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TikTok: CRE's Hidden Deal-Maker

Aviva Sonenreich's business phone hadn't rung in months.

It was 2020, and the Denver-based commercial real estate broker had no deal flow and extra time on her hands. She turned to TikTok, thinking she could learn the app and carve out a niche by posting videos under the #commercialrealestate tag.

She was right. 


In one of Sonenreich's early posts, the camera pans a warehouse, a delicate sparkle filter adding a glow to the empty concrete building as her voice-over describes the specs. 

"It had an incredible amount of security," she says in the 20-second video. "Enough electricity to service, I don't know, New York City?! And these vents! What are these vents for? Who can guess what this property was used for?"

@avivarealestate Who can guess what this warehouse was once used for?? #realestate #realestateinvestor #realestateinvesting #DontLeaveMe #MakeSomeoneSmile ♬ original sound - Learn Commercial Real Estate

Guesses flooded @avivacommercialrealestate's comments, informing her that locals were liking the peek behind CRE's curtain. So she kept going.

With consistent uploads, she noticed viewers started to associate her with the industry, and they began to contact her directly for new leads on properties. 

That's how she made her first TikTok deal. 

"They just saw me on TikTok, nonstop posting about commercial real estate," she said.

Four years, a million followers and 8.9 million likes later, Sonenreich said deals using the app are commonplace for her. She has sold a $2.6M building and a three-property mixed-use complex. She has leased properties from videos and built a robust network. There is a tightknit community of fellow CRE pros on the app, she said, and they refer deals to each other. 

TikTok has 1.5 billion monthly active users that span demographics. Its hyperlocal focus and visual emphasis make it an easy platform for CRE players to network, secure clients and showcase properties. Most of the industry is missing out on its potential, CRE TikTokers said, leaving the pickings ripe for those who have learned how to parlay the app into deals. 

And as they watch TikTok fight the federal government for its survival, brokers Bisnow interviewed said they worry about the implications for their businesses.

"TikTok does very well performancewise, and it's producing income in commercial real estate," said CRE8 Advisors broker Eddie Gonzalez, who is closing a $2M deal for a client that found him on the app two years ago.

The two formed a relationship through direct messages and Gonzalez's uploads about deals in the Phoenix area.

@azcre #arizonabiltmore #arizonabiltmorehotel #biltmoreestate #commercialrealestate #realestate #crewitheddieg #arizona #phoenix #phxaz #az #arizonaliving #goodmorningarizona ♬ Groove Me - King Floyd

Gonzalez, who has made around 200 deals with the app, mostly retail leases for mom-and-pop operations under five units, said it has replaced the exhaustive process of cold-calling and emails for lead generation. With TikTok, leads get to know his personality and his listings from his @azcre videos, so when they DM him, the ice is already broken. 

"It's almost like they already know me," he said. 

The same is true for broker Max Fisher, also based in Arizona. He said the app's algorithm targets tenants in his market when he posts about what's buzzing in his city's industrial market. After a while, tenants began to reach out to @maxfisherrealestate directly when searching for new warehouse listings. 

With an average engagement rate of 2.65% by follower count, TikTok is the most engaging social media platform for users. 

Those users aren’t all teens. Although TikTok is synonymous with the younger generation — 45% of its users are Generation Z — the #commercialrealestate tag is different. All of the creators who spoke to Bisnow said their audience and engagement skews toward older generations.

"What's shocking to me is how consistently there's like 50-year-olds, 60-year-olds just scrolling," Sonenreich said. "Really successful people, really wealthy people. Like, the people who I should be going after — who I never expected to be there — are just lurking, scrolling away."

CRE shouldn’t discount the power of those younger users, either, said Harry Law, an associate at NAI Horizon in Tucson who posts as @harrylawrealestate. Not meeting the younger generation where they are, either as clients or as future co-workers, would mean missing out on a golden opportunity.

"How are you going to reach the next generation of people that are looking to get into commercial real estate?" Law said. 

Law said he uses TikTok to educate and attract people to the industry more than as a deal-making app. His strategy is to provoke emotions. When Oracle moved its headquarters from Austin to Nashville, the California native made a video asking if a tech bust similar to the Bay Area's could be looming. He was aiming to ruffle feathers, and it worked: Law earned 65,000 views in 24 hours, and viewers sounded off in the comments.


@harrylawrealestate Oracle is looking to move to Nashville where TikTok signed an office lease recently. The Bay Area is still feeling the negative effects of Oracle leaving. If Oracle leaves Austin Texas like they did with the Bay Area California, does this make the boom in Texas a fraud? #oracle #texas #dallas #fortworth #austin #sanantonio #bayarea #california #nashville #tennessee #tech #tiktok ♬ original sound - Commercial Real Estate Harry

TikTok is a successful business tool. Seventy-one percent of users are inclined to buy what they see on their feed. But creators have to be careful with what they post. Gonzalez learned that in his early days when he posted an active off-market deal. He noticed a competitor left a comment on the video, but he didn't think anything of it. 

"And then, miraculously, [the seller] got $100K over our purchase price offer. And, of course, in Arizona, it is a disclosure state. So once the deal closed, I knew it was the person who watched and commented on my video," he said. 

To avoid losing more deals, he pivoted his strategy. Now, he posts videos about done deals and property values.

"I was oversharing as a commercial broker," Gonzalez said. "And that is really good for everyone else. But it's not great for me and it's not great for my clients. Because if somebody else gets that information, they can use it against us."

The creators Bisnow spoke to said TikTok isn’t going anywhere and will only gain prominence in the business community. The fight is on now to see if that will be true. The federal government's sell-or-ban ultimatum is making its way through the courts. In May, the app and ByteDance sued the U.S. government for forcing its hand, saying the bill is unconstitutional.

"There's so much that can happen in 270 days. I'm not convinced it's gone forever," Sonenreich said, adding that if it does get banned, she would need to adjust her marketing strategy. "I'm not scared, but that's a shift."

The brokers said they would pivot to other social media apps if TikTok went away, but they aren’t sure how successful a migration will be. TikTok’s competitors lack easy-to-use tools for editing, a hyperlocal algorithm for lead generation and the spirit of engagement for making moves, they said. 

"I'll be heartbroken," Gonzalez said. "But I also understand that if it's truly a security concern, it should probably go away. But who's to say that somebody else here stateside doesn't invent another really cool app that takes its place?"