'Zillow Gone Wild' is now an HGTV series: NPR

The Golden Saxophone House, featured on HGTV's new series “Zillow Gone Wild.”

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The Golden Saxophone House, featured on HGTV's new series “Zillow Gone Wild.”

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The real estate social media space is chock full of influencers targeting specific niches such as luxury mansions, mid-century moderns or cheap but promising fixer-uppers.

Within this busy universe, Zillow has gone wild is a place to go if you're looking for a home in Kansas City, Mo., for example, formed like a UFO; a striking, angular house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, designed in the late 1940s by Frank Lloyd Wright; or recently built Cruise ship with almost 3,000 bedrooms. (Yes, there is one actual Zillow listing for this home.)

“Waking up to an ocean view in the real ocean is the new best way to wake up,” says Samir Mezrahi, Zillow has gone wild's creator, in his deadpan TikTok comment on this particularly baffling property listing.

Mezrahi's prominent account, which has several million followers across various platforms, has now been turned into an equally wild reality TV program. The nine-episode series premiered Friday on HGTV and is now available on Max.

Just like on social media, the Zillow has gone wild The TV show is aimed at a general audience and focuses on houses that somehow defy everyday expectations – whether they are visible from the outside in the architecture, or hidden inside as part of the interior.

“It has to be something we've pretty much never seen before,” said Mezrahi, former director of social media at Buzzfeedin an interview with NPR.

Setting a 'wild' tone

The first part of the first episode sets the tone: homeowner Andrew Flair shows off the converted U.S. military missile launch facility in York, Neb. The unusual building has very thick steel doors and no windows.

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The exterior of a house converted from a disused rocket ship in York, Neb.

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The exterior of a house converted from a disused rocket ship in York, Neb.

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“It's all underground, covered in concrete, and if for some reason a bomb goes off, you're safe,” Flair says during the show.

And in episode three, homeowner Kitty Reign shows viewers around pirates of the Caribbeantheme home in Las Vegas that she is selling. This swashbuckler's paradise comes with a decorative wooden helmet (“Everyone plays with it!”) and a tavern (“Kind of like our own little secret pirate nightclub!”).

Hosted by comedian Jack McBrayer, who played Kenneth 30 Rock, the show features 24 homes from around the country that are for sale or have recently sold. But only one of them will be crowned the nation's “wildest” at the end of the series, as judged by HGTV executives. Viewers who correctly guess the winning house can enter a pool for a chance to win $25,000.

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Kitty Reign and her wife, Jennifer, host Jack McBrayer around their 'Pirates of the Caribbean'-themed home, as seen on HGTV's new series 'Zillow Gone Wild'

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Kitty Reign and her wife, Jennifer, host Jack McBrayer around their 'Pirates of the Caribbean'-themed home, as seen on HGTV's new series 'Zillow Gone Wild'

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The judging criteria include creativity, dedication to a concept or theme and a quality McBrayer describes as “wackadoo.”

“That special thing that sets this property apart,” McBrayer says on the show. “We reward impractical.”

The growth of an American pastime

Ogling real estate listings on social media has become a hugely popular American pastime in recent years. Saturday evening live even did it ask about the trend in 2021. (“The pleasure you once got from sex now comes from looking at other people's houses.”)

Saturday Night Live produced a skit criticizing the trend of browsing real estate listings on social media in 2021.

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Mezrahi, who lives in New York, says he has long made a hobby of browsing Zillow. He started Zillow has gone wild as a side project in the fall of 2020, knowing it would likely catch on. Mezrahi initially launched it only on Instagram, but quickly expanded its offering to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and a newsletter.

“It was like a pandemic. Everyone works from home. Companies say you can live wherever you want,” says Mezrahi. “So people are moving, thinking about moving or browsing Zillow just because they're bored with your phone. So I kind of felt like there was an audience of people doing this too.”

The rise of TV and online channels dedicated to home buying and improvements, along with the increasingly extensive social media presence of individual real estate agents promoting their listings, have further fueled the trend.

“This is a time when a lot of people are thinking about where and how we want to live,” Zillow's home trends expert Amanda Pendleton said in an interview with NPR. “And these social media accounts captured our imaginations and redefined what a home can be.”

“Wild” listings can be a challenge for real estate agents

It's that quality of 'capturing fantasy' that makes it Zillow has gone wild so convincing on TikTok and TV.

But when it comes to actually selling a home, eccentric architecture and festive home decor are not necessarily virtues.

“As a real estate agent, that makes you a little nervous because the resale value isn't the greatest if you make it your own,” said Ria Cotton, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, in an interview with NPR. “It might not be liked by other people.”

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Host Jack McBrayer takes in the sights of the Golden Saxophone House.

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Host Jack McBrayer takes in the sights of the Golden Saxophone House.

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While having a marketable property is preferable, Cotton admits the popularity of social media accounts Zillow has gone wild shows that there is a growing interest in the 'wackadoo' among home buyers and potential home buyers.

“I think more and more people are getting a little tired of the way things are done,” Cotton says.

Case in point: an unusual music-themed home in Berkeley, California, that Cotton recently brokered was featured in Zillow has gone wild.

The facade of the “Saxophone House” is dominated by two massive, golden saxophone-shaped columns. In the TV show, new homeowner Adanté Pointer proudly shows off the gold treble clef decorations on the indoor balcony railings.

“The gold accents really make it stand out,” Pointer says appreciatively.

The smooth jazz vibes and bling of the Saxophone House may not be for everyone. But Pointer says it's perfect for him.

“I'm a lawyer and often people come to me to make a statement on their behalf,” he says on the show. “And when you look at the exterior of this house, it's definitely a statement piece.”

In an interview with NPR, TV host McBrayer says he visits all the houses in the series Zillow has gone wild TV series have taught him something, it's that even the wildest houses won't be empty forever.

“For every house that's rainbow-colored from top to bottom, there's going to be a buyer. For every house that's attached to the underside of a bridge, there's going to be a buyer,” McBrayer says. “There is a lid for every pot.”

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