Meet Samir Mezrahi, Creator of Zillow Gone Wild

Zillow Gone Wild has gone from a social media account sharing unique real estate listings to a brand-new show on HGTV debuting on May 3.

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Photo by: Photo courtesy of Samir Mezrahi / Instagram via @zillowgonewild

Photo courtesy of Samir Mezrahi / Instagram via @zillowgonewild

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Samir Mezrahi, creator of the Zillow Gone Wild social media pages, started posting interesting real estate listings to Facebook four years ago. Now, he’s preparing for the debut of Zillow Gone Wild, a new HGTV show hosted by comedian and actor Jack McBrayer.

So, how did it all begin? Back in 2020, Samir — a former accountant who moved to New York City to work at Buzzfeed realized there was nowhere online to talk about wacky real estate, despite the fact that so much of it existed across the US.

Homes with Jail Cells, Castles for Sale and a Blank Check

When Mezrahi launched his Zillow Gone Wild social media account in December 2020, it took off immediately.

The first home he featured on his Facebook page: An unassuming house in Vermont with a jail cell. And there would be more jail cells to come — including a Celina, Ohio, home with a jail cell, an empty indoor pool, an unusual amount of restaurant-style booths and a highly irregular exterior.

In 2023, Samir shared an 1895 Victorian brick mansion in Bedford, Pennsylvania. The home turned out to be the town’s old jail and was sold with 18 cells still intact at the back of the house. “There have been a lot of random homes with jail cells inside,” Samir says.

As Zillow Gone Wild grew, Samir never ran out of crazy homes to feature. In fact, there seemed to be enough wacky real estate to keep fans happy forever.

“I didn’t realize how many people have built castles," he says. "Every price range, there’s some version of a castle."

Once upon a time, a castle in Connecticut (listed for a cool $60 million) featured nine bedrooms, 12 fireplaces, towers soaring more than 100 feet in the air and a classic castle feature: a moat. It was the most expensive castle to grace the Zillow Gone Wild social accounts to date. There were other castles, of course, like a Charleston, Indiana, castle full of custom woodwork that sold for a mere $400,000.

Zillow Gone Wild’s most viral post is the Gilbert, Arizona, mansion Samir calls, "the Blank Check house" — a reference to the 1994 Disney Movie in which an 11-year-old is given a blank check and uses it to get $1 million and buy a mansion with a go-kart track and a pool with an indoor-outdoor slide.

The real Arizona mansion Samir featured sits on more than 4 acres of land and includes a 4,000-square-foot day spa, a 6,000-square-foot man cave, workout rooms, a shooting range, a gaming room, a pool, a hot tub, a private go-kart track, a golf simulator, a dance studio, a batting cage and more.

Mr. Mezrahi’s Neighborhood

You'll know you've made it into the Zillow Gone Wild coterie when you begin to understand the inside jokes — including endless references to a potato shed.

“We’ve got a little community going,” Samir says.

In early 2021, Samir featured a sprawling Dover, Massachusetts, estate with a 15,000-square-foot home on more than 20 acres of land. The English-cottage style home had a large foyer with cathedral ceilings, a media room, custom kitchen, elevator and wine cellar.

Outside, however, was a door leading into a cellar dug into a hill. Inside that cellar? Potatoes. Bushels and bushels of potatoes. The “potato shed” became a frequent joke among ZGW followers, who now judge properties on whether or not there is space for a potato shed.

As for Samir, he didn’t grow up in a Zillow Gone Wild-worthy house and doesn’t live in one now, but he does have a newfound appreciation for a type of house he used to dislike: midcentury-modern.

“I’ve been kind of radicalized because I didn’t care for midcentury-modern before this,” he says. Now, he’s excited when he finds a well-preserved MCM home in his inbox.

Defining the "Wild" in Zillow Gone Wild

Wild is in the eye of the beholder, and what constitutes a "wild" home really depends on the person, Samir says. He gets upwards of 100 submissions each day from followers who keep an eye on their local real estate listings.

He’s seen just about all of it at this point: themed houses, homes where the first floor is a putting green, homes where one room is particularly strange and doesn’t fit the rest of the house, sunken living rooms, homes that look normal from the outside and quickly veer into the strange on the inside. "Often it's like someone with a little too much disposable income and a very specific idea," he says.

He doesn’t feature listings where the seller is clearly down on their luck, but he does look for homes that are architecturally interesting or unique in other ways.

"There are so many different versions of wild," he says.

Zillow Gone Wild Comes to HGTV

Technically, Samir had been using Zillow’s name without permission when he started the ZGW accounts, but he frequently got messages from Zillow employees telling him to keep up the good work. Zillow did license its name so the show could be developed.

Episodes of Zillow Gone Wild feature host actor Jack McBrayer, who tours three homes from around the country — all of which have varying levels of wild — and speaks to the people who live in them.

Samir has been working on the production side of the show — and of course, he will continue to post wild homes on the ZGW social media accounts and still welcomes submissions. “It’s been so much fun, and I love all the homes people send, and I never know what I'm going to get," he says. "I feel like it’s still kind of relatively new and there’s still so much room to grow."

Zillow Gone Wild premiers May 3 at 10:30|9:30c with new episodes airing each Sunday and streaming on Max.

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