Zillow on Tuesday announced a new feature that is designed to let would-be homebuyers search properties collaboratively with friends and family, thus turning the experience into a “group sport.”
The feature is called SharePlay and it integrates with FaceTime, Apple’s proprietary video calling technology that comes preinstalled on devices such as iPhones. According to a statement from Zillow, users can access the feature by starting a FaceTime call then, while the call is still going, navigating to the Zillow app and SharePlay session.
The statement goes on to note that SharePlay users can “search together, explore maps and view listing photo galleries in sync.” The statement also notes that the feature should turn “Zillow surfing” into a “a group sport on iPhones and iPads.”
“Whether you’re shopping for a home or a rental, this new feature makes it easier and a lot more fun,” David Beitel, Zillow’s chief technology officer, added in the statement. “The ability to browse together on separate mobile phones allows people to take their Zillow surfing to the next level. It’s also a great new way for real estate agents to connect with customers and guide them in their home-shopping journeys.”
SharePlay launches at the tail end of a year that saw Zillow get more attention than ever as a means of entertainment and a source of what some describe as “real estate porn.” The highest profile example of this came in February when Saturday Night Live parodied the practice of surfing Zillow for fun. But in the time since, numerous accounts have popped up on social media platforms such as TikTok to explore listings on Zillow. The idea behind many of these accounts is that they seem to approach real estate listings less as a means of moving to a new home and more as a diversion or pastime.
Zillow has so far steadfastly remained a shopping website, rather than leaning into any potential as a content site or social network. Users can’t, for example, comment on or remix listings the way they might with posts on a platform like TikTok.
However, the debut of SharePlay indicates that Zillow does recognize the fundamentally social nature of looking at real estate. And in that context, it’s interesting to contemplate where SharePlay might take Zillow; millions of people already use platforms such as Twitch to live stream and play video games in a social context, and its conceivable that something broadly analogous could eventually emerge in the real estate space.
For now, though, Zillow indicated in its statement that SharePlay should be a good fit with users. Overall, 86 percent “report shopping with a partner, spouse or housemate,” the statement notes, and “most millennial and Generation Z home shoppers say they discuss their housing decisions with parents (71 percent) and friends (61 percent).”
“This new feature,” Beitel concluded Tuesday’s the statement, “is the perfect addition to the suite of technology-based tools — which includes Zillow 3D Home tours and interactive floor plans — Zillow provides to help make people’s moving journey easier, less stressful and more fun.”