Online Reviews: The New Necessity

Next on the Community Voice blog: how to generate online reviews for your community.

Online Reviews: The New Necessity

Until a few years ago, apartment shoppers evaluating different properties had little access to information on critical issues like management responsiveness, maintenance policies, and the general character of the community. Without knowing a current or past resident who could “grade” a given property on these matters, prospective renters had to gather their own impressions and ultimately judge the book by its cover.

Today, of course, online community reviews are available at the touch of a button everywhere from community websites to Yelp, Google, and Bing. This has dramatically altered the apartment search equation. Reviews now play a pivotal role in driving renter interest and confidence as well as in determining final leasing choices, making both review generation and review management with tools like our full-service reputation management solution, an essential component of the multifamily marketing toolbox.

The importance of online reviews in guiding the search and leasing decision is confirmed in an survey of more than 4,000 consumers and presented in a whitepaper, Reviews Matter: How Online Community Reviews Influence the Renter Decision. The survey measured the influence of renters’ online opinions as well as the role reviews play in helping property managers and owners drive positive perception and renter interest. Among the findings:

Nearly all renters read property reviews

When asked “If reviews are available when searching for a rental property, do you read them,” 98% of survey respondents answered that they read reviews “always” or “some of the time.” This overwhelming response sends a clear message that renters not only want insight into the living experience at apartment communities they are considering, but also consider reviews a vital source of that information.

Renters Read Reviews

Survey responses also revealed that renters look for trends in reviews and are not discouraged by a few negative comments. As one respondent noted, “I try to find the patterns in reviews. There are always outliers; overly positive and negative people will try to get their voices heard over most. I trust the majority consensus.”

Reviews have a major influence on rental decisions

Prospective renters rely heavily on online reviews when making leasing choices, with 96% of surveyed renters finding them influential and 79% highly influential. In many cases, apartment seekers also use reviews to decide which properties to visit in person and which to cross off their list. Knowing that current or past renters have given generally upbeat testimonials “makes me feel comfortable when looking at a rental property,” according to one respondent.  

A related analysis of internal data shows that a community with at least one review generates, on average, 47% more leads than those with no reviews. That huge jump in lead traffic is proof-positive that reviews are not just nice-to-haves but must-haves.

Having no reviews is no good

A decisive 94% of survey participants stated they are more likely to consider renting from a community that shows reviews than from one that does not. Equally significant, a community with positive online reviews will attract more renters than a similar community with no reviews. In other words, having no reviews is a no-starter for many apartment hunters.

Once again, renters aren’t looking for perfection. They’re seeking a general consensus that a community offers the features that are important to them, whether it’s good service, maintenance, amenities, atmosphere, or something else. One survey respondent explained that multiple reviews “made looking for an apartment a lot easier” because “I can narrow (my search) down to the things I want, and I pay attention to the reviews that were done in the past year (the most).”

Renters trust a community with reviews

Nearly 80% of survey respondents indicated that just four to six reviews make them feel that a community is trustworthy. In addition, the more reviews the better for increasing a consumer’s impression of the property’s credibility and reliability.

Prospective renters also place more trust in recent posts. “I typically look for the most current reviews (one year - now),” said one respondent, “and I look to see if they mention anything about the maintenance of the property, the grounds, as well as office staff.”

Even better, advertisers can showcase ratings and reviews on their property listings and respond to concerns in a timely manner there as well. Plus, if you’re looking for full-service assistance to generate and moderate your reviews, check out our social and reputation management program that handles this for your community.

And that, in a nutshell, is why community managers need strategies to produce a steady stream of new reviews.

Next on the Community Voice blog: how to generate online reviews for your community.


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