As portrayed so perfectly in that “Saturday Night Live” sketch a few weeks ago, many of us have spent countless hours aimlessly browsing home listings on Zillow, regardless of plans to buy or rent a new house or apartment. We need something to do amid the pandemic, so why not dream of moving into that gorgeous four bedroom, five bathroom lake house in upstate New York? Or that fixer-upper outside of Austin with massive original built-ins and a stained glass window in the foyer?
But not all of the listings are quite so dreamy. There's a whole new social media trend that highlights some of the stranger things found on real estate sites. TMRW spoke to the creators of two especially popular Instagram accounts, @zillowgonewild and @pleasehatethesethings, on what inspired them to start and what they've discovered as the weirder things lurking in people’s homes.
Samir Mezarhi, 38, from Long Island, New York, started the account @zillowgonewild in December 2020 and has already amassed 800,000 followers.
“My bored activity is Zillow — just to browse Zillow,” Mezarhi told TMRW. “I know a lot of people do it. You know, I see a lot of crazy stuff, a lot of fun. So I just started (the account). I think that ‘SNL’ sketch may have been based on me.’
Mezarhi explained that most of his posts are from follower suggestions at this point. “In the beginning it was me, but it's blown up so much that the vast majority of what I post are submissions from people who are sending me, like, 50 to 100 links a day,” he said.
That's also the case for Dina Holland. The interior designer from the Boston area started the account @pleasehatethesethings almost three years ago, but took a break from posting and then started back up amid the pandemic.
“On my business account, I started with a list of the trends I hoped to go away or that would never come back,” she told TMRW. “And then people responded saying, ‘Oh my God, yes, I have this thing in my house and I hate it!’”
From there it snowballed to people sharing things they discovered on various real estate sites and the demand got so big, she decided to give the idea its own account, which has now amassed more than 400,000 fans. She even counts country star Kacey Musgraves as one of her loyal followers. She gets “hundreds and hundreds of DMs every day of submissions that people think are worthy, ugly or weird,” she told TMRW.
Holland’s account focuses more on specific, awkward design elements or out-of-place features. From tiles not aligning with an outlet to a kitchen island only big enough for arm-wrestling, her selections focus on the absurd and cringeworthy.
“Definitely things that appear to be mismeasured but still installed anyway,” she said of the types of posts she features. “How did this come to be? How is that window off-center? How is the sink off-center? Why is the toilet nowhere near the toilet paper holder? So many things that people just messed up when they're renovating in a hurry, and they're just, like, whatever … make it work. There's also a lot of toilets that are two or three steps up, which I can only assume is for the plumbing. There's also a lot of rugs in bathrooms.”
Carpeted bathrooms and garish wall-to-wall carpet are so common that Mezrahi sees quite a lot of as well in his hunt for the wild and ridiculous. (Bathrooms with Threatening Auras is a Facebook group with 160,000 members that focuses on bathrooms and also features a lot of wall-to-wall shag material in the dampest of places.) Mezrahi's account features more active Zillow listings that may have curb appeal and look normal on the outside, but include a treasure chest of weirdness or oddities once inside.
“I didn't realize there were so many castles that random people have built,” he said. “I try to find things that are unique ... that we haven't seen before, like someone had a cave in their house. Someone had a football field ... a boat garage. Who knew so many people had jails in their houses?”
In one particular case, the home was previously a county court house and the basement prison was used to house inmates. Mezrahi was sent that listing so many times, he ended up posting an update after it sold for $150,000 — a few thousand dollars above asking.
Mezrahi says his account has definitely created a community of which he's very proud.
“It's interesting because there's like a lot of random real estate accounts, but it seems like people that follow this account never followed those other accounts out there,” he said. “I feel like it's reached a new group of just like the casual, regular, average person who just likes to look at homes in their town and aspirationally look around on Zillow.”
Holland, who is a mom of two boys, also echoes that sentiment, saying her account brings people happiness and laughter especially in trying times.
“I definitely have friends with slightly older kids, like teenagers, who just sit around and scroll through," she said. "So it's not demographic specific. Anybody can look at that account and be like, ‘OK, this is bizarre, or this is funny, or this is pretty.’ Which is also kind of nice because we all are looking for a distraction at the end of the day.
“I like the idea that you could do this with your husband or your kids or you could be with your mom," she continued. "All the time, I get DMs from people who are like, 'I showed it to my best friend or my mom and we spent like an hour just scrolling through and laughing together.' I love that.”