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A whole lot has changed over the past year, particularly when it comes to our sense of home. In the early days of quarantine, we looked inward, doing everything we could to turn those spaces into a sanctuary from the pandemic-stricken world outside. Then, as the freshly repainted walls started closing in on us, many people began spending hours browsing real estate listings online, imagining what it’d be like to live in some of the most extravagant mansions they could find. Seriously, Realtor.com shattered its traffic records this past June and Zillow’s traffic for sale listings is up 41 percent since 2019. Now, as we ride out the third wave of the pandemic, a handful of people are making those dreams a reality—just not in the way you’d think.

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Sure, existing home sales have hit a 14-year high, meaning more people are buying houses right now, but the coronavirus home trend we never could have predicted is…how many people would be recreating their dream homes on The Sims.

Yes, the best-selling video game that lets people create virtual characters and, well, simulate real life. And honestly, the trend makes perfect sense. As more people flock to video games as a way to escape while maintaining social distance measures (a movement so hot, in fact, that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance just recommended buying stock in The Sims’s parent company, Electronic Arts), why not create the life you’ve always wanted, especially when you don’t have to worry about a pesky mortgage? You don’t need a vision board, a five-year plan or even decent credit; a laptop, PlayStation or Xbox will do.

Recreating real homes in The Sims itself isn’t new—people have been sharing tips and techniques on forums for years—but it seems to have become more mainstream during quarantine. In fact, when real estate listings site Zillow noticed a rise in people creating Sims houses based on its listings, the company partnered with YouTube stars to challenge them to do the same. Below, check out the $15 million Malibu mansion Australian creator Deligracy recreated.

With more home listings incorporating 3D and video tours to entice buyers, recreating your dream home on The Sims is easier than ever, since you can pick up on specifics that might not have been so obvious in traditional listing photos. “You can literally walk through the house and you can look [at], you know, how high the ceilings are,” says Deligracy (who prefers to use her channel handle instead of her name, due to privacy concerns).

Of course, having access to this level of detail makes creating a dream home more of a challenge to Sims players—and more intriguing for Deligracy’s 1.1 million subscribers, as they watch to see just how closely she can recreate everything from the timber fence along the front of the house to the natural light coming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows on the east side.

The more detailed the house is, the longer it can take to recreate. Fans confess to spending anywhere from 30 minutes on a “speed build” to days on end to create the manse of their dreams. YouTubers, like Deligracy, LilSimsie and Kiwisimming, break down how they make the homes in their videos, sharing everything from shortcodes (“hold CTRL and F to make quarter-floor tiles!”) to sites that offer expansion packs so you can truly customize your home beyond the game’s parameters. There’s even a whole #realtosims Instagram tag, where people share screenshots of their creations, not to mention plenty of threads on Sims forums and Reddit, where people discuss building techniques and troubleshoot architectural problems (like trying to create a sunken room using the basement tool).

For some creators, this trend isn’t simply a distraction; it’s actually getting them one step closer to snagging that dream home in real life. Deligracy quit her job as a junior graphic designer when her YouTube channel started pulling in more money than her nine-to-five, Fast Company reported.

The TL;DR? Maybe all of that time you logged on The Sims in middle school wasn’t such a bad thing after all. (Sorry, Mom.)

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