What the fuck is up with these TikTok realtors?
Get your vague-ass NoHaSoBaRoBa listing out of my goddamn face.
There are always going to be people who complain about the rent being too damn high, and nowadays, there are quotidian instances that might make a person wonder whether those squeakers have a point. It is one of the stranger aspects, if probably not quite the strangest, of late-stage capitalism to see landlords using a price-fixing software called RealPage to jack up rents in major cities, and to see it so thoroughly and vigorously executed while our government sits on its hands because of a regressively poignant interpretation of anti-trust law. Our modern economy is an orgy of arbitrage and corporate efficiency, which isn’t much of a surprise, given that any conceivable alternative has been effortlessly snuffed out through the downward pressures of the market. This is a time of omens and signs and stilted new metrics and growth beyond growth.
This sounds, in the abstract, almost admirably deranged—capitalism finally, blusteringly becoming a cooperative project of wealthy individuals pursuing a common good of enriching the already rich before it collapses under its own cynicism. It isn’t nearly as amusing in practice; like any bit of contemporary business fuckery considered at scale, it is disorienting and exhausting for those on the receiving end, especially the millions of Americans who are forced to spend over 40% of their pre-tax income on rent.
In the many spaces that operate behind this veil of fudge, apartment brokers on TikTok may be the most obnoxious manifestation of this systemic graft. The airless, optimized, anti-human circumstances of their creation and proliferation lead to a certain anhedonic aesthetic and a strange, strained perkiness. This genre of TikToks is narrated with a bubbly voiceover with that annoying upward inflection or centers thumping realtors briskly moving through well-appointed apartments. The progression loses its effervescence when you’ll watch an entire tour of an apartment and they won’t disclose the price. These listings are disconcertingly vague. It makes a grimly affirming sort of sense that a too-good-to-be-true condo happens to be located in the exciting new neighborhood of NoHaSoBaRoBa, which sounds like a planet from Star Wars or Rick and Morty.
The production value of these videos is supposed to be twisty and busy, but many of them involve a nine-floor walk upstairs—and even with the entire journey sped up, this segment still has a run time of 25 seconds. A more competent videographer could simply edit the shot, so it starts with the keys inserted into the unit door. As they walk into the living room or front hall, it looks like it’s being filmed through the .5 iPhone zoom, and it is unclear if this is an apartment tour or a skateboard montage on YouTube. A realistic portrait of the walk up the stairs is crucial to the athleisure types because these potential tenets need to know if they can sacrifice their gym membership and allocate that money to cover 5% of their monthly rent.
The reality of all this is worth reiterating mostly because the sheer absurdity of it would otherwise be overwhelming. The realtors assure prospects that they can do a lot for this space—and for this location, there isn’t a better price. There will be people in the comments tagging five of their friends and convincing themselves that if they got a room divider, they could make this 400-square-foot studio work. There is no room divider that could make a studio a five-bedroom apartment. Ikea does not know a Swedish word for what that piece of furniture would be.