Instant karma Why Instagram is an essential house-hunting tool

Luxury Listings NYC

By Zachary Kussin
March 11, 2014

When Sanchali Roy and her husband listed their home with a group of three brokers — one of whom was Fredrik Eklund of “Million Dollar Listing New York” — she didn’t think that it would sell from an Instagram photo uploaded by the Bravo star.

“We were all kind of shocked,” she said of the deal, which went into contract just one week after listing the one-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom 325 Fifth Avenue spread for $1.475 million in October. The sale — totaling $1.375 million — closed the following month.

“I thought he would be a great choice,” Roy said of enlisting Eklund and his team at Douglas Elliman. “Because of the TV show, he does have a huge social media following.”

Roy isn’t alone in seeking out brokers with a large, active social media presence, particularly ones who strut their stuff on mobile social media. As our modern lives become increasingly entwined with our mobile devices, real estate brokers have gotten savvier, too. In the past year, Instagram — a mobile-based photo-sharing social network — became the fastest-growing of the social networks, according to a study by research firm GlobalWebIndex. Nowadays — thanks to the app’s ability to provide nearly real-time updates, with photos and captions, all at the easy scroll of a thumb — Instagram is an increasingly popular way to buy, sell or rent a home in the city.

“I can take a photo — the money shot — post it on Instagram, and I’ve gotten immediate inquiries from people that have brought me buyers,” said Nest Seekers broker Ryan Serhant, another “Million Dollar Listing New York” star, who has some 36,224 followers in the social medium. “It’s becoming incredibly, incredibly important.” (In January, Serhant posted a photo of a listing on Instagram, a $7.5 million townhouse at 203 East 71st Street, boasting he’d sell it in less than 24 hours. Two days later, Serhant announced on Instagram that the house went into contract, for the full asking price, in a single day.)

Roy’s broker, Eklund, has more than 73,000 followers on Instagram. Combined with Facebook and Twitter, he reaches more than 190,000 people — and roughly 20 percent of his business last year came from social media, he said. He posts Instagram pictures of his listings, as well as some personal ones of his family and even uses images to announce news of sales launches. One recent example includes an upload of a new project rendering for 215 Sullivan, an upcoming condominium in Greenwich Village, with homes priced from $3 million to over $16 million. He said he got 25 calls right away from brokers requesting appointments.

“Saying you have 200,000 followers is powerful and easily understood by all,” Eklund said. “It’s also immediate and you don’t have to wait for PR meetings and putting together advertising and creative. It’s at the push of a button on my iPhone and [it’s] global.”

Another key element to Instagram’s success in the hyper-competitive world of NYC real estate? The “social” element in social media. Take the story of Fran Bene, who was looking to move back to the city after a year in New Jersey. A frequent Instagram user, Bene noticed a friend of hers kept liking listing shots posted by Eric Rohe, a friend of a friend who is an agent at Citi Habitats.

“So I clicked it,” she said of his Instagram profile. From there, she saw his Twitter account and blog, then realized: “OK, this guy’s legit.”

Bene decided to get in touch with Rohe through their mutual friend and, just two days later, with the broker’s help, she signed a lease on an apartment on East 90th Street. She moved in this past December.

“It’s so much faster and we live off that now,” Bene said. “It’s easier also for the mind — you can just take your thumb and scroll down. It’s so easy.”

In another example, Randi Kay was recently looking for a new home — and while she doesn’t have her own Instagram account, she had asked a relative to keep an eye out for potential pads for her. One day, they both saw a listing for a one-bedroom located on East 88th Street, and a spark hit.

“I saw the apartment and loved it right away,” Kay said.

Indeed, being able to “see” a home — without the hassle of Metrocards, schleps in the snow or potentially awkward conversations with real estate agents — is part of Instagram’s appeal for house hunters.

“Buyers and sellers nowadays are very sophisticated and they don’t need agents to ‘tour’ them to every single available property,” Veronika Khen, a salesperson at Nest Seekers, said.

“[Instagram] can be another source for them, especially for those who are social media savvy that browse all the time,” she added.

Kay, for one, contacted the listing agent for the property she saw on Instagram (Citi Habitats’ Erich Rohe) by email — and signed the lease within a week.

The entire process was remarkably easy, she said.

“I’ve met with so many brokers and I’ve been screwed so many times,” Kay said. “But I’m lucky I found him.”

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