Prospective renters place higher importance on online apartment reviews than they do referrals from friends and family, according to a new report.
Kingsley Associates’ just released the results of the first-ever multifamily study on ratings and reviews entitled Highly Recommended: The Influence and Impact of Online Ratings & Reviews to Apartment Searchers, which shows that 70% percent of prospective renters researched community ratings and reviews before selecting their current apartment home.
Interestingly, respondents ranked online ratings and reviews as a more important factor in the apartment search process than referrals from friends and family.
Renters still ranked location and price as top factors, followed by property tour and website at the top of the apartment search checklist. However, the data underscores the growing importance of community ratings and reviews.
“Times are changing. As in so many other areas of consumer behavior, a vast majority of prospective renters are turning to online sources for information and opinions,” says David Smith, chief operating officer at Kingsley Associates, who presented the findings.”Renters are starting to rely more heavily on people who live at a community compared with recommendations from friends and family. The information apartment searchers want is immediately available on the Internet and prospective residents are even more influenced when the reviewer is a confirmed resident.”
Historically, apartment owners and operators have placed a significant amount of time, money and other resources into word-of-mouth referral programs to generate more leads and leases. Data gathered from more than 29,900 current renters indicate a significant shift among the use and consumption of certified ratings and reviews to influence rental housing decisions. The trend underscores an opportunity for multifamily portfolios to leverage ratings and reviews as a key performance indicator to identify and convert new prospective resident leads.
The study also found that 53.1 percent of respondents said they were either less likely or much less likely to trust an anonymous review over a certified review. Just under 40 percent (39.6 percent) said they would trust them the same and a mere 7 percent said they were more likely or much more likely to trust anonymous reviews.
“This groundbreaking study, the first of its kind in our industry, confirms that the majority of prospective renters want authentic ratings and reviews that they can trust,” says Scott Asher, vice president of marketing and operations for RentPath, Apartment Guide’s parent company. “Apartment Guide requires all of its ratings and reviews to be certified before going live, ensuring prospective residents are reading real feedback from actual residents who live or have lived at the community.”
At the same time, the vast majority of respondents, 69.5 percent, said in the survey that it is easy, moderately easy or very easy to spot a fake review. That might explain the 40 percent of respondents who said they trust anonymous reviews as much as certified reviews.
“While rolling out Certified Resident Ratings and Reviews for several large apartment portfolios, such as Gables Residential, Drucker & Falk Real Estate, J.C. Hart Company, and Guardian Real Estate Services, it became clear how many fake reviews exist on the Internet which can directly and negatively impact an apartment searcher’s perception of a community,” Asher says. “Requiring certified ratings and reviews enables communities to better manage their online reputation by eliminating anonymous or fake reviews on our platform.”