I read 350 apartment reviews, this is what I found.

Apartment complexes have a problem when it comes to obtaining reviews. There are way too many third party websites that hold apartment listings, and all of these have a review system.

I tried making a tally of apartment listing websites, but shortly after the 20th website, I gave up. A small company that operates 5 properties would have more than 100 listings of those properties around the internet.

For those who don’t know, real estate companies have their properties listed in a centralized database where third party websites can pull the information from.

But websites that aren’t dedicated to real estate like yelp and google won’t pull the information from that database, is the company’s responsibility to add their information into local listing sites. There are services that help with the distribution of company’s information to local listings sites.

The importance of reviews

We know reviews are very important, they are a deciding factor in the decision process of buying anything. Heck, last time I bought a pan, I spent 2 hours looking for reviews on amazon, IT’S JUST AN FREIKIN PAN, but I still took the time to research;

p.s. best pan I’ve ever gotten.

Let’s look at some interesting numbers from a study done by BrightLocal, where they polled more than 1,000 people:

  • 59% of consumers look at 2–3 review sites before they make a decision about a business
  • 84% people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 90% of consumers read 10 reviews or less before they feel that they can trust a business
  • 68% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1–6 reviews

To put a cherry on top of that, a survey was done by InsideLocal where they asked 270 local businesses if they thought that reviews had an impact on return on investment and 83% said that reviews “absolutely” lead to good ROI.

It feels redundant to state these facts, of course, reviews are important, of course, we look at what other people have to say about a product or service before spending our money. Nonetheless, numbers have never hurt anyone.

Who leaves reviews

Short answer, millennials.
Coincidently, millennials are the largest population of renters in the US.
51% of people under 30 were renting in 2015 according to the US Census Bureau.

But more important than who is what. What motivates people to leave reviews? What can apartment complexes do to increase their reviews, how can they motivate tenants to reach their smartphones and write something nice about them?

Those are the central questions to this post and the answer that I found wasn’t the most comfortable for me, as a marketer, trying to teach marketing.

I read 350 apartment reviews, this is what I found.

Well, I didn’t exactly read them per se, but I did put them through a tag cloud system and got a visual representation of what people were talking about.

  • I selected 6 apartment complexes from 3 different cities, Austin, Denver and Philadelphia ( why these 3? because they have an average rent price of ~$1500 )
  • I looked at 6 complexes per city. 3 with 4 or above star ratings (positive reviews) and 3 with 2 or bellow (negative reviews).
  • All complexes had to have at least 15 reviews.
  • Putting the data in a tag cloud returns the words that have been repeated the most in these reviews

When grouping all the negative reviews we can assume that the words are used with a negative connotation.
This is what we get

Top5

  • Management (135)
  • office (98)
  • maintenance (95)
  • staff (90)
  • people (89)

We know that one of the main drivers of reviews is retaliation. When people write negative reviews, they are trying to discourage other potential customers to not buy a product or rent a property.

The main word in this cloud is “management”. People feel that the company, or the property manager, is not doing right by the customers.
2nd is “office” which can be grouped with “staff” and 3rd is maintenance. All these words come down to trying to assign blame to someone, and we see that negative interactions with customers are the driver of bad reviews.

When grouping all the positive reviews we can assume that the words are utilized with a positive connotation.
This is what we get

  • staff (126)
  • office (102)
  • friendly (98)
  • helpful (88)
  • management (86)

Funny how this cloud gives you a sentence in the first four words.

“The office staff is friendly and helpful”.

We see adjectives being used a lot, instead of just subjects, which leads me to believe that when people are motivated to write positive reviews they’ll explain give a reason why they are writing, not just who. Most likely, the motivation comes from a positive interaction between office and tenant, creating a positive feeling in the customer that leads to a good review.

Reviews are very important because they can affect the bottom line of the business.
Apartment complexes have little control over what people say about them, or where they say it. However, they do have control over their employees, who are the main driver of positive and negative reviews.

As I said before, it is uncomfortable for me to talk about managerial practices. It’s not my place to teach how to manage a property, but, from the marketing perspective, generating good reviews that will lead to more business comes down to how the office staff is treating and helping tenants.

Even though some sites (well … yelp) discourage businesses to ask for reviews, it is a good way to get them. Going back to BrightLocal research, they found that:

  • 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review if they’re asked to
  • 50% of consumers have been asked to leave a review about a business and actually left a review

With all of this in mind, property managers who know that they have a motivated staff that’s friendly and helps tenants may see results by asking for reviews under the right circumstances.

Having the staff ask tenants to leave a review after they have helped them with any issues, could be the final push that a tenant needs to write a thoughtful note about a complex.