Renters Have Spoken: Online Reviews More Important than Referrals

Data Also Affirms Certified Ratings & Reviews More Valuable than Anonymous Posts

PR Newswire

ATLANTA, June 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Prospective renters place higher importance on online reviews than referrals from friends and family, according to a Kingsley Associates' study released yesterday at the National Apartment Association Education Conference & Exposition in Denver.

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Scott Asher, Vice President of Marketing and Operations, RentPath, Inc.

The first-ever multifamily study on ratings and reviews entitled Highly Recommended: The Influence and Impact of Online Ratings & Reviews to Apartment Searchers found 70 percent of prospective renters researched community ratings and reviews before selecting their current apartment home.  Interestingly, respondents ranked online ratings and reviews (11.4 percent) as a more important factor in the apartment search process than referrals from friends and family (9.5 percent). Renters still ranked location (75.5 percent), price (70.1 percent), in-person property visit (23.6 percent) and community website (14.1 percent), at the top of the list. 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 during the Customers: The New Face of Your Identity session June 19 at the NAA conference. "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.

In addition, the study 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."

About Apartment Guide
Apartment Guide is the nation's No. 1 online marketing solutions provider to the apartment industry connecting apartment consumers to their ideal place to live. With an unmatched search capability, amplified by constantly refined tools and industry insights, Apartment Guide provides consumers with a clear and simple guide to apartment living through content-rich apartment listings in a user-friendly format with Internet, mobile and social media solutions.

Leading the industry with first-to-market mobile introductions of iPad®, iPhone® and Android™ applications, as well as Apartment Guide Reputation Monitor® and Apartment Guide SocialMedia Manager®, Apartment Guide's multi-platform search capability allows renters and property managers to connect wherever they are, whenever they want, in the medium that works best for them. The brand's commitment to maximizing owner and manager value makes Apartment Guide a leading multifamily housing industry partner.

For more information on establishing a ratings and reviews strategy at your company or community, please email Apartment Guide at CR3@apartmentguide.com.

Apartment Guide is a division of RentPath, Inc., with headquarters in Norcross, Georgia (outside of Atlanta). For more information, visit www.apartmentguide.com or for advertising information, visit www.listonapartmentguide.com. Also, for additional insight on moving and more, visit Apartment Guide's blog and connect with Apartment Guide on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+.

About Kingsley Associates
The most successful firms in real estate rely on Kingsley Associates for cutting-edge business intelligence solutions. Kingsley Associates' services include annual resident satisfaction assessments as well as event driven surveys focused on specific lifecycle interactions (prospect, move in, renewal, work order and move out). In 2013, Kingsley will survey over 2.7 million current and prospective residents on behalf of its clients and is home to the deepest and most sophisticated benchmarking tool, the Kingsley Index. Kingsley Associates also provides: client perception studies, strategic consulting and operations benchmarking services. To learn more, please visit website www.KingsleyAssociates.com or blog www.kingsleyinsight.com.

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Apartment Guide is the leading online marketing solutions provider that connects apartment consumers to their ideal place to live. With an unmatched search capability, amplified by constantly refined tools and industry insights, Apartment Guide provides consumers with a clear and simple guide to apartment living through content-rich apartment listings in a user-friendly format with Internet, mobile and social media solutions. Apartment Guide is a division of RentPath, Inc...

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