Earlier this spring, Carly Allison was still trying to figure out how to use her TikTok account.
Allison, an agent with Tropical Charm Homes in Cape Coral, Florida, had posted a few videos of homes in the past, and another of her time on a boat — pretty typical TikTok fare. But then she had an idea: She’d post about the time a potential buyer asked for a rebate of her entire commission.
Taking a cue from other question-and-answer TikTokers, Allison used face emojis, text, a simple background and voice-to-speech audio to walk viewers through the interaction. The format had the added benefit of not requiring Allison herself — who by her own description is camera-shy — to appear on screen.
“I need you to give me a rebate at closing for using you as my agent?” the would-be buyer asks in the video.
“What kind of rebate do you need?” the agent responds.
“Your commission,” the buyer announces.
“How much do you need?” the agent asks.
“All of it,” the buyer concludes.
The interaction continues, with the would-be buyer growing increasingly shocked that the agent won’t turn over her entire paycheck.
Allison recently told Inman she had no idea if the concept for the video would resonate with many people.
“I thought I might get a handful of people who like it,” she said. “If 100 people thought it was funny and liked it and gave me that little heart, that would be great.”
But instead, the video went viral.
Since going live on May 3, it has racked up almost 600,000 views. Nearly 50,000 people liked it and more than 1,500 commented on it. And along the way, Allison has seen her follower count steadily climb; as of May 19, more than 17,000 people have followed her account.
Allison subsequently ran with the concept. Last week, for example, she posted a video in the same format that documented a homeowner reaching out to a seller’s agent one year after a transaction. The homeowner wanted help fixing a broken air conditioning unit, and refused to accept the idea that she had to pay for repairs to her own house.
So far, the video has almost 900,000 views, and nearly 100,000 likes.
Allison told Inman the videos are all drawn from her own recent experience. And while she sometimes makes minor changes to protect identities, they are all real questions, requests and conversations.
Some of those conversations, though, are bonkers. For instance, Allison’s most recent video documents a conversation with a buyer who missed a closing because he was in jail. The buyer apologizes, then asks if the agent can drive him to his hotel so he can wash off the blood from a bar fight.
Allison spends between 20 and 30 minutes making the videos, and does all the editing entirely within the TikTok app. She’s learned how to do things like integrate different types of audio into the videos to make them more searchable — though she credited her teenage children as the masters of getting the most out of the platform.
And again and again, the videos keep going viral. Just days ago, for instance, Allison posted a video about buyers’ who torpedoed their own sale by purchasing a Tesla while in escrow. The video has been viewed more than 560,000 times.
Overall, the response to the videos has been positive. Allison said some people have shared their own similar experiences with her. And increasingly, she’s also getting leads.
“At first I didn’t know that you could just message random strangers [on TikTok],” she recalled. “But then I saw that I had like 20 messages. There were lenders wanting to work with me. Photographers offering their services. Agents in other cities with referrals.”
It is, perhaps, no surprise that Allison’s videos have gone viral again and again during these crazy times.
Though the coronavirus pandemic itself appears to be receding in the U.S., inventory remains extraordinarily low, many consumers are facing unprecedented pressure, and talk of a bubble is dominating the industry. All of that is putting more pressure on agents than ever, and tales of wild requests and absurd questions from clients abound in online real estate forums.
For her part, Allison said that the entire experience is hard to fully take in.
“Almost 900,000 people have looked at something I wrote,” she said. “It’s kind of overwhelming. I was not expecting it to go like this. My kids and I, we laugh about it. We’ll have dinner, and then we’ll go look and it’ll have 10,000 views and it freaks me out.”
But, she added, the kinds of unreasonable requests and crazy scenarios that she documents are not unique to her own experience.
“Most agents, it happens to every single one of us,” she said. “We all have these crazy stories.”