her clients come from her own social-media posts.
Another outcome of this trend: Buyers and sellers are more educated about the real-estate industry and market, as well as more particular. For better or worse, influencers can shape what clients expect from listings, Kash says, in addition to what they imagine the homebuying experience is like. While this can lead to a better-informed pool, some posts can also set unrealistic expectations or provide generalized information that doesn’t translate to a user’s specific scenario.
“A lot of the viewers can’t apply the information they’re receiving online to their local market, because every market is different,” Pegues says. Her recommendation: Vet the influencers you follow, and make sure you’re consuming information that applies to your situation. “That’s the part clients need to research, because I could make videos about real estate all day, but am I doing what I’m talking about?”
Don’t understand FHA loans? Enjoy drooling over multimillion-dollar mansions? Here are seven local personalities sharing real-estate knowledge on TikTok and Instagram.
Instagram: @chrisperryrealestate, 60.2K followers.
TikTok: @chrisperryrealestate, 25.3K followers.
Most viral post: A video showing what $625,000 buys in Upper Marlboro.
This 32-year-old agent’s accounts fall more into the “education” category than “inspo”: Many of his TikToks offer explainers on real-estate headlines such as new federal mortgage-fee rules or how the Silicon Valley Bank disaster affects the housing industry. He also posts videos showing what buyers can get for, say, $425,000 in Oxon Hill or $2,700,000 in Bowie: “I present the information [so] people can digest it and they’re able to make their own decisions.”
Turns out informing buyers and sellers helps business, too: Because Perry started posting at the pandemic’s start, his yearly sales volume has increased more than 53 percent. “I get constant clients from social media, both through Instagram and TikTok,” he says. “I get consultations literally every day.”
TikTok: @danwheelersellshomes, 25.4K followers.
Most viral post: A TikTok encouraging viewers to buy instead of rent.
This 41-year-old agent dishes out TikTok advice in a playful and upfront way—a spin on the Family Matters TV-show intro outlining all the characters involved in the homebuying and selling process, for instance, or Wheeler directly addressing TikTok comments on topics such as interest rates or liabilities versus assets. “It makes it way easier when my clients understand what I’m talking about,” Wheeler says. “Real estate is just complicated because everyone doesn’t do it every day.”
TikTok: @maxwellrabin_properties, 53.4K followers.
Most viral post: An inside look at a $39 million McLean estate.
The 46-year-old agent forgoes trendy beats and sound bites in his area home tours, opting for succinct voice-overs through a spectrum of spaces such as flashy condos, more affordable co-ops, and historic mansions. Rabin does tours mostly for entertainment and brand-building, not direct business. “Real estate can be aspirational on many levels, including properties that aren’t super-lavish,” he says. “People are still looking for a better place to live or just interesting facts about properties.”
TikTok: @dmvdylan, 119.6K followers.
Most viral post: A TikTok about a $2.1 million Scottish private island, which he likens to buying a DC-area home.
When the former mortgage-loan officer became an agent, he tried doing things the old-school way. Then he realized social media was a better move than cold-calling. “It feels inauthentic,” says Ford, who’s 32. “I’ve never done business with someone that knocked on my door. A client is going to see right through that.” Ford posts listings, homeownership tips, market updates, and interesting local facts for new transplants. (Did you know F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried in Rockville?)
Instagram: @exposedbrickdc, 31K followers.
TikTok: @exposedbrickdc, 5,958 followers.
Most viral post: A reaction video to someone saying they’d paint a historic home’s wooden trim white.
The 33-year-old, who runs a digital-advertising agency, posts tours of Washington open houses via her social media and blog and focuses on homes under $3 million. “Multimedia marketing has been reserved for those really expensive listings,” she says. “It’s important for me to highlight lower price points and make sure people have the same experience [with those and] get a cool tour.”
TikTok: @heider_realestate, 3.4M followers.
Instagram: @heider_realestate, 131K followers.
Most viral post: A TikTok of a $2,375,000 townhouse in Burleith.
This agent’s TikTok is more for inducing envy than providing tips: Think over-the-top drone videos of multimillion-dollar listings featuring models, Rolls-Royces, and Lamborghinis. Heider uses his videos not only as a marketing tool but also as a way to shake up what the 35-year-old calls DC’s “gray and boring” real-estate scene: “For so long, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles took the lead in showcasing properties in a very sexy and contemporary way.” Though most of Heider’s online audience isn’t in the market to snag a megamansion, he creates each video with a certain buyer in mind, depending on the property—a classic Federal-style rowhouse might get an Aretha Franklin soundtrack, a $12 million Bethesda mansion might get a remixed rap song. “This is not a template where we go in and do the same thing every time,” he says.
TikTok: @jarrieljordan, 103.5K followers.
Instagram: @jarrieljordan, 6,062 followers.
Most viral post: A tour of a new custom-built home in Maryland.
The 26-year-old agent says he pretty much built his entire business through social media. His mother, who’s a real-estate broker, influenced him to jump into the industry after college, and Jordan started posting his listings right out of the gate. Today he estimates that almost 90 percent of his leads come from TikTok and Instagram.
While he films video walk-throughs of Colonial-style homes and townhouse rentals across Prince George’s County, most of Jordan’s content is geared toward educating—videos labeled “Top 3 Home Buying Mistakes,” say, or TikToks that guide first-time buyers through things like earnest-money deposits and renovation costs. He especially hopes to show young people of color that owning a house isn’t as far-fetched as they might think. “I purchased my first house at 23,” he says. “They can do it, too.”
This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Washingtonian.