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America’s growing obsession with real estate gets the SNL treatment

Dan Levy surfs Zillow in a spoof ad for real estate porn
Owning it.
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work senior reporter


Schitt’s Creek co-creator Dan Levy has once again helped make TV gold.

As host of this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, Levy starred in a parody of a phone sex commercial about late-night scrolling for house listings. “You’re in your late 30’s now,” a narrator intones. “Sex isn’t doing it for you anymore. You need something new. Something exciting. Zillow dot com.”

“I’d never want to live in North Carolina. But if I did, I could buy a big, gross mansion,” Levy says seductively.


For legions of viewers, the bit struck a chord.


While cruising real estate porn is nothing new, the pandemic is driving the obsession to new heights. Comscore ranked Zillow as the 40th most visited website in the US in December, with more than 90 million unique visitors per month, placing it just behind and ahead of Target.

Many Americans are doing more than window-shopping. After plunging dramatically last spring, existing home sales totaled 5.64 million in 2020, up 5.6% from 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors. In fact, real estate had its strongest year since 2006, thanks to record low interest rates, shuttered offices, and Americans seeking more space to spread out. Even people in big cities are searching sites for rental bargains.

Real estate is also an emblem of the divide in American’s pandemic experiences: one for high-earners working from home, who can afford to jump on low mortgage rates; and another for the millions losing their jobs and financial security. Some 5.2% of US mortgages are currently in forbearance, and a recent study from Moody’s found that renters in the US owe $53 billion in unpaid rent, fees, and utility bills. Millions fear eviction.

In a research note on Friday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry upgraded Zillow’s stock to “buy” from “neutral,” citing “ongoing growth acceleration in the real estate macro environment” and “a sustainable shift in real estate activity online.”

Terry also upgraded his rating on competitor site Redfin, which SNL writers must have realized doesn’t carry the same potential for erotic charge. Likewise for, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Trulia sounds more like arthritis medication, and it’s owned by Zillow anyway.

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