United States Housing Market
The United States is in one of the most robust housing markets in recent memory. Home prices across the country reached record-highs in five of the first six months of 2021. Throughout 2021, the housing market has seen stratospheric prices, brutal bidding wars, and record low inventory. You would think this type of market would dissuade would be home seekers, but houses across the country are being bought over listing price, with lines for open houses around the block.
COVID-19 Pandemic Screen Time
A recent study found that there was a 50 – 70 percent increase in internet use during the pandemic among U.S. adults. This was due to COVID-19 restrictions, regulations, and stay-at home orders over the past 18 months. Where people stayed indoors, offices remained shut, and human interaction was done mostly through our devices. As a result, the usage of digital devices increased manifold across the the country and world.
Zillow is an online real estate database that is the most-visited real estate website in the United States. Zillow offers customers a digital experience for selling, buying, renting, and financing real estate. The company was founded in 2006 by former Microsoft executives.
Zillow has data on over 110 million homes across the United States. The company offers several features including value estimates of homes, value changes of each home in a given time frame, aerial views of homes, and prices of comparable homes in the area. It also provides basic information on a given home, such as square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Over the past few years, Zillow has focused on being the digitalization leader in the online real estate industry. During the pandemic, Zillow accelerated its digital offerings, aiming to be the “digital-first future of home shopping”. It aimed to take full advantage of the booming housing market described above. This digital strategy included launching:
- Machine learning to pull together various media content with an interactive floor plan
- A self-tour option on all Zillow-owned homes
- Digital floor plans augmenting Zillow 3D Home virtual tours, providing shoppers with a more immersive experience
- More virtual tours, virtual staging, increased customization and enhanced safety standards
These leading digital features have resulted in Zillow recording a record 9.6 billion page views over the past year, up 19% year-over-year. Zillow had 245 million monthly unique users in 2020 alone.
Are people really addicted to Zillow? A survey highlighted in Bloomberg found that more than half of respondents were spending 1 to 4 hours a day browsing Zillow. The following survey results show how much of an impact Zillow has had on people’s lives:
- 58% have missed an important deadline at least once because they were browsing Zillow
- 56% have cancelled plans with a friend at least once to browse Zillow instead
- 57% have been late to an event or appointment at least once because they were browsing Zillow
- 41% of people say their Zillow browsing has caused problems in their work or personal life
Zillow addiction among Americans has become so widespread over the past year that Saturday Night Live created an entire skit based on how “pleasurable” browsing the website is.
SNL is clearly joking about the Zillow fantasy, but in a survey conducted by a California-based insurance agency that surveyed 1,000 people, 49% said they would rather browse Zillow than have sex.
Zillow has proven not only to be a leading digitalization company for serious real estate buyers and sellers, but those daydreaming about a new life in a far off destination. Whether that’s a tropical bungalow with ocean views or modern mountain mansion with ski access. Zillow has allowed us to get closer to our fantasies and far our daily lives. With so much time spent at home during the pandemic, millions are living out their digital fantasies on Zillow every day.
I had a Zillow addiction during the pandemic. In October, my girlfriend and I purchased a condo in Boston and had spent many months prior on Zillow trying to find our place to call home. During this “research” it became a habit to check Boston Zillow listings multiple times a day. That led to checking listings outside of Boston to areas that I dreamed of moving to. A ski house in Crested Butte, a tiny home in Vermont, a retreat in the Berkshires. I realized my Zillow addiction when I still continued to visit the website daily after we had already purchased our new home. Why on earth was I wasting my time doing this?! The answer is simple. I had become obsessed with finding new listings which led to new life possibilities I could daydream about.
After researching for this blog I quickly realized that I was not the only one who had spent a bit too much time on Zillow. In fact, there have been millions of us over the pandemic that have used Zillow as an escape from the pandemic.
Am I the only one in class who has used Zillow as a retreat? Are there others who have become too familiar with the infinite life possibilities that Zillow offers?