Real estate agents who use the video sharing app TikTok to market listings say they have mixed emotions over an executive order issued by President Donald Trump Thursday threatening to ban the use of the Chinese-owned platform and WeChat in the U.S. if they aren’t sold to an American company by next month.
The order states that if no sale takes place after 45 days, “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd.” would be prohibited. Although the platform was adopted early on by teenage audiences, its scope has expanded to agents, who on Friday balked at what one described as presidential overreach and others considered a minor threat due to the plethora of other apps at their disposal.
“I don’t agree with Trump making an executive decision on our social media outlets,” Sue Benson, an agent with RE/MAX Realty Team in Cape Coral, told Inman in a Facebook message. “It’s outrageous as no one can seem to stop him on his favorite social platform and no one is taking his voice away on it,” she added, referring to Twitter.
Benson said she doesn’t use TikTok frequently for her business, but likes to play around with it and explore different ways of using it.
“An agent should never rely too heavily on any pillar of business or social media,” she added. “We all know we have to divers[ify] our business plan.”
Lisa Marie Kennedy, a Realtor with eXp Realty, said she initially joined TikTok to put her town of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, on the map. And while she acknowledged that few leads from the platform have converted into transactions, her interactions have generated conversations while helping her attract attention to the town’s luxury market.
Kennedy first dreamed of gaining 1,000 followers, but has since amassed 11,000 on the platform.
“The creativity on TikTok is really appealing to a lot of people, especially with luxury homes,” Kennedy told Inman. “I transfer those videos to my stories on Instagram and Facebook. With that being said, could I still do that with music on other platforms? Yeah, I could, but I enjoy TikTok itself because of its creativity.”
“Is it going to affect my business?” Kennedy added. “I’m going to say no, but it could potentially affect my business in a positive way if I can somehow find a way to capture an email list of these people.”
Michele Bellisari, a real estate associate with RE/MAX Services in Boca Raton, said she’s connected with other agents on the platform who are mothers to millennials.
“The people that are on TikTok, they’re not typically [like] me,” Bellisari told Inman. “But, realistically, as a mid-lifer, I find a lot of women in business like me [on the platform].”
Bellisari said she primarily uses the platform to connect with other real estate professionals, but if it went away, it wouldn’t significantly impact her personally or professionally.
“I wouldn’t say Realtors are the biggest group on TikTok,” Bellisari said. “But, I personally play on it. There are certain Realtors that I follow that are super consistent. Realistically, it’s a visual platform that people love. You can teach and train on it too, but I don’t use it for that much. Am I concerned about it going away? Not particularly, because I don’t think that is my No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 platform.”
“That said, I don’t think it should go away,” Bellisari added. “I think it’s a great platform for creatives.”
Heather Haase, a Realtor with LoxleyMartin in Xenia, Ohio, was first drawn to TikTok during stay-at-home orders with more time on her hands. Although she has gained business from her presence on the platform, she told Inman she wasn’t concerned of a potential ban because of the variety of other social media options available for her to leverage her personal business.
On Sunday, Microsoft announced it was moving forward with talks to acquire TikTok following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump.
“I do think there’s going to be a U.S. buyer for it,” Haase told Inman. “But you never know. And Instagram just came out with Instagram Reels, so I’m very interested in what they’ll do with that platform. I’m actually probably going to play with it a little bit today and see what the similarities are.”
Some agents Inman spoke with who regularly use the platform expressed support for the ban, in the interest of national security. Blake Stargel, a Realtor with Compass, uses TikTok to market luxury homes in Los Angeles, and has gained over 24,000 followers on the platform.
“To be honest, I would actually be OK with the ban, just because I feel like it’s in the best interest for this country,” Stargel told Inman. “I think Microsoft buying it would be a great option. TikTok is a great resource … It’s not just being used by 12- to 18-year-olds anymore. But in general, I do think there’s a conflict of interest with it being located in China. I’m kind of 50-50 on it.”
“I don’t think it’s a make or break for my business,” Stargel added. “It was supposed to be a long-term tactic because it was supposed to be the new Instagram. But, we’ll see. It’ll be interesting.”