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House Hunting for Fun – Are Zillow Users Obsessed?

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Zillow is the leading real estate and rental marketplace, with 245 million monthly unique users in 2020 alone. Those looking to buy, rent, or sell a home are no strangers to the company’s website, but what about those of us who just want to see how far our money goes on local real estate, or maybe even imagine ourselves in a cozy coastal bungalow or modern lakeside mansion far from where we currently call home? Zillow offers an escape from the monotony of too much time spent at home, and more and more site visitors may just be there to dream a little.

But just like any escape, too much of a good thing can have its downsides. Browsing Zillow may help users relax, but what happens when they become attached to a house they can’t afford?  When time on Zillow surpasses time spent working or with family and friends, are there consequences in a user’s professional or personal life? And if Zillow usage has negative effects, how easily can users give it up? Just how obsessed are Americans with Zillow?

Methodology

To find out, we surveyed over 1000 people with questions exploring why and how often they browse Zillow, what everyday activities they forgo in favor of browsing Zillow, and how addicted they are to the site.

Read on for more!

Time Spent on Zillow

Every obsession requires time, and since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had nothing but time to feed our secret habits and guilty pleasures. Zillow users are no different, with 55% of survey respondents spending between one and four hours a day on the site. Male browsers were 14% more likely than women to spend between one and four hours a day on Zillow, while 86% of Baby Boomers spend less than an hour or no time at all browsing the site.

But desktop or mobile browsing isn’t the only way to nurture a Zillow obsession. 33% of people surveyed receive 3-5 Zillow alerts a day, while another 39% have 3-5 alerts set up for houses they don’t intend to rent or buy. Even when not actively browsing the site, Zillow is never far from users’ minds—or inboxes.

pie charts depicting time Americans spend house hunting on Zillow & number of Zillow alerts they receive daily

The Impact of a Zillow Obsession

So what impact does browsing Zillow for significant amounts of time have on site users? For many, that time comes at a cost to their professional and personal lives. Over half of respondents (58%) have missed an important deadline because they were browsing Zillow, while 56% have canceled plans with a friend to browse the site instead. Men are almost 19% more likely than women to cancel plans with a friend in favor of browsing Zillow and 15% more likely to miss an important deadline while browsing.

So, with 41% of respondents reporting issues in their personal or work lives due to excessive Zillow browsing, why do they continue to visit the site? For some, curiosity is a driving factor—53% of people have looked up their boss’s house on Zillow, and another 63% have looked up the value of a friend’s house. For others, the interest is closer to home: 42% of respondents are interested in the property values in their neighborhood, and 29% are seeking inspiration for their own homes. But the most powerful reason for browsing Zillow? Escape. 57% of respondents browse to either daydream or relax, and despite the personal and professional consequences, Zillow may be a source of relief they aren’t willing to give up.

Survey insights from Zillow users about their house hunting habits and the associated effects

The Zillow Fantasy

Zillow’s database of over 135 million homes allows users to find any style of home, anywhere—even if it’s out of their price range or in an entirely different location. 62% of respondents browse houses that are at least over $100,000 more than their current homes, and 64% have contacted a listing agent for a home they can’t afford at least once. 80% of respondents fantasize about a house they saw on Zillow at least once a week, and 44% develop an emotional attachment to a home on Zillow all or most of their browsing sessions. And while, 65% of users say they could easily give up browsing Zillow, over half of respondents (51%) have continued to browse the site following the purchase of a home—cutting ties with the site may not be so easy as users think. In fact, the pleasure and escapism found in browsing Zillow are enough to rival another source of pleasure: sex. Almost half of respondents (49%) would rather browse Zillow than have sex. For many, a dream home may be more important than a dream partner.

pie chart showing the number of people who would rather house hunt on Zillow than have sex

Escaping a Pandemic

It’s clear that browsing Zillow can give site visitors relief, fuel their fantasies, and allow them to escape their current housing reality. After spending the last year observing quarantine and social distancing guidelines, such relief was more than welcome for the almost 48% of respondents reporting an increase in their Zillow browsing over the course of the pandemic. This increase was highest among Gen-Z respondents—likely the generation with the least home purchasing power—with almost 59% of respondents aged 18-23 reporting more time spent on Zillow during the pandemic. Perhaps these young adults are more hopeful for the future or getting a jump on saving for a dream home, or maybe Zillow simply offers a quiet escape from online learning and Zoom lectures!

bar chart depicting how Zillow usage changed during the pandemic   

Final Thoughts

Browsing Zillow may not be the new national pastime quite yet, but it certainly has helped Americans pass the time during an unprecedented global health crisis. And with experts predicting increased housing demand from new homebuyers and existing homeowners alike in 2021, Zillow may see even higher browsing rates. If browsing Zillow inspired you to purchase a home needing a remodel or update your current home, you may want to consider working with contractors covered by surety bonds like those provided by Surety First. Until then—happy browsing!

About the Author:

Shortly after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelors degree in economics, Jeremy founded Surety First Insurance Services (formerly Schaedler Insurance), a Northern California based insurance agency specializing in surety bonds for California construction professionals. Jeremy is happily married and the proud father of two young boys. In his free time, he enjoys camping, fishing and shooting the breeze with friends and family.

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