Zillow scrolling is a hobby (or habit) that became popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic. While looking at house listings on Zillow or other real estate listing sites is something that has existed as long as those sites have been around, its popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic.
This was especially true during early 2020 when many parts of the country were under stay-at-home orders, Zillow scrolling became a way to escape reality and fantasize about some of the different destinations that might be in play. Even as restrictions have eased up, many people continue to Zillow scroll for fun and enjoyment.
What is Zillow scrolling?
Zillow scrolling is the process of looking through at home listed on Zillow or other home sites. Whether you’re looking at homes with the idea of actually moving to a new place or just being aspirational, surfing the endless inventory of homes out there can be a fun way to spend time.
Different ways to scroll Zillow
As you might imagine, there are lots of different ways to scroll Zillow, depending on your specific situation and what you’re looking to get out of it. Here are a few ways that people Zillow scroll:
- Renters looking to buy a new home
- Aspirationally looking at mansions, celebrity homes and other gigantic places you’ll never afford
- Tourist sites or other “famous” homes like the hotel from The Shining or the home from “A Christmas Story”
- Dreaming of properties that could give you a different life than the one you have now. This could be city dwellers dreaming of a farmhouse, rural or suburbanites thinking of living downtown or ideas of living in a totally different city or country
- Investors looking to buy rental real estate or investment properties
No matter which type of Zillow surfer you happen to be, there’s no denying that there is something cathartic about seeing all of the millions of properties out there.
What to pay attention to when comparing places
Whenever you’re comparing different properties, there are a few things that you’ll want to pay attention to. This holds true whether you’re endlessly scrolling on Zillow or looking at listings from your favorite real estate agent. You’re probably already comparing things like the total square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the overall size of the property, but there’s a few other things it makes sense to keep in mind.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re looking at properties in different parts of the country than the one you live in is the overall cost of living. $800,000 might barely get you a 3 bedroom ranch in an okay part of Los Angeles while in cheaper parts of the country like Cincinnati you could afford a mansion. Another thing to consider is the actual costs associated with moving.
Your moving costs will vary by how much “stuff” you have to move and whether you’re moving across town or across the country. And while moving can give you a fresh financial start, the tangible and intangible costs are high enough that you probably don’t want to be moving every couple of months. And of course, you only need to consider the costs of moving if you’re ACTUALLY planning on moving. If you’re surfing Zillow just for enjoyment, you can do that for free!
How to prepare to buy a house
But if you are Zillow scrolling with the idea to buy a house either in the short-term or over the next couple of years, there are a few things that you can do to get ready to buy a house. You’ll want to make sure that your credit score is as good as you can make it. A higher credit score means a lower interest rate on a mortgage, and that will put more money in your pocket each month.
Another thing that you’ll want to discuss with your spouse, partner or significant other is what your budget is. It’s important to be honest with yourself about how much house you can afford. It is very easy in the homebuying process to talk yourself into more expensive homes. You have an idea that you want to stay within a budget of $200,000 to $250,000. But then you see a house that is listed at $269,000. You visit it and fall in love, but then there’s a bidding war and you end up under contract at $290,000. Knowing how to set your budget and what that means for what you can afford.
The Bottom Line
If you spend your nights and weekends scrolling through properties on Zillow, know that you’re not alone. Zillow surfing has become more and more prevalent over the past several years, and there are lots of different reasons people do it. If you are comparing properties, besides the obvious things like bedrooms and square footage, make sure to consider cost of living and moving costs. And if a new home is something you’re planning on in the next months or years, make sure that you get your credit score up and set your home budget.
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.