Apartment, Sweet Apartment

Trends / Realness
Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
Aug 14, 2023
"Unfortunately, the middle‑class dream of homeownership has been fading away [...owning a home in the U.S] is a signifier of the upper class now."
‑ Daryl Fairweather, Chief Economist, Redfinx  
Aspirational visuals of home ownership no longer reflects the reality of many American consumers. Visuals featuring homes is one of the most popular topics for the finance industry, but the dwellings featured in top‑selling visuals are almost exclusively upper‑middle‑class, single‑family homes. In fact, homes are +340% more likely to been seen than apartments. However, 1 in 3 renters in the US were living in apartment homes in 20211 and with a fluctuating economy, rising rent2 and a chaotic housing market3 leaves renting Americans between a rock and hard place. Our VisualGPS research finds that 7 out of 10 people are more likely to think of businesses favorably when they acknowledge the issues that customers themselves are facing, and continued representation on the diversity of living situations can help capture that empathy and understanding amidst rent hikes and rising costs of living.

Getty Images’ VisualGPS research finds for 1 in 3 Americans housing is the top economic concern. Finance brands have been using more inclusive visuals to represent people in recent years, the iconic suburban image of the single‑family home with the white picket fence no longer feels attainable to many Americans. With 44 million people4 renting their homes in the US, where is apartment living depicted? Current visuals do not capture the diverse range of consumers' lives and living situations.
Pew Research Center finds that renters (on average) make almost $40k less in annual income than homeowners, which is something to keep in mind when selecting imagery, as people come from different socio‑economic backgrounds, so not every home will be an upper‑middle class suburban dwelling. In fact, VisualGPS reveals that people of color and younger generations are more likely to be concerned about the cost of living, housing, and their overall finances – and these groups are more likely to rent their homes. Not limited to cities, we find the nearly 8 million apartment dwellers5 in rural areas still reckoning with the same economic struggles as their urban counterparts.  

When making visual choices, consider different types of dwellings outside of single‑family homes, such as apartments, or townhomes. Renters opt to live in apartments for the trade‑off of smaller spaces but at a more affordable rate, often lightly littered with the knick knacks of everyday life6. Apartment living is not limited to cities, many can be found in suburban or rural areas as well. Outside of the spaces themselves, think about different living situations, such as adults who have roommates or housemates, retired single adults, or multigenerational living7, which have risen in recent years. Of these domestic situations, an apartment can be a new form of aspiration.
1) 10 facts about U.S. renters during the pandemic (Pew Research Center)
2) America's growing rent burden (Axios)
3) Buying a home in the US is expensive – and that isn’t changing anytime soon (The Guardian)
4) Quick Facts: Resident Demographics (National Multifamily Housing Council)
5) Spotlight on Underserved Markets (Freddie Mac)
6) Domestic Flex (Getty Images)
7) Financial Issues Top the List of Reasons U.S. Adults Live in Multigenerational Homes (Pew Research Center)
What Makes an Image Popular in Latin America?