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Max Touhey

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Instagram is the secret weapon of savvy house hunters

A broker shares his strategic advice for how to use Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even Twitter in the homebuying process

As a former Curbed staffer turned New York City real estate broker, I know a thing or two about the process of buying a home. I’ve also built an Instagram following off of my love of historic houses, dreamy New York apartments, and real estate history. Trust me when I say that social media can be more than a place to post about your life and make everybody jealous of what you’re cooking for dinner: It can be a powerful home-hunting tool.

Whether you’re just starting to consider a purchase or actively looking with a pre-approval letter in hand, you can use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as tools to inform your search, keep track of neighborhoods, and even find listings that may not be posted elsewhere. Here’s how:

Instagram

Follow brokers—but not for the reason you may think! Yes, most agents harness Instagram to publicize listings in their feed and stories—sometimes teasing properties before they hit the market. But that’s not the main reason why you should follow brokers in your area. Instagram can help you find a broker that you feel is not only knowledgeable but also somebody you can connect with.

Following brokers on Instagram can help you determine if they like the same types of houses you do. Their posts might even help you sleuth out if they are somebody you would feel okay talking on the phone with at 11 p.m. when you receive a counteroffer from the seller. You can also look at what they post besides listings to get to know them better. Once you’ve identified a few, set up in-person meetings to determine who you want for representation.

Follow accounts to learn about specific house types. You might also follow brokers even if you have no immediate intention of working with them—use a broker’s account to get to know a neighborhood or a particular niche of your area’s housing stock. If you know you want a specific style of house, you can also research accounts dedicated to that style of architecture or house type. For example, Cheap Old Houses is a popular page about a specific housing type: historic houses in need of renovation that are also relatively affordable. Accounts like this one source listings from all over the nation, so not every post will be relevant to your search, but they may surface a house or two that you or your broker may have otherwise missed. Plus, these types of accounts are great sources of inspiration to keep the momentum of your search going. Three more to follow: @fortheloveofoldhouses, @midcenturyhome, and @captivatinghouses.

Follow new developments. If you’re interested in a brand-new apartment, in-the-works developments often have Instagram accounts of their own. These promotional accounts post updates about the building, pictures of common spaces and other amenities, and anything else the building may be doing to drum up excitement around its launch. Following a development can help you understand how the building is presenting itself and if it’s somewhere you’d want to call home.

Be wary of hashtags. Hashtags may seem like a nice way to search for specific topics or locations, like #LosAngelesRealEstate and #ForSaleChicago, but they’re not standardized, so they’ll lead to many posts that are irrelevant to your search. You could spend time trying to find the signal through the noise, but your energy is better placed elsewhere.

Use location tags instead. Location tags are a way to do a deep dive into a neighborhood, letting you research nearby parks, cool area hangouts, or even specific buildings. If you’re walking around a neighborhood and a particular building catches your eye, search for that building’s address as a location tag. If it’s a bigger or a newer building, it may have its own location page. There, you can get a sense of what the apartments and common spaces really look like—not the idealized photography the developers are using. Of course, nothing beats going to see the building in person, but this is a good way to weed out unappealing options early in the search.

Make collections your friend! Use collections, Instagram’s bookmarking feature, to save and organize your findings—locations, buildings, neighborhood hangouts—for quick reference later on. Collections are a great resource if you don’t want you to yield your whole feed over to brokers and developments. Instead of following them, you can just save a picture or two to remind yourself of their account, so you’ll have a quick link back whenever you need.

Twitter

Twitter isn’t a place where you’re likely to discover listings, but a real estate transaction is much more than just finding the best house. Twitter can be a good source of news about the real estate industry on both local and national levels.

Follow accounts that report on statistics in your region, city, or neighborhood to get a sense of the health of the market. You can also follow accounts that may report on news about mortgages and tax rates, like @NAR_research and @Natmortgagenews. IRL accountants and mortgage brokers are always the best resource for fully understanding your financing options, but you can organize lists on Twitter to get a baseline understanding for where things lie.

Facebook

There is a Facebook group for almost every topic these days (Vintage pre-1930s Interesting Homes for Sale, anyone?). If you’re curious about a neighborhood, research groups dedicated to that location to stay up on news and planned development like new restaurants, shops, and even apartment buildings. Sometimes you’ll have to join them to see what members are saying; other times you won’t. Pro tip: Local parent groups on Facebook (and other platforms) are also a great resource for neighborhood intel—even if you are not a parent yourself.

There are also Facebook groups about specific types of architecture and housing types, including groups dedicated to Victorian home renovation and midcentury modern enthusiasts. If you are hoping to buy a specific style of home, these groups are filled with members who are just as excited about your dream home as you are. A source of inspiration today, they can be a source for advice on renovation and restoration down the road. These groups are often aflutter with cool listings, and every so often a member will share a house they know is soon to come on the market with a private group. Who knows? You could uncover a gem that you could find nowhere else!