Move over Tinder, the new competition on the block is Zillow, the homes-listing aggregation website whose founder, Spencer Rascoff, became the first person to sell his own home for $1m on it.
Thanks to the popularity of its analytics and anonymous home-search tools, Zillow also offers a whole new way to understand what makes our homes so special. It has become a useful on-screen tool when browsing other people’s homes, and in some cases, a handy storytelling tool as well.
In a piece published last year, I poked fun at Zillow’s generous accommodations for companies whose members “have distinct behavioral or attitudinal problems” with the Zillow.
But, almost as an aside, on the same day that I wrote about Zillow, I reached out to (unrelated) Zillow employee Jason Matheny for tips on how I could make my home a little less of a hot mess – by creating better content. (By last summer, the site had become a habit that my family – and I – had repeated.)
Matheny had one quick and simple suggestion: assume that all your readers want to know about great bedrooms and kitchenettes. As a side note, not everything I post is a Zillow post.
“If you’re going to write about my house,” Matheny told me, “they probably want to know why my first bedroom is close to the floor of a fourth-floor walk-up, why the door of the sitting room is so close to the stairs to the basement, and if I have an indoor pool – and I have an indoor pool.”
I left the role of home curation in my husband’s hands. If you follow them on Twitter, you’ll see that we consider ourselves a new breed of family. Our cooking habits are Spartan, not growing, and most nights, we still don’t have the cameras hooked up to the TV. But the work that we’ve done with our shots and our food blog has been invaluable – and it’s really just because we like what we see in the photos. It’s been harder than we hoped, because I wanted to show everyone the high end, how we take care of our home, but also some of the practicalities: the stuff that I have to do just to fit a sleeping bag in the basement, the tricks I learn when I try to put on my coat for a winter hike.
Recently, I sent for help with a cooking demo. I meant to try my hand at making veggie or meat tacos in the microwave oven for dinner, but my mortgage lender, the wife’s parents and I all still haven’t completely gotten it right. Some of us prefer cold cuts and cheese; the wife is a fan of melted cheese; I like hot dogs and salsa, and, well, the guy who takes his dinner to work loves lasagna. A few of us ended up melting dairy products on the grill. We gave up on cooking for a night, but when I finally get home, I start at the counter, light the barbecue, and fire up the stove.
Last night, an editor-at-large at GQ did a profile of two people I work with. He interviewed us over Skype and edited the video together in a New York hotel room. In the edited version, he included a sample video and a few home videos. It took us a while to edit it, because we wanted to get the shots just right. To be on Zillow, we knew, you don’t just take pictures or record footage – you also take notes and make notes on the video.
There are thousands of homes on Zillow, and more than 700,000 people post reviews of homes they see on Zillow, according to Zillow. We look at what they’re posting and what they say, and create our own curated thoughts on the home-and-family sites Zillow and Houzz.
But we can’t do everything. Our obsession with those parts of our home that others don’t spend as much time on, or spend some money on, do make us a bit obsessive. Even when people laugh at our lack of expertise and don’t quite see us as new parents or first-time homeowners – or worse, when we’re just plain weirdos.
While writing this, I thought of Matheny’s advice, and it struck me. More like Zillow, and less like Tinder.