What's With The Stock Photos On Real Estate Listings?

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Irritated that so many apartments are advertised with stock photos?You’re not alone. 

When surveyed, 65% of renters on Naked Apartments said they find stock photos annoying.

One renter voiced their frustration by writing in; “I never trust that they’re actually representative of the apartment and usually end up ignoring the listing.” 

Another renter wrote; “They are generally in better shape than the actual apartment.” 

Wait a minute, is that the actual apartment?

Welcome to the world of stock photos, from which there is no escape.  

What are they? Stock photos are professional pictures that a landlord provides real estate agents, in order to control how their apartments are marketed on leading sites like Naked Apartments. 

They’re rarely of the actual unit up for rent, but are considered to be ‘representative’ of what an apartment looks like.  While more aesthetically pleasing than pictures taken with an agent’s digital camera or cell phone, whether they serve their purpose of attracting more tenants, is questionable.

Why do we so often see stock photos on apartment rentals? According to Karla Saladino, a 10 year veteran of NYC real estate and an Associate Broker at Mark David, some landlords simply don’t allow agents to take pictures.

Many buildings, especially doorman buildings with on-site leasing agents, prohibit anyone from taking photos of their apartments in order to control how their building is advertised.  Bad photos can easily deter clients from seeing a space they may have loved.  And great photos of a furnished, or staged, unit help clients visualise the possibilities for a space.

Instead of letting agents take their own photos, these buildings will release professional photos to the brokerage community.  For doorman buildings, the apartments generally have the same kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, etc., so while the photos look dressed up, they provide an accurate view of the apartment.

There’s also the issue that there’s simply not enough time to take photos before listing are taken off the market.  The most desirable rental inventory stays on the market for 12-48 hours, which is not enough time to take and upload photos.  In these situations, we give our clients a description and show them photos of similar apartments in the building.  With this highly sought after inventory, typically the first client shown the apartment will rent it.

It’s also important for renters to know that there is another issue with apartment photos – and those are entirely fake pictures, sometimes called bait-and-switch photos. As an agent and a manager nothing is more frustrating than showing up to an apartment that is not even in the hemisphere of the photos provided.  We find stock photos provided by landlords to be close to what’s offered, but when agents blatantly try to put something better up that has nothing to do with the property, it’s deceiving and a major time waster.

We also contacted, Julia Bryzgalina, the director of leasing at Platinum Properties.  She agreed with the points above and added:

If a tenant is still living in the apartment, and the unit is being advertised by multiple brokers, the landlord will forbid photos in order to protect the privacy of the tenant.

The reasoning for stock photos is certainly understandable, but, clearly renters are not fans, which begs the question, do they serve their ultimate purpose of attracting more tenants.  Below are the full results of our survey, along with a sampling of the 100+ written responses we received.

Written Responses Sampling – Renters that like Stock Photos

▪ The entire process is done by viewing these pictures, the better they are the more attractive the apt is. A lot of the realtors don’t provide the best pictures. With that said, I think you should provide both (if possible) to show the model unit as well as the actual unit.
▪ They give an idea of what furniture would fit in a room
▪ Unless I get some idea of the looks and layout, I probably would not not pursue the listing.
▪ Photos are important but the floorplan is a more useful tool.

Written Responses Sampling – Renters Annoyed by Stock Photos

▪ I like being able to view the actual available apartment. Each unit in each building is different. Seeing the model unit on the internet and the available unit in person are usually completely different experiences. I like having at least an idea of what I’m walking into.
▪ When I’m looking into renting a particular apartment, why on earth would I want to see pictures of another apartment? The problem is that anywhere else in the US this would be helpful but in NYC it’s usually deceptive and the real apartment looks nothing like it.
▪ I would much rather see photos of the actual unit. Seeing stock photos makes me think that they’re trying to hide something or that the apartment isn’t as nice as it seems.
▪ It gives no indication of the apartment’s actual layout or condition and is generally somewhat fraudulent.
▪ Seeing a stock photo either a) Makes me think instantly that the apt. is too good to be true, or b) That the actual apartment is terrible/they’re re-using pictures from different buildings
▪ I want to actually see certain aspects of the actual apartment listed, like the size and shape of the kitchen.

To get a copy of all 100+ written responses, please email [email protected] with the subject line: Stock Photos Survey.

This story originally ran on Naked Apartments. 

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