Why renters have to deal with stock apartment photos

March 15th, 2012 : The Naked Apartments Team

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. (UPDATE: Ms. Saladino is now managing partner of Mirador Real Estate.)

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 visualize 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.
  • The apartments never look like the stock photos!  The stock photos are always of the nicest unit in the building, which is always way too expensive.  Pictures should be of the apartment.
  • Lazy brokers post stock photos
  • I never trust that they’re actually representative of the apartment and usually end up ignoring the listing
  • Landlords should take the time to photograph the actual apartment.  Stock photos are not good enough.
  • I’d much prefer to see actual photos of the unit. I’ve lived in New York all my life, and the model unit NEVER looks like the actual apartment.
  • If they are the exact same layout as the listing, then it’s fine, but most times it’s not. Have run in to this a few times now.
  • When renting or purchasing real estate, it is imperative that a potential customer can see the most accurate representation of what they are dealing with.
    As a former leasing agent myself, I know well just how much the model unit can vary from the actual unit in size, design and condition.
  • there is nothing worse than getting to an apartment for a showing-and having the apartment look nothing like the photo.
  • They don’t show what kind of lighting the specific apartment gets and are misleading. They are generally in better shape than the actual apartment too.
  • I don’t mind them IF there is additional pics. It’s best to have pics of each room in an apt and one of the entrance if possible. If there is only one pic of a place, I more than likely will bypass that apt. I just don’t have the time in my search to view apts with only one pic, I really appreciate landlords and agents who take the time to take pics and download them to a site.
  • I’d rather see photo’s of the real apartment being offered. I don’t have time to discover that what was listed on a site, wasn’t the final product being offered. Every layout is different. Showing any else than the actual apartment is false advertising.
  • unless they are nearly identical to the apartment being shown, it is false advertising.  Esp when the photos are from when an apartment is brand new, clean, freshly remolded etc, and the apartment is 5+ years used and abused…
  • Stock photos totally manipulate the viewers impression of the apartment.  Not every listing has penthouse views and was decorated by a professional.
  • They’re misleading generally,and make apartment listings look like a Craigslist scam since they all have the same photos.
  • i want to see pics of the actual apt & rooms, not neighborhood pics or artsy fartsy wide angle  partial wall shots
  • It boarders on bait and switch.  An accurate photo is the most important thing.
  • Though the quality of the photos tend to be higher, I don’t feel that the pictures give an accurate depiction of the actual unit of interest.
  • They tend to be misleading and do not give the full feel of the apartment, I instantly lose interest.

To get a copy of all 100+ written responses, please email surveys@nakedapartments.com with the subject line: Stock Photos Survey.


  • Well we really not to believe on the photos that we see on the apartments available it is still better to visit the place before you decide on whether you are going to live in here or not.

  • When me and my roommate started looking we found a broker that promised us (over the phone) a full day of looking at listings. When we got there he hadn’t made any phone calls, kept us waiting while he looked at listings, and admitted that the photos on their site wasn’t representative of the actual units available.

    Then he said he had 1 place to show us. This was a Saturday, we were in the city from a distance away, and had reserved the entire day to hunt and he had 1 LISTING for us??? BS!

    We made him show us the ones that he felt we didn’t want. They were not in the area we were looking at and were little more then a closet for $200 over our budget. Then he took us to the one that he had “wanted to show us all along” and while it was certainly the best of the bunch and we were prepared to put an offer on it – after a week of thinking and of him hounding us that we’re going to lose it we realized that it was a sham. After 2 weeks the apartment still wasn’t rented to anyone because it was crap and he showed us what he needed to rent – not what we wanted to live in.

    We switched brokers and had a much better experience, and shocker….the apartment was identical to what was in the photos we saw.

    Bottom line – find the right broker and take your time looking. But also brokers need to understand that while they work Monday – Friday as well as weekends…Weekends may be our only option and we can’t drop everything at a moments notice to see an apartment on a Wednesday when we have to earn the money to afford rent.

  • The best apartments in NYC get rented first and stock photos are a great way to help perspective tenants see the apartments possibility while under renovation or while occupied. When an apartment is occupied you are not allowed to take photos of the apartment without consent of the tenant.

    Would you want someone taking pictures of your apartment and then posting them on the internet while your still living there? Would you want to live with a landlord who doesn’t respect your privacy?

    These policies are in place to protect YOU the TENANT.

    The best way is to actually go out and physically see these apartments. Set aside a few hours during the day from Monday-Friday and see the best apartments in your Price Range, Size and Location.

    My other suggestion is to work with just one broker. If you have particular needs and wants its much easier explaining it once :)

  • We get both sides of the debate and at the end of the day, everybody needs to stop being so lazy and wanting to be virtual shoppers and agents.

    Go out and learn the inventory if you are an agent, preview 8 hrs a day two or three times a week like we did when we first started!

    As a client, be prepared for some let downs. Never go out with an agent who doesn’t ask for your list of needs of what is important to you regarding the space.

    There will never be a day when you go out and see ten options that all fit your bill. You only need one apartment to live in, so focus on finding the right one and be prepared to secure it when it’s there. Don’t think there has to be something better if you keep looking. Either it feels right or it doesn’t!

    This is taken from a management’s listing just posted today!

    “Please remember that some of our units are occupied, so please knock before entering and please do not take any photos.”

    There are always going to be some managements and landlords that don’t allow pictures. That’s just the reality of it. At the end of the day, you can’t live in a picture anyway, so focus on the details within!

  • Many renters don’t understand the speed of the market when it comes to photographing places. Even the most hardworking brokers with multiple clients can’t preview every place and download photos to send to clients. By the time they receive the images, make a decision to view or not, the place most like likely be rented.

    So it basically comes down to finding a broker that you trust. If they know of an apartment that it’s worth looking at because they are familiar with the building, its layout and finishings and the landlord, just go to view without waiting for photos.

  • What part of Manhattan do you work in? I as well as other agents can give a Lonnnnng list of bldgs (most with on-site offices) who forbid any photos being taken.
    Now if you’re talking about some walk-up where you have to go grab a key, then you take pics no problem.
    What about bldgs who do not allow appts to preview only? You can only show/gain access with a client.

  • This is utter ___. Brokers and salespeople are too lazy to go to vacant apartments to take photos. I have been a Broker in Manhattan since 2001, and I never use photos that are not of the actual apartment listed. If I do not have photos, or the apartment is gutted and would look ridiculous photographed that way, I state as much in my advertisements. The result? People trust me and drop any other broker they may have been using prior to meeting me. I have NEVER heard of a listing for which the owner would not let a broker or salesperson take photos. What these people are doing is illegal misrepresentation.

  • Wow, as a guy who spends his life taking such photos…I am kinda hurt….. In many cases our pix are of the actual unit, always on units for sale. In the cases where the pix are the same…here in Boston we have many units where the units are all pretty much the same….and the good ones do go before I am able to take pictures and edit them down to something internet friendly. I agree that it is offensive when the pictures are way off…..but my people don’t post stuff like that.

  • This person’s response is the most interesting: I never trust that they’re actually representative of the apartment and usually end up ignoring the listing

    If a lot of renters think the same thing then landlords regulations are hurting brokers ability to find them tenants. Just let agents snap photos!!!

  • I understand why landlords think polished stock photos help to advertise their buildings, but seems like their assumptions may be way off.

Leave a comment
© Copyright 2015 Naked Apartments