As any poor soul currently slogging through a housing search can attest, there isn’t a whole lot to smile about.
Between the dearth of homes, the outrageous bidding wars, and the closet-sized studios fetching half-a-million dollars, even the most optimistic potential buyer (or renter, for that matter) can be thrown into a Zillow-induced state of despair.
But in one small corner of the Internet, at least, a handful of humorists are doing their best to provide a much-needed — if temporary — escape from the angst. Call them the anti-real estate real estate sites, a collection of blogs and social media accounts dedicated to needling, roasting, and otherwise lampooning the ridiculousness of the modern-day real estate world — and, in the process, bringing a touch of joy to a decidedly unjoyous process.
“I think hate-looking at real estate listings is somewhat cathartic,’’ said Kate Wagner, who runs the popular real estate humor blog McMansion Hell (mcmansionhell.com). “If a little unhealthy.’’
Take Wagner’s site, a bitingly funny, surprisingly informative blog aimed at roasting the expensive — and architecturally questionable — homes on the market, while also dropping a little architectural knowledge.
Inspired by a similar blog out of Belgium, and wondering why no American equivalent existed — we have so many ugly houses in this country, so why is there no ugly house blog? — Wagner decided to remedy the situation.
Once a week or so, the 24-year-old Baltimore resident posts a collection of photos from a suburban listing, skewering the oftentimes excessive spaces with an array of light-hearted critiques that have become must-read material for a sizable contingent of followers.
On a room featuring not one but two large decorative eagles: “Nothing says ‘I love freedom’ like two oversized ceramic eagles from one of those weird mail order catalogs exclusively for Facebook aunts.’’
On the curious color choice of a bronze-y living room wall: “Botched spray tan.’’
On a sizable mirror hung directly adjacent to a dining room table: “Giant mirror so dinner party guests can witness their own inadequacy.’’
It’s not just her.
Pinterest is filled with boards dedicated to horrid real estate photo and staging jobs gone wrong. At Lighter Side of Real Estate, (lightersideofrealestate.com), the site balances useful, straightforward content — home-buying tips, information on home improvement — with humorous posts. (One recent entry highlighted the “15 Unwelcome Mats That Will Stop Visitors in Their Tracks.)
And in the United Kingdom, Andy Donaldson has reached a considerable level of popularity for his site, Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs (terriblerealestateagentphotos.com), which gathers real — and quite unfortunate — photographs from real estate listings and slaps them with humorous captions.
There was the living room photo containing a horrifying life-sized doll of a young child (“The Andersons were so proud of Emily’s 4th grade scores, they had her stuffed’’) and — his favorite — the hallway of a home in Ireland in which a live horse curiously loitered (“Yes, this is real. It’s a photograph of what I can only describe as a domestic horse’’).
Sometimes, Donaldson admits, agents are simply doing the best with what they have; there’s only so much that can be done, after all, with atrocious decor or properties that have fallen into disarray.
Other times, though, their gaffes seem very easily avoidable.
“Huge vegetables, clown costumes, gas masks, banjos,’’ Donaldson wrote in an e-mail, listing some of the items he’s seen in real estate photos. “Sometimes I worry that people might think some of the images are fake, but if the submission isn’t accompanied by a link to the listing I tend not to use it.’’
Why, exactly, such sites seem to resonate depends on whom you ask. Those behind some of the more popular ones credit everything from the absurdity of the housing market to the current political climate.
“I think after Trump, the blog really started to resonate with more people — it kind of became inadvertently politicized,’’ Wagner said. “I think that part of it is just people are fed up with this excess, this wastefulness.’’
“It’s familiarity and recognition,’’ Donaldson added. “Everyone has looked for a home, and in doing so, we have all seen these [preposterous], lazy, ludicrous attempts to take a simple photograph.’’
Whatever the reasons, the idea of stepping away from the often brutal realities of the housing search, even for a few minutes, seems to have plenty of appeal — and not just for potential buyers.
“They are relaxation for a real estate agent,’’ said Larry Lawfer, who runs the local Your Stories Realty Group with Keller Williams, “because at least somebody has it worse than me.’’
In fact, some sites are aimed specifically at the men and women charged with putting people in homes.
Prompted by his frustrations as a struggling real estate agent in the Los Angeles area, Eric Simon took to the Web to create the Instagram account The Broke Agent (instagram.com/thebrokeagent), a humorous look into the trials and tribulations of life as a modern-day agent.
The account, which has amassed more than 100,000 followers, specializes in real estate-related memes depicting the sometimes absurd realities of the job — the joy of landing a coveting listing, for instance, or the annoyance of a know-it-all client.
“You see all these shows on TV, and they don’t ever show how difficult being a real estate agent really is or . . . the stuff that goes on in the trenches,’’ said Simon, who wants to be the Barstool Sports of real estate media. “There’s so many awkward occurrences that happen when you’re dealing with someone’s largest emotional asset.’’
The good news for those behind the websites is that, with no real end to the housing crunch in sight, there appears to be no shortage of demand for their content.
A few years ago, Donaldson landed a deal with what is now Penguin Random House to create a book based on his website; titled “Terrible Estate Agent Photos: A Book of the Most Baffling Property Photographs Ever Taken,’’ the book was published in 2015. Wagner, meanwhile, said she’s putting together a book proposal, and Simon says he has been invited to speak at real estate conferences based on the popularity of his Instagram account.
And whereas Donaldson once spent hours scouring the Web in search of atrocious photos, the blog’s subsequent success — to date, he said, it has amassed close to 15 million unique visitors — has resulted in a backlog of several thousand submitted photos.
“The process now,’’ he said, “is simply picking one at random and seeing what comes up as a caption.’’
Of course, the sad reality is that, even when you spend your days immersed in the weeds of online real estate, you’re not immune to the same demoralizing realities facing the everyday home.
As Wagner recently put it, “I just went through that process myself — and it’s so terrifying.’’
Dugan Arnett can be reached at Dugan.Arnett@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.