Digital curb appeal matters more than ever now as 62 percent of potential residents use ratings and apartment reviews at the beginning of a search for a rental property, according to J Turner Research.
And online reviews are becoming more important than personal recommendations on properties. Surprisingly social media is not a significant factor in the apartment search process.
Joseph Batdorf, co-founder of J Turner Research, in a recent webinar revealed new information about the online apartment reviews industry and how it works, such as the percentage of potential residents using ratings and apartment reviews. He also discussed the large number of apartment review sites and the differences between them.
“If you want to outpace the competition, you need more than two reviews per month about your property,” Batdorf said.
Also he made several points during the webinar including:
- Apartment reviews are becoming more positive than they were in the past, and tools like gamification help get better reviews.
- There are 4.7 million reviews on the internet of housing.
- J Turner Research is actively monitoring 19 review sites over 67,000 properties on a monthly basis to measure the online reviews of those properties.
The number of multifamily apartment reviews are also growing rapidly. As an example in April of this year there were 115,929 multifamily housing reviews and by September of 2017 there were 154,191 reviews he said.
“Most people can tell you about reviews coming in on their properties, or two or three of their competitors in their region,” Batdorf said. “But when you are tracking 67,000 properties you get a really good idea of what is going on.”
There are review sites that are more trusted. Some have more information than others. Also some are more regional. Yelp is strong on the West and East coasts, but not so much in the middle of the country, he said.
The digital curb appeal of your property is important to potential renters, as well as the online reputation of the review site itself.
“If you have a poor online reputation and people are not stopping by your property, you may not even know that,” Batdorf said as he urged property managers to keep up with reviews of their properties online.
In the report, Jackie Rhone, , CPM, CAPS, executive director of real estate, AMO, Greystar Real Estate Partners, says that online reputation is a critical component of strengthening today’s business model: “There is an unquantifiable loss of traffic that you will never even know that you could have possibly had at your door, if you don’t manage your online reputation,” she said in the report. “We consider it as our new online curb appeal.”
Batdorf said review sites vary and property managers should study them for the differences. He said that star ratings vary depending on which review site you are looking at. For instance, he said For Rent gives many 4.5 star rating and the ratings are skewed positive on that site.
“They are like your grandmother, always saying good things about you,” Batdorf said.
He said 11 percent of apartment sites have no reviews at all, and another 18 percent only have one to five reviews.
Some of the key findings about apartment reviews in the report:
- Brand image: The importance of reputation of the management company in their decision to lease at a community has been rated at a high of 8.10 on a scale of 0-10 by the residents.
- The top five sites with regards to their market share (based on the number of properties with a review) are Google, ApartmentRatings.com, Facebook, Apartments.com, and Yelp.
- The top three sites with regards to their impact on a prospect’s decision to rent at a property are Google, Apartments.com, and ApartmentRatings.com.
- Residents are more affected by reviews on independent review sites than reviews posted on property websites and Facebook.
- Modern Message, the pioneer of review gamification, has the highest volume of reviews per property.
- Sites (ApartmentGuide.com, Rent.com, and ApartmentRatings.com) which allow survey companies to feed reviews for their clients have the second-highest number of reviews per property.
- ForRent.com displays filtered reviews from other sites such Google, Facebook, and Yelp for its clients, hence it has the most positive sentiment of reviews.
- Modern Message has the second-highest positive sentiment – an effect of review gamification. For properties with reviews on Modern Message, the average rating is higher as compared to the average rating of the same properties on other sites.
- Apartments.com assigns a star rating to a property based on its proprietary CoStar Building Rating SystemSM. The star rating is independent of the resident review; it does not reflect the opinion of residents. It has the third-highest sentiment of reviews.
- The review sentiment on ApartmentRatings.com is the most negative as it has historically been used by residents to express dissatisfaction. However, over time, the sentiment is improving on this site.
- Online reviews are becoming more important than personal recommendations.
- A large majority (75 percent) of residents look at ratings and reviews multiple times in their apartment search.
- Social media is not a significant factor in the apartment search process.
About J Turner Research
J Turner Research is the leading market research firm exclusively serving the multifamily industry. Our data and research empowers management companies to drive revenue. We offer customer insights and an integrated online reputation management platform that enables companies to enhance resident satisfaction, increase closing ratios, and improve online reputation.