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A recent viral TikTok video about a collection of rental homes for sale in Philadelphia has sparked outrage that an “entire neighborhood” could hit the market at once — though critics of the video say its claims are overblown and inaccurate.

Either way, however, the situation highlights growing anxiety about the trend of institutional property investment in the U.S.

A TikTok user going by the name “sierrakatherinee” who frequently posts about real estate listings first uploaded the now-viral video on July 21. In the video, she highlights a 35-property listing she saw on Zillow that is “centered in and around the burgeoning Cobbs Creek neighborhood in West Philadelphia.” The homes are currently owned by an LLC and are being marketed together as an opportunity for investors.

Sierrakatherinee expresses concern about the fact that the listing mentions “under-valued rents,” adding that she’d love for the homes’ occupants to have the chance to buy the properties.


My Spidey senses are tingling. What dk yall think about selling entire neighborhoods? #philadelphiarealestate #zillowfinds #philly #buytheblock

♬ original sound – Sierra

It’s worth noting that as viral TikTok videos go, Sierrakatherinee’s is tonally mild mannered and not the obvious outrage-baiting that sometimes pops up on the platform. But she does mention multiple times that an “entire neighborhood” is for sale. And that language coupled with the listing itself was apparently enough to catapult the video into the social media feeds of scores of other people.

By the end of July, the video had racked up more than 61,000 views and generated more than 700 comments.

Many of the comments shared Sierrakatherinee’s sense of unease about the situation, suggesting residents of the homes are likely to be displaced and face higher rents after the sale. Other commenters suggested the residents band together to oppose the sale somehow, while still others argued against real estate investment on that scale.

“Sinister vibes,” one person commented on the video.

“The people should have the first option to buy at reduced prices,” another argued.

“Oh, yes, this is extremely worrisome,” still another commenter said.

Before long, other people were riffing off the original video. For example, an account called “Zillowtastrophes” posted about the listing soon after Sierrakatherinee, and that later video has since racked up more than 775,000 views, along with more than 1,800 comments. The Zillowtastrophes video also pointed out that the homes are located in the same area as the 1985 MOVE bombing, which involved a standoff between police and a Black liberation group. Police ultimately dropped explosives from a helicopter, leading to 11 deaths and the destruction of dozens of homes.


I’m curious – did you know about the MOVE 💣ing? Ty @Sierra for sharing this listing. #zillowtastrophe #movebombing #westphilly #homeownership

♬ Suspenseful and tense orchestra(1318015) – SoLaTiDo

In any case, numerous commenters on the Zillowtastrophes video expressed dismay over the idea of a neighborhood going up for sale. Many also shared regret that they couldn’t simply buy the houses and give them to the residents.

“If I was a millionaire,” one person wrote, “I’d buy the entire neighborhood and gift it to the residences [sic].”

Before long, however, some commenters also started to push back on the prevailing narrative.

In a TikTok post last week, Philadelphia real estate agent Arik Davidson acknowledged that the situation as described in the viral videos does “seem concerning.”

However, Davidson then goes on to say in his video that he lived for seven years in the same area where the homes are now for sale, ultimately explaining that it’s a massive geographic space. He also runs through active and past listings in the neighborhood, as well as total number of parcels, and concludes in his video that the entire neighborhood is not in fact for sale.

Instead, the 35-home listing only represents 0.000107 percent of the neighborhood’s total number of houses, according to Davidson. His point is that the narrative about an “entire neighborhood” going up for sale is simply not true.

“It’s a made up scenario,” he says, referring to the version of the story that went viral. “It’s a really bad made up scenario that would and should piss all of us off. But it’s not real.”


An entire Philadelphia neighborhood is not for sale! It is a narrative that highlights the importance of homeownership and how people are at risk of increased rent as an area continues to become more expensive. However, stories without context and analysis will not serve to create the the kinds of changes that so many of us want to see. We must focus on systemic issues, not hyperbolic examples of single listings. I thank the OP for highlighting inportant issues and encourage future content to provide an overall better assessment which may serve the listener better in the long term. #philadelphia #philly #phillyrealestate #phillyhomes #19143 #cobbscreek #westphilly #phillyneighborhoods #clickbait #rentcontrol #realestateinvestors #homeownership #renting

♬ original sound – Arik - Philly Real Estate

Davidson also pointed out in his video that at $7 million, the listing is only asking $200,000 per home.

For context, according to Zillow the average home value in Philadelphia is currently $223,044. Zillow lists the average home value in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood as $133,967.

As of Tuesday evening, Davidson’s video had about 1,800 views and 23 comments — indicating it had a much smaller reach than the posts he was fact-checking. A second upload of the video also failed to gain the viral reach of the earlier posts about the whole neighborhood going up for sale.

The episode consequently highlights how real estate content often goes viral online when it stokes fears about affordability and displacement, even when that content’s claims fail to hold up to scrutiny. Another such incident took place in 2021 when a TikToker suggested that iBuyers might try to jack up home prices. The video generated millions of views even as industry experts and executives argued that iBuyers lacked the market share to pull off the manipulations of which they were being accused.

Davidson also wasn’t the only person pushing back on the “entire neighborhood” narrative. In comments to both Axios and the Daily Dot, Jeff Block — the Compass agent representing the listing — said the homes are spread out over 30 blocks and lie within different neighborhoods. The homes went up for sale because the owner ceased to have “specific ties to Philadelphia,” he also told Axios.

“This is not like some big swath of properties,” Block also said to local station WHYY. “It’s not like a whole neighborhood.”

Block did not respond to Inman’s request for comment.

While it does appear that the situation is more nuanced than the initial videos suggested, Davidson’s post actually hints at an underlying issue that likely helped drive the posts’ viral success: Concern about large-scale real estate investors.

“I think it is really important to look at the influence that large investors have in an area,” Davidson pointed out.

This particular listing may or may not be a good example of that, but there’s no question that large investment firms have made major moves into the single family market over the last decade. Companies such as American Homes 4 Rent and Invitation Homes each have tens of thousands of single family rentals in their portfolios, while other firms are building homes not to sell but to rent out. The latter trend slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic, but the number of new homes earmarked for the rental market is now expected to double by 2027. And in some cases, the rentals are grouped together, meaning a corporate landlord can own an entire neighborhood if they so desire.

Additionally, a report from February showed that about one in four U.S. homes are sold to investors.

The viral videos suggest that Americans have a significant amount of apprehension about these trends, which are relatively new; for the most part, large-scale corporate ownership of single family homes really only took off after the financial crash of 2008. Before that time, single family rentals were largely the domain of small mom-and-pop operators, with corporations focusing since the 1980s or so on multifamily investments.

Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that mom-and-pops are still major players in the real estate business. A 2020 report from NAR, for instance, showed that 41 percent of rental properties were owned by individuals, while 42 percent were run by owners.

Numbers from John Burns Real Estate Consulting further bear this out. The firm’s data goes back to 2000 and shows that larger investors with between 10 and 1,000 properties (represented below in the orange, red and light blue bars) have made significant gains in recent years.

Credit: John Burns Real Estate Consulting

But, critically, the data also shows that the market remains overwhelmingly dominated by smaller players with between one and nine properties — and that the mom-and-pop segment has also grown over the years.

In Philadelphia specifically, a 2021 report from Pew found that 73 percent of the city’s landlords own only one or two rental units. Another 25 percent have between three and 24 units, while 2 percent of landlords own 25 or more properties. However, mom-and-pop landlords with one or two units own 18 percent of the city’s rental housing stock, while landlords with 25 or more units own more than half.

But as companies like Invitation Homes gradually increase their holdings, as more new housing heads directly to the rental market, and as housing affordability remains a major challenge for many Americans, it’s likely more viral social media posts critiquing the real estate landscape will pop up.

In the meantime, though, Davidson in his video suggested more people should become homeowners — but also that the facts matter.

“It is great that we wish more people to become homeowners and that we hope for more public resources to help more people achieve that goal,” he said. “But the entire neighborhood is not for sale.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

social media | Zillow
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