We’re all guilty of it: Sometimes, even when we’re not looking to move, it’s fun to look at home listings on Zillow just to see what’s out there. If that sounds weird to you… I don’t blame you, but I also recommend watching more HGTV. However, if this sounds like a fun way to procrastinate after you’re done playing the Wordle, Quordle, Globle and Heardle for the day, you’re not alone.
The entire premise of Playhouse is that we find it strangely entertaining to peruse home listings. It’s not too outlandish a claim, seeing as “House Hunters” has been on TV since 1999. But beyond becoming another fun feed to scroll, Playhouse wants to cater to a future crop of homeowners.
“It’s not about necessarily building something for a hardcore buyer today,” co-founder and CEO Alex Perelman told TechCrunch. “We want to build a product for the next generation that wants to be mobile, video-driven, exciting and fun.”
When you enter the Playhouse app, you immediately see a vertically-oriented video feed that directly clones TikTok’s interface (it’s not as though everyone else hasn’t cloned it too). The feed shows videos of homes on the market, as well as a price tag. As you scroll, you can guess whether the price Playhouse showed you is higher or lower than the actual listing price, helping to educate future buyers about the market (… and also it’s fun, even if you’re not looking to buy a $2 million home in San Francisco).
Users can also view listings on a map, then click to see a video about the home. If they’re interested in learning more about a place, they can click to send a text message to the agent, who can list properties on Playhouse for free. If Playhouse facilitates a sale, the app gets a cut of the transaction.
“One of the lightbulb moments early on was, when we bought our house, in my mind, I was like, ‘Oh great, we’re done. We don’t need to look online for real estate anymore,’” explained Perelman. “But I was watching my wife use these portals more, not less, than before. Because now it’s like, well is our home appreciating? What are the neighbors doing?”
Now, Playhouse is releasing its TikTok-like, short-form video feed of Bay Area properties in beta. It’s already secured $2.8 million in seed funding from groups like Agya Ventures, Gaingels, Goodwater Capital, Nomo Ventures, PKO Investments and Y Combinator — Playhouse was a member of Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort. Both Perelman and his co-founder Nathan Shinder previously worked at PeerStreet, a real estate tech company based in Los Angeles.
Besides posting home listings, agents and other real estate professionals can also upload other content related to home-buying, like videos about things future owners should know before they make the plunge into buying a house. This capitalizes on an existing trend across apps like TikTok and Instagram, where professionals are monetizing their expertise by forging a shadow career in content creation, which also helps them find new clients.
Right now, the videos in the beta version of the app are curated by Playhouse, but in the future, Perelman wants Playhouse to host more user-generated content. But before then, it would need to boost its content moderation capacities. Perelman estimates that there are around 300 videos on the beta version of Playhouse.
Playhouse’s plan to build its user base is a bit risky — they’re TikTok-ifying an industry that Gen Z is probably too young to engage in. But Perelman isn’t worried.
“If you look at the demographics of TikTok, they started with a very, very young audience, and then it got older and older and older,” he said. “For us, it’s really about evolving with consumer tastes and building an app that is not just a clone of TikTok, but it’s a user experience that is specifically dedicated for real estate.”
Playhouse is available now for all iOS users, but home listings only cover the Bay Area.