Bayut, Zillow or PropertyFinder? Online home surfing is becoming a form of escape in the remote economy

At the height of the pandemic induced social distancing and self-isolation, many of us were looking for new ways to deal with the boredom. With the buildings in which we live becoming critical to wellbeing and health, a new trend emerged – online home surfing. Reports say that millions of people are spending time on the internet scrolling through listings on Bayut, Zillow and Property Finder looking for new homes(1). While some of these people are prospective buyers, a vast majority simply want to delve into the aspirational pleasures of an alternate life.

Redefined priorities and boredom are driving online house-hunting

Our homes got a new meaning during the global pandemic. Today, they are more than just a shelter. They are often our office, gym, movie theatre and even holiday retreat. In fact, extensive lockdowns and the necessity to remain indoors have made homes more critical than ever. Owning our own homes, and having them be well-planned and with the right facilities, has become more important than ever. However, with practical limitations on physical house hunting, the internet has witnessed a dramatic surge in the number of people looking for multimillion-dollar properties. So, are we to assume that people are lining up to spend millions of dollars on homes they find online? Probably not.

With all of their time spent at home, many of those indulging in these searches are looking for an escape, from the familiar indoor spaces as well as the pandemic. As uncertain as the future might be, we all want to plan for it. Or at the very least, daydream about it. And what could bring more happiness than thinking about your dream home?! The pandemic has brought about a newfound obsession for window-shopping homes. It is so soothing and addictive to browse through a luxurious million-dollar house listed on Zillow, even if one can’t afford it. Images and video tours allow browsers to replay and imagine a home experience from every angle, along comparing the highly detailed information on listings with other properties.

Aspiration or recreation?

Who would have thought that home-stalking and floor plans could one day be an internet obsession? Mansions, condos, beach bungalows and mountain homes are all the hype on the web today. And passionately searching for houses online is also a great topic of conversation. You find a house you love, you tweet about it. Fellow surfers connect and bond over listings, talking about “Zillow-browsing” and how they spent hours compulsively scrolling from one house to another, searching for their dream home(2).

Our previous lifestyles have come to a pause, offering us a chance to transform our living spaces in ways we’ve always wanted but never had the time to accomplish. While there is a certain entertainment aspect, which is driving people to online property listings, there is also a section of people who are in fact shopping for actual homes. For them, online browsing eliminates the hassle of having to drive around, interact with agents, and walking into for-sale homes. Of course, for others, this online hunting merely offers a peek to stimulate their fantasies, of life in a different home.


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