Zillow surfing has become a pandemic thing. So has Zillow snooping

Zillow is one of the top online residential real estate marketplaces, with homes for sale listings in markets across the country, and its site and app had a record 9.6 billion visits last year, 1.5 billion more than 2019.

The pandemic made “Zillow surfing” a thing.

“Zillow surfing is really a trend that has exploded as so many people turn to Zillow to escape. I think as we all spent so much time in our homes in the last year we started to look around our homes and ask ourselves if they were really meeting our needs in this new normal,” said Zillow home trends expert Amanda Pendleton.

A recent survey conducted by building materials company Omnis indicates a lot of people Zillow surfing are home searching without any intention of actually buying; 83% said so.

And among those home searching without intent to buy, many of them are “Zillow snooping.”

“Our survey of those not buying found 62% said they’ve looked up their neighbor’s home just to see what it looks like inside, and 39% said they have used Zillow to look at a boss or manager’s home to see what it looks like,” said Omnis spokesman Matt Zajechowski.

Two-thirds of the 1,500 people Omnis surveyed said they Zillow snoop to secretly find out what friends have paid for their recent home purchases.

Zillow surfing can be addictive. Of those who do that Omnis surveyed, 31% said they spend between one and two hours looking at homes for sale each time, and 44% said they do it weekly. Another 68% said it is therapeutic or soothing.

Pendleton agrees, spending too much dream time Zillow surfing — or Trulia or Redfin or any other residential listing site surfing — can have a downside.

“When buyers are ready to buy they may find they are constrained by their real life budgets. That’s why finding out what you can actually afford early on its critical and it could save you some heartache when you realize your dream home may not be in your price range,” Pendleton said.

There is an upside to regularly scouring residential listings, particularly for those who are new to residential real estate and possibly preparing to buy their first home. Pendleton said it makes them better informed about market conditions, and potentially makes them more savvy buyers.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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