A year after launching his TikTok account, GZB Realty broker and managing director Alexander Zakharin now generates 80 percent of his business using the youth-oriented app.
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When the pandemic made its way to New York last year, broker and managing director at GZB Realty Alexander Zakharin knew it was high time to amp up his technology and social media game.
He started a TikTok account and immediately began posting one-minute videos of apartments that his brokerage was selling or renting. A year later, @alexander_zakhari has nearly 80,000 followers and gets around 80 percent of his business through the platform.
Zakharin’s videos, which he records himself using an iPhone 11, will quickly zoom in on the key parts of the apartment. Popular music and standards — think “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra — are used as the soundtrack as a text overlay specifies apartment details, what neighborhood the building is located in and how much it costs to buy or rent. While Zakharin primarily focuses on luxury, he also features apartments in neighborhoods like Kips Bay and Gramercy in Manhattan, where rent frequently falls under $2,000 a month. These apartments tend to get snapped up quickly by younger TikTok users.
“Because of TikTok’s demographics as an app for young people in their 20s and 30s, most are much more interested in renting apartments,” Zakharin told Inman. “However, some of them will refer apartments to their parents and families who buy the apartments. One buyer showed me one of my links, saying that his granddaughter had showed it to him, and asked to see the apartment.”
Zakharin sat down with Inman to offer advice on how other agents can leverage the platform to not only build visibility as an agent but also bring in real-world business:
Inman: Agents are constantly told to improve their social media game but often have to choose what to pour effort and money into. TikTok is the one platform that isn’t taken too seriously because the audience is so young. What made you choose to go that way anyway?
Zakharin: The pandemic had just begun and I was in a Catch-22 situation because everyone wanted to see the apartments but no one wanted to go inside them. In the beginning, I was just playing around and showing what I had for rent. But then people started expressing interest and I started showing them more and more and more. The stats show that around 65 percent of TikTokers are between 10 and 29 years old. It’s true that most will be super-young college graduates and professionals just starting out in their careers. But they are still interested in buying and selling and are the best to work with.
I love those clients very much.
I think the lesson here is not to underestimate young people’s potential in the market.
Right. Because of TikTok’s demographics as an app for young people in their 20s and 30s, most are much more interested in renting apartments. However, some of them will refer apartments to their parents and families who buy the apartments. One buyer showed me one of my links, saying that his granddaughter had showed it to him, and asked to see the apartment.
There is also a percentage who is very successful and would be likely to buy the apartments. We are happy to work with both. I think that 80 to 85 percent of the apartments that I rented in March were first found through TikTok or referrals [from TikTok users.] On the sales side, it’s hard to say because it’s not always clear where they first saw it and some of the deals take time. That said, TikTok is bringing in more and more of my business nowadays. And it’s just more joyful and fun! The people who come from TikTok are completely different from someone who came from our site or from Apartments.com. They come to see you, they want to build relations with you. It’s more about your personality as a broker and less about the specific requirements for an apartment.
Do you make the videos yourself or do you have a team who helps make them look nice?
I do everything by myself. As of now, I do everything with my iPhone 11. That’s always worked for me.
TikTok then becomes a way for potential clients to get that first glance of the apartment and then view what they like in person, get the process going. Even as things go back to normal, seeing places on social media first will likely remain the norm.
I would agree with that statement. Technology allows us to start that process of apartment-hunting and see different options. You can eliminate whatever you don’t like faster. You don’t have to go to as many open houses because you can already see all the stock available. Before, people would work with multiple brokers just to see which person had which inventory. Now, you don’t have to have a lot of brokers because you can just pull up each broker online and see what he or she has and just work with them based on their inventory.
A lot of agents are scared of putting a lot of time and money into something that doesn’t end up bringing in business. It seems like you just jumped aboard without worrying too much about whether it would “work.
Like with any other social media, you have to be consistent. You have to post and post and post while the result doesn’t usually come straight away. A lot of younger agents will post randomly because they’re making deals or focusing primarily on their cash flow while thinking that someone at the high end or on the social media team will do it for them. Taking it into your own hands brings a lot of potential. The advice I always give to the guys I work with is that [social media] is a resource you need if you want to grow faster. A lot of people don’t do it for various reasons but I think it just makes sense.
Some of the accounts work and some of the accounts don’t work. You have a lot of real estate agents that start out and give up because they don’t immediately become stars. You have to be authentic, you have to really show yourself and never copy/paste, copy/paste from what other accounts are doing. I tried that and it’s never worked. Once I started doing things they way I wanted to do them, people started to respond much more often. But it’s like everything else in real estate. You start at the beginning and sometimes you don’t make money at all while working on commission. But if you stay consistent, it can become a great thing for you in the long-term.
You are very quickly becoming known as “TikTok’s Real Estate Guy.” Do you mind having that kind of label?
That’s fine. TikTok is fun and easier in that people will text me and message me directly. I love that. The videos are time-consuming but you don’t feel like the time was wasted because you enjoy them, for one, and there are very real transactions coming your way.