Angie Ostaszewski isn’t a real estate agent — she just really, really wants you to buy a home in Peoria, Illinois.
Since October 2020, the 31-year-old energy efficiency consultant has used TikTok to share affordable housing listings, inclusive events, and other compelling reasons — “walkable downtown, riverfront, and warehouse district” — why she thinks people should move to her midsize Midwestern city.
“My goal is to share an option for queer and BIPOC folks who are looking to put down roots, and who may have never thought homeownership was an attainable goal,” Ostaszewski, who is bisexual and Filipina, told BuzzFeed News.
The town is best known for “Will it play in Peoria?” — a phrase used by marketers since the late 1800s to consider whether something would appeal to a wide range of demographic groups across the United States.
Ostaszewski is a new type of midsize influencer — she has 32,000 followers caring about the fairly niche topic of daily life in Peoria, and her posts have translated into very real-life influencing. She said she has successfully convinced a whopping 156 people to relocate in the past year and a half thanks to her TikTok account, where she’s posted dozens and dozens of videos about her life and city.
Her own Peoria journey began nine years ago when she moved for a fresh start to be with her now-husband and ended up the owner of a $33,000 home before her 30th birthday.
First, she convinced her siblings to move across the country and join her in Peoria, and now she uses social media to get the word out more broadly about her community.
“I felt for the first time in my life like I belong,” she said. “I have confidence in myself I never had before because of this great support system around me.”
Ostaszewski led her “elevator pitch” for Peoria by touting it as the “most affordable midsize city in the country,” as one business research study found. More than 100,000 people live in the city, and 400,000 reside in the surrounding metropolitan area.
And she knows how to immediately go into salesperson mode for her city, marketing it as a place for a fun and affordable life. She's a convincing influencer.
“We have strong industries including manufacturing and healthcare, one of the largest park districts in the state with miles of trails, a fine-free library with five branches and endless free programming, a racially diverse community, and tons of local shops and restaurants,” she said.
“Community and financial stability have given me the freedom to enjoy life and a positive mindset to enjoy things like hiking, thrifting, and making TikToks, of course!”
Though she doesn’t work for the town itself, Ostaszewski sets potential transplants up with job boards, moving resources, real estate agents, and lenders, and she has also organized a Facebook group for new residents that is “400 members strong.” Members have organized a kickball team, crafting clubs, and Dungeons & Dragons meetups. They have regular “transplant parties,” too.
She rebuked any concerns of gentrification by noting that Peoria doesn’t currently have enough residents to support its vast infrastructure. Bringing in more people would “grow the tax base,” and she said she would stop recruiting future Peorians if data suggested that residents were being displaced.
Though Ostaszewski is one of Peoria’s biggest stans, she doesn’t have any interest in being a paid ambassador or real estate agent — she loves her day job and doesn’t want anyone to think she's making money off of the people who move there.
“I am just sharing my love for my city, and want everyone to find a place where they feel safe and included to call home,” she said.