Watch CBS News

Zillow Gone Wild, bringing unreal real estate to your screen

How Zillow listings go viral
How Zillow listings go viral 03:52

Sometimes real estate can seem a little unreal, which is just fine for Samir Mezrahi, who runs the popular social media account Zillow Gone Wild, posting "see it to believe it" homes, to the shock and delight of his two million-plus followers. From towering castles to underground bunkers, and seemingly everything in-between, what used to lie behind closed doors is now just a click away, thanks to Zillow, the most popular online real estate marketplace.

"You never know what's happening in a home," Mezrahi said. "The exterior is normal, and the interior is just all mirrors, or they've got a basement with, you know, a stripper pole and lights"

Just a handful of the outlandish or outrageous Zillow listings featured on the social media site Zillow Gone Wild.  Zillow Gone Wild

Zillow Gone Wild, and accounts like it (such as Zillowtastrophes and The Best of Zillow [sic]), have exploded in popularity during the pandemic. With so many stuck at home, fantasizing about another home was irresistible. It's been dubbed "Zillow surfing" – that is, scrolling through the platform's 135 million listings, often with no intention of actually buying, a pastime "Saturday Night Live" parodied last year:

Zillow - SNL by Saturday Night Live on YouTube

One property, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, had been on-and-off the market for about five years, but got offers within just days of Zillow Gone Wild showcasing its outdoors-indoors appeal.

Correspondent Nancy Chen asked Mezrahi, "How would you describe this decor?"

"Flintstones," he replied. "It's very Flintstones style. Modern Flintstones, the bedrooms."

This New Berlin, Wisconsin home comes with prehistoric amenities.  CBS News

Dustin and Tessa Maher bought it sight unseen. "Sunday Morning" joined them as they experienced it for the first time. "This is the wow, the first wow," said Dustin, stepping inside.

Chen asked, "How did you hear about this listing?"

"This Zillow listing," said Tessa. "One of my mutual friends must have shared it, and right away it caught my attention."

Knowing it caught the attention of millions of others was a selling point for the Mahers, who plan on turning the home into a vacation rental property. But it also meant they had to act fast. Dustin said, "Just more eyeballs on it, and more social proof that it's an interesting house. And I think that timing and everything just was right for this thing to sell quickly. And if we didn't buy it, someone else would have."

In case you have $60,000,000 to spare.  Zillow

Amanda Pendelton, a Zillow home trends expert, said, "Online curb appeal is certainly the new curb appeal. And what we have seen is agents really going out of their way to make their listings stand out online and to possibly make their listing go viral."

Even if that means adding a little something extra in their listing, like cameos by a T-Rex or a medieval knight.

Staging is everything in real estate. Aliens or dinosaurs can't hurt. Zillow

"So, agents want their houses to go viral?" asked Chen.

"It's free marketing for these sellers, right?" Pendelton replied. "You know, there is a right buyer for every single one of these homes, but that right buyer may not necessarily be in that particular neighborhood or city or even state. But when these listings go viral, suddenly they're being viewed by potential buyers all over the country."

So, whether you're in the market for a treehouse, or whatever this is …

This triple-dome domicile in Clark Ford, Ida., sold last year for $261,200. Zillow

… with enough scrolling, a man's home really can be his castle.

For more info:

Story produced by David Rothman. Editor: Erin McLaughlin. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.