When TikTok launched in 2017, it was known as a platform for viral dance videos. Since then, its roughly 1 billion users turn to the social media app for videos on an array of topics, from comedy to cooking to something called #RushTok—an oddly intriguing look at the sorority and fraternity recruitment process on various college campuses.

On TikTok, you can find a video about nearly anything. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, the app became a true force for marketing, buying, and selling homes at a time when in-person home tours were literally impossible. During the months that followed, despite the return of in-home viewings, real estate TikTok exploded. The telegenic real estate agents who regularly posted videos had found a new way to reach homebuyers and sellers.

“Every business sector tried to use the influence of TikTok for its own benefit, and so did the real estate industry,” says Dustin Fox, a real estate agent and the owner of Fox Homes in Fairfax, VA. “In the post-pandemic era, TikTok forced the housing industry to change its marketing strategy. I’d say that more than one-third of the buyers I work with are influenced by TikTok in their decisions they make around purchasing a home.”

Lauren Matera, a real estate agent who has more than 418,000 followers on TikTok, has witnessed the changes firsthand.

“I started posting real estate-specific content in the fall of 2020,” Matera says. “Everything about the app makes it a resource for information, education, and entertainment. So in many ways, it makes sense. The short-form video format means you can watch lots of videos quickly.”

In other words, she explains, you can “tour” 10 houses on TikTok in less time than it takes to visit one in person. You can also digest quick bites of information about the buying and selling process from agents who have gone through it with clients.

But is TikTok a good place for homebuyers and sellers to find a trustworthy agent? And can real estate TikTok really be a legitimate source for accurate information and advice on what will likely be the biggest purchase or sale of their lives?

Is TikTok a good place to find a savvy real estate agent?

TikTok is clearly a solid marketing tool for real estate agents, but is it really a font of knowledge?

It can be, as long as it’s not the only place you’re seeking and verifying information.

“Many people on TikTok claim to be experts, but it is fairly simple to establish who is trustworthy,” says Shaun Martin, a Denver-based real estate adviser and the CEO and owner of Cash for Houses. “The first thing you should look for is certification, like a real estate license. Consider how long they’ve been doing this, because deep experience and knowledge are key in real estate.”

Martin urges buyers to vet real estate influencers on TikTok by checking out their websites and looking for Google and Yelp reviews from previous clients and colleagues. See if they’re affiliated with professional organizations such as the National Association of Realtors®.

“What I think is amazing about the educational value of TikTok is you aren’t just getting the details on a property—you are also getting the agent’s personality,” says Matera. “You essentially get to pre-interview a ton of agents for months. You can ask questions, and vet them to see if their energy is a good match for you before picking up a phone.”

Is TikTok a good place to learn about real estate?

Cluing into real estate TikTok can also be valuable for buyers and sellers who are new to the world of mortgages, interest rates, and earnest money.

“Many lenders and real estate agents are using this platform to offer advice and information to young homebuyers,” says Wesley Willoughby, a real estate specialist with the Music City Group of Benchmark Realty in Nashville, TN.

He explains that TikTok’s short, attractive content enables people to easily grasp the sometimes-complicated aspects of real estate.

In addition to carefully screening users to separate the true experts from the posers, consider that real estate laws vary from state to state. So it’s essential to know what your state’s rules are before taking anyone’s advice on social media—or elsewhere.

Originally published by Kathleen Willcox at REALTOR.COM

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