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‘Let’s do a house tour’: This NYC-based TikTok creator built a following of 7 million and became a modern-day MTV Cribs

Fortune 3/16/2023 Alena Botros
NYC-based content creator Caleb Simpson © Provided by Fortune NYC-based content creator Caleb Simpson

Quirky apartments, doors that don’t fully close, and Murphy beds are just a few things you’ll see in Caleb Simpson’s home tours he posts on TikTok, YouTube, and his other social media accounts. Despite doing this for close to six months now, Simpson told Fortune he’s still shocked at how small some of the New York City apartments are, saying his “jaw hits the ground” sometimes. But more often than not, you’ll also see him trying out his hosts’ beds, playing with their pets, and asking how much they pay for rent.

With close to seven million followers on TikTok alone, and a bio that reads, “let’s do a house tour,” Simpson has become a go-to content creator for home tours and this generation’s version of “MTV Cribs.” The 31-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn, creates TikTok videos that not only take viewers inside apartments across New York City but also sheds light on how much they’re paying for the adobes. 

“We all live inside a box,” Simpson told Fortune, stressing that it’s something we all mostly have in common, “And we’re all curious.” 

Simpson has been a content creator for years, but it wasn’t until his home tours series that he felt he’d finally found the content he wanted to be producing. Before his home tours, Simpson was doing pizza reviews. He’d ask New Yorkers their favorite pizza and try it out, but in the end, he felt like the series was all about him—and he was getting tired of eating pizza all day. 

So he started looking for his next idea, with the approach of making something that he’d actually want to see, and saw that a lot of people were posting home tours. But those home tours weren’t featuring the average person’s home, instead they were all luxurious and/or owned by well-known figures. So Simpson filled the gap, playing on the fact that most people can relate to his curiosity, and there’s already enough celebrity-focused shows. 

“I think social media and people in general have really moved away from this idolized lifestyle,” Simpson said. “And it’s interesting to see how all walks of life live.”

Simpson has filmed apartment tours with rent as low as $650 a month in New York City to a home in Miami that cost its owners $6.5 million. He even filmed a home owned by “Shark Tank” star and businesswoman Barbara Corcoran that costs her $10,000 a month in maintenance. Each video begins with Simpson asking them how much they pay for rent—or how much it costs to own their property—and he then asks them for a tour of their home. And sometimes, they’ll recognize him, like in Corcoran’s video where she calls him “the apartment guy.”

If they say yes, he walks his viewers through the home, filming on his phone, casually chatting with whoever’s home it is about their occupation, how long they’ve lived there, and anything else that comes to mind. Typically the tours are light-hearted and entertaining, partly because seeing the inside of someone’s home makes you feel like an outsider looking in and partly because of Simpson’s persona that seems to instantly make his hosts comfortable. Simpson makes himself at home, and his hosts seem to be all for it, showing him all over, letting him mess with their things or even try on their clothes. 

“When I first started this series, I kind of made a deal with myself that if I was going to do this, I needed to treat everyone like they’re my best friends and I’ve known them for 10 years,” Simpson said. When he goes into someone’s home, Simpson said, he just tries to be himself and ask a lot of questions because he’s actually curious about them and their living situation.  

But sometimes his videos are a bit deeper. In one video, Simpson’s viewers are introduced to a family that’s about to move because they can’t afford their place anymore. The husband and father, speaking to Simpson, said that his wife lost her job after contracting “Long Covid.” But he still gave Simpson a tour, showing him their kitchen that has a bathroom. After meeting them, Simpson helped promote the family’s GoFundMe. In another video, a woman explains that her rent is $39 a month because it's designated for people who were in the foster care system, like herself. “It was unfortunate that I had to go through that to get this,” she tells him, adding that it’s a lottery system. She also told Simpson that she was in school to be a social worker, so he helped raise money for her last semester of school. 

It’s a challenge, Simpson says, going up to random people, not knowing how they’ll react, or how it’ll be once he’s at their home. But that’s part of what he loves most about what he’s doing. 

“When I went back and started to think about how I wanted to experience life and just what I want my day to day to be like,” he said. “I wanted to meet new people, I wanted to experience new things.” 

Simpson seems to be doing just that, shooting up to three home tours a day and meeting all kinds of people, some that live in vans, some that live on houseboats, and your everyday New Yorker, where Simpson says his content will always be based in.

“I just love it so much,” he said. “I feel like it gave me so much, and I feel like the people of New York [are] the only reason I’m successful.” 

It all started in New York, but Simpson’s taken his gig to Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco per the requests of his viewers and the need for some warmth in New York’s chilly seasons. And he’s headed to other countries next, telling Fortune that he’ll have to learn the basics: asking how much they pay for rent and for a tour.

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