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Exploring the Wild World of Weird Homes on Zillow Can Be a Cabin Fever Cure

5 minute read

If you’ve ever spent time surfing real estate sites like Zillow, Trulia or Redfin, then you’ve probably come across listings with design choices that left you scratching your head. But seeing an otherwise relatively normal house is different than stumbling upon something so eye-catchingly bizarre that it deserves to be shared with the rest of the world.

While browsing house hunting sites isn’t a new hobby, with many people spending the majority of the past year stuck inside their own homes, Zillow usage has soared. In November, the New York Times reported that online visitors to for-sale listings was up more than 50 percent year-over-year in the early months of the pandemic.

But many of these users aren’t actually looking to buy a house. As Times reporter Taylor Lorenz succinctly put it, “What many are contemplating when they browse Zillow…is not necessarily a purchase, but an alternate life. Zillow surfing has become a primary form of escapism for those who want to flee not just their homes but the reality of 2020.”

Part of the fun of whiling hours away on Zillow is that you can fantasize about living anywhere—from a luxurious penthouse to a cozy beachside bungalow—and hopefully shed some of the pandemic cabin fever.

But it’s also undoubtedly fun to tour homes that aren’t somewhere you’d necessarily want to live. Those houses, which run the gamut from wonderfully weird to “cursed,” are the listings that often go viral.

Social media accounts like Zillow Gone Wild, which exists on both Twitter and Instagram, round up the “best (worst)” Zillow findings sent in by nearly one million collective followers. Recent gems include a $119,000 one bedroom, one bathroom apartment filled with large safari animal statues—including a giraffe peering into the shower.

The comments on these posts say it all. “How do you get to this house? Just open up that Jumanji board game and you’re there,” one Instagram user said, prompting another to respond, “But can you get OUT is the real question!”

Another eye-opening listing is a $555,000 two bedroom, two bathroom house with, er, open-concept bathrooms.

Kacey Musgraves said what most of us were thinking about the bathtub sitting on the edge of a second-story ledge: “This is an ‘accidental’-forensic files-fall scenario if I’ve ever seen one.”


But sometimes, it’s the listings that Zillow surfers find and share on their own accounts that offer the best window into the wild world of weird real estate. In February, a $650,000 duplex in Lake Tahoe—notably listed to be sold “as-is”—earned the internet’s attention when viewers discovered that one of its units was filled with posed mannequins dressed in elaborate ballgowns.

“Please please please please look at this absolutely cursed Zillow listing my friend Ashley sent me,” Twitter user Rave Sashayed captioned her post about the home. “There is literally no way to anticipate or prepare for what reveals itself to you in this house.”

Of course, that’s not the only truly spectacular Zillow find of recent months. We must mention the infamous $2.2 million New Jersey mansion overflowing with Christmas decorations—including 81 wreaths, 30 trees, 20 nutcrackers, 38 Santa figurines, 14 nativity scenes, 115 religious statues, and 238 angels—that popped up on Zillow in November. And then there’s the $1.5 million seemingly Hard Rock Cafe-themed Omaha penthouse that Twitter account The Best of Zillow tweeted out in February.


If you go a little further back to May 2020, a Twitter user even unearthed the perfect Zillow listing to accompany accepting the harsh reality of being home for months on end: a $160,000 two-story converted Pittsburgh ranch complete with a “25th-century starship” dining room and an indoor beach bedroom. “A talking space alien greets you as you walk toward the floor-to-ceiling, outer space wall mural,” the listing adds.

“Each successive photo reveals another genre-themed room, with an increasing level of commitment,” @frazierapproves told Bored Panda of his viral discovery, which garnered nearly 130,000 likes on Twitter. “It’s like a miniature amusement park or a home-sized movie studio. It is simply the most amazing home I have ever seen.”

Whereas some browsers may have once turned their noses up at the intergalactic fun house, as one Twitter user said: “You have to admit, having your own beach in the basement would come in handy just about now.”


Then there are the homes where interior design quirks are the least of people’s focus. One striking example of this is the $350,000 former Missouri sheriff’s home outfitted with a hidden door leading to an old-fashioned jailhouse that made headlines last August.

While most people aren’t in the market for a home featuring nine fully functional jail cells, the listing realtor (this time on House of Brokers rather than Zillow) described the property as a “unique opportunity” where the “possibilities are amazing.”

Ultimately, the homes featured here barely scratch the surface of what Zillow has to offer in terms of “unique opportunity” real estate. Whether or not you’re in the market to purchase a home, virtually touring other people’s can provide ample distraction from the stresses of being stuck inside your own.

And be on the lookout for some exceptionally strange sights.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com