Topic: Is Anyone Using ApartmentRatings.com Effectively?

Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Whenever the subject of ApartmentRatings.com comes up, invariably hysteria follows, but I want to find out if anybody is actively using tactics to make ApartmentRatings work for them rather than against them. For example, are you actively driving residents to give positive feedback? How are you responding to negative responses?

Thanks!
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Sunset Springs apts.'s Avatar
Sunset Springs apts.
One way we are trying to influence a positive response from residents is a- When you know you have a happy resident ask them to post something, more than likely they will be more than happy to do it with nothing more than a thank you in return. or B- per sway tenants to write a positive feed back with gift cards, gifts, or a small discount off rent, usually works. On the other hand dont mention this web site to a irate tenant. It will never turn out in your favor and the less they know about it the better, I would say.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Thanks for the reply! I wonder how many communities are giving gifts for reviews... I've heard that when this happens, people tend to adjust their review based upon how good the gift is, rather how good they think the product/service is. And I know Yelp has done a lot to pull reviews that appeared that they were paid for, but I'm not sure what apartmentratings has done on that front.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Brian Ralls's Avatar
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A few months back, starting in February, we decided to run a campaign that was designed to get our residents to post reviews for our properties on 5 preselected review sites which included Apartmentratings.com, Yelp.com, Yahoo Local, Bing Local & Google Local.

We had noticed that only those residents who were upset and had negative things to say about our properties were motivated to post reviews which led to mostly negative reviews on the review sites for most of our properties. In order to get good reviews from the residents that were happy with our properties we offered to give them a $5 gift card to Starbucks for each review they posted on the 5 preselected sites and one raffle entry for each review they posted on these sites as well for a chance to win a Grand Prize of a $500 Gift Card to Best Buy.

We were very pleased with the results of the program as we received 15 positive reviews for each negative review and saw that the majority of reviewers posted their reviews on ALL 5 sites, over all we averaged 7 new reviews posted for each property and we saw our ratings #s on Apartmentratings.com improve dramatically, which means they return at the top of the list when users sort the list by ratings #s on the site, one property went from a rating of 18% up to 48%.

A few examples can be found at:
Highland Meadows
Stonegate
Orchard Pointe
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Christi Wedel's Avatar
Christi Wedel
Yes indeed! If utilized pro-actively, apartmentratings.com is a fantastic marketing tool! Check out our community...Verde Panther Creek in Frisco, Texas.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Chrissy Surprenant's Avatar
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Yes, we emphasize apartmentratings.com as much as possible. I was terrified of this when it first came out but if you use it to your advantage it works great. I'm in a unique area where we cater to mostly college students but I am not Student Housing. So, a large percentage of people review the ratings (especially parents) before chosing a place to visit. Since March I can say that due to our good rating on this site it either rented or helped US rent 5 apartments out of 25 vacancies we have had. We advise residents every chance we get to leave us a good rating and when they move out we remind them as well. We've put it in our newsletter too. We have satisfied residents so it works for us but if they were unsatisfied then I would not to do it.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Ellen Thompson's Avatar
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I have mentioned this elsewhere, but paying people to post reviews may be an issue. As of 12/2009, the law states:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) blog disclosure regulations require those who write articles or reviews of products or services on the internet to disclose, in a "clear and conspicuous" manner, any free products or payments they receive for these reviews.

See here for more details.

internet-law.lawyers.com/Truth-in-Bloggi...isclosure-Rules.html

I'm not a lawyer (and I don't even play one on TV :-) ), but ours advised us of this new law.

Hope this helps someone.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Megan Colburn's Avatar
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We ask customers when they give us a compliment if they would go there and comment when they have time. When we do get a negative comment, our own residents defend us.
The one thing I don't like about it is that our competitors have been known to write bad reviews (they didn't bother hiding their email address, not too smart).
We don't bribe our residents for good reviews and when we do get bad ones, we respond right away with an invitation to discuss the issues with the PM or Regional if someone isn't comfortable with the on-site team. It's been an advantage to us at my current property because we happen to have an over 70% positive rating, but I have worked sites where that wasn't the case. It doesn't take much to turn it around if you care about the service you provide to people. We include a little card with a note about how to post a review on apartment ratings with our renewals and move outs as well. I'd rather have honest feedback, good or bad than "paid for" positive feedback. Most people can see through that and if you have enough reviews you can tell if there are consistent complaints about the same things. The worst is when a staff goes on there and tries to pretend they're a resident, that also is transparent and makes you look bad.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Jeff Thompson's Avatar
Jeff Thompson
I have used apartmentratings.com in the context of market analyses and asset management monitoring. Yes, the scales seem to be tipped toward the negative. However, I have found that trends and patterns are evident in comments on the site. Properties with poor performance will yield more negative comments. Properties with good performance will yield less negative comments. It is easy to spot someone with a negative agenda. I would encourage property managers to solicit positive feedback via apartmentratings.com. However, there is no substitution for a well managed property with happy customers. The truth will always find a way to reveal itself. Anyone who thinks apartmentratings.com is the enemy might need to look in the mirror with their management staff.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Mike Whaling's Avatar
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I'm not certain about this, Brent, but I believe Apartment Ratings will pull posts if they can confirm that the person was paid to post them. In general, I think paying for positive reviews should be discouraged. Instead, I'd suggest looking for ways to surprise residents *after* they have left a review, regardless of the tone.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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I'm sure they probably would, Mike. And I'm on the same side as you that paying for reviews is probably not the best way. Not saying that it is completely horrible, as I've never been one to completely play by the rules*, but I think a review coming from the heart comes across as more legitimate and believable rather than a paid review.

(* Playing by the rules means ApartmentRatings.com rules, not laws against disclosure. As noted several times here, the reviewer must disclose if they receive compensation for their review.)
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Last edit: by Brent Williams.
Mychelle Burns's Avatar
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I've effectively utilized Apartmentratings.com over the past year. It begins with your company culture then policies and if properly implemented can evolve into a strong social media & SEO tool.
We began with collateral cards requesting feedback from residents, subscribed to ApartmentRatings' management console and responded to both positive and negative ratings and finally linked out on our community websites. The results were great. In my opinion ApartmentRatings.com is the original and purest form of Social Media on our industry.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Donald Davidoff's Avatar
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As noted by another poster, but worthy of highlighting again, if you are paying people to post (and payment can be goods or services, not just cash) and they do not fully disclose that in their post, then you and they are in violation of FTC guidelines and can be fined.

There's nothing wrong with verbally encouraging people who are positive about you to post; but paying them to do so and not disclosing that is unethical and actually illegal.

P.S. We've had examples where we responded privately to people who complained about us to answer their issues and had them (without any prompting from us) go back on to yelp and change the score.

So in short--engagement=good; payment=bad :-)
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Yes, paying without disclosing is illegal. And disclosing kind of ruins the legitimacy, unless it's done right. But let's say hypothetically I was to pay for a review, I would make it clear that the resident could post whatever type of review they wanted, good or bad - that really, we just want a review. Of course, operationally I would make the request tied to a positive action, such as a compliment at the office or positive survey maintenance survey. The disclosure from a marketing standpoint would be tricky, but not impossible. I think that disclosure would have to include that the resident got a gift card, for example, for writing a positive OR negative review. That way, readers could see that they had a choice between positive or negative and chose positive (or maybe they don't).

That said, I still think it's not the best way to go. If you create residents who are truly fans of their community, they will post reviews without compensation.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
RealReviews Starring OldSpiceGuy's Avatar
RealReviews Starring OldSpiceGuy
Holy Moly...you wanna see people's heads spin just stand back and watch them when the general topic of "Going Social" online activity is presented. It can certainly get folks flustered.
Jeepers - I've seen fear dilate pupils of the eyes at just the whisper of the name "ApartmentRatings.com" of the toughest-as-nails seasoned property managers. They sometimes even develop a nervous tic and frothing at the mouth when the "Ratings" conversation arises.

Most folks now know that ApartmentRatings.com was born out of the outrage of a resident who had a complaint against his landlord and has grown into an environment for venom-spewers to have their own little hatefest. Urban legends abound about Landlords who have had little recourse with the site other than to pay chunks of change to combat the haters. (Insert involuntary shudder here.)

BUT...as Dylan muses, "The Times They are a Changin'"...
Property Managers are learning that Going Social and Wiki-sharing with "Reviews Done Right" brings the chat scene straight to their door and Engaging renters on an apartment community's own website encourages two-sided conversations that helps in a PLETHORA of ways.

By engaging in Reviews, a manager 1. steps out, 2. steps up, 3. becomes bold and lo and behold generates link juice (aka google juice) for their website by participating with fresh as opposed to static site content. The spider bots crawling the search engines LOVE :silly: fresh and consumer generated content and therefore move the sites that engage in the shared content up higher in the search queries.

If you wait for reviews to come to you, most of what you'll get will be complaints.

"Reviews Done Right" complete with hand-holding team-mates have shown that when you join in "Reviews" discussion - on the average - 70% of the consumer feedback to an apartment community is positive. :woohoo:

As promised in the opening of this addition to Brent's topic, mmediately below is a REAL WORLD (like on MTV without the tears & expletives) discussion that occurred online just last night between an apartment community resident that had a beef posted on a property's website offering.

The conversation was posted on a management company website, but the "Reviews Done Right" piece was hosted by the multifamily industry's positive alternative to ApartmentRatings.com. The exchange illustrates the commentary points entered on this topic discussion.
Respond to reviews.
Interaction should be open.
Engagement is good.
Payment is not necessary.


Some of the names have been changed to capitalize on the funness occurring with the OldSpice Guy on YouTube, Twitter and FaceBook as well as to protect the innocent, and the conversation reads backwards. ("Backwards" meaning that you're reading the responses in the reverse order. Why not insert a little "spice" into a humdrum Wednesday? Heck, maybe you should even relax with a glass of wine prior to reading the post. It will be more entertaining.)

FROM: [iJH-OldSpiceGuy, VP of "SmellsGood" Apts Mgt Co.[/i]
TO: Resident-Formerly-Known-as-"K"

"The beautiful thing about the reviews on XXXXiki.com is that they're not anonymous which means they're actually real comments by a real person. We truly appreciate your review and totally understand your concerns. Would it be OK to remove your last name and just call you K___? Or maybe just "K"?

FROM: Resident-Formerly-Known-as-"K"
TO: JH-OldSpiceGuy, VP of SmellsGood Apartments Mgt. Co.
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2010 8:31 PM
Subject: follow-up

Hi JH-OldSpiceGuy, VP of SmellsGood Apartments Mgt Co.


Thanks for your time to respond to my review about NiftyStation Apartments. While I loved living at NiftyStation, I prefer not to have my name listed on the website. Would you be able to take care of this?

I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much.Very best,

Resident-formerly-known-as-"K"

111-1111 phone
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Dear Resident-formerly-known-as-"K",

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. wrote the following response to your review of NiftyStation:


"K"-- THANK YOU for taking the time to write a review. My name is JH-OldSpiceGuy and I'm the VP at SmellsGood Apartment Homes. Sorry it took me so long to respond. We read every review and learn from all comments. Please know if we can every help you in any way, let us know. You can reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 222-2222.


Click to view all Ratings, Reviews and Responses for NiftyStation

Thanks again for your review and stay in touch!
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Tamela Coval's Avatar
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AAAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!
Sorry Brent, this is me, Tamela, posting as OldSpiceGuy! You had warned us bloggers that the format had changed and I now look like a sock puppet.
AAARRRGGGHHH! Apologies! I'm an idiot AND OldSpiceGuy!
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Lawrence Berry, CPM's Avatar
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Great reply Tamela, and I would never have guessed you were a guy...all be it you smell really good.

Outside of this, I ask managers to sit residents down at their computer when they come in with great things to say about a site or staff and pull up the site for them. Don't miss out on the chance to make it easy for them to post something good about your site. We all know this site is mostly people P***** off, however, you can use it effectively if you make the effort. Might as well use it to your advantage when you can. I have one computer at a site that has easy access and the apartmentratings.com site in the favorites so I can pull it up going to the page directly for my sites. Open the box for them to write comments and say, "We would really appreciate you taking a few seconds to share your positive experience, especially when most people are more concerned about being negative. Thank your time and consideration, and I will make sure we also share the comments with the team."
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Antonia's Avatar
Antonia
I just stumbled on this topic today, but it is a good one. I've often thought my management team discounted too quickly the ripples the website can cause.
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Mark Juleen's Avatar
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I totally knew that was you Tamela!
Posted 12 years 3 weeks ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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As it relates to dealing with or "using" aptratings.com we like to say it this way - if you want better ratings on apartmentratings.com, stop worrying about the site and start worrying more about consistently delivering superior service, improving communications and having the entire staff buy into the concept of creating a “culture of responsiveness.” These are the things our research consistently shows powerfully impact satisfaction.

There is an inherent issue with aptratings.com and yelp - how residents are recruited to participate. Of course there is no recruitment. The site was initially built as a gripe site. Who goes to that site besides residents simply hoping to complain to the world? Residents looking to move! And why are they looking to move? Other than the 17% of residents who are moving due to relocation and 14% planning to buy a home, the rest are not renewing due to issues that are controllable to varying degrees (with staff performance being the top category).

Here’s why all of this is so important. One can play down the issue of aptratings.com, but the rubber meets the road when a prospect/resident decides to shop for a new apartment home. When they run a Google search for apartments in their area, or for your apartment, aptratings.com typically shows up high in the search, if not first – and probably higher than the property’s or company’s marketing site. Once there, of course they take a survey for where they are currently living, and our research shows they are much more likely than not to give negative ratings - again, because they are at that site looking to leave their current home due to dissatisfaction. This is why the scores are so low. How low are they?

We analyzed how our clients' properties fared on aptratings and yelp, versus the scores they received with our feedback programs. We took the twenty highest scoring properties that work with us, and then randomly selected forty properties from our massive database. Then we looked at the scores these sixty properties earned on aptratings and yelp to see how different they were.

We found that our clients scores with us were 40% and 56% higher than the ratings on aptratings and yelp. Our clients' property average scores fell into what we call the “superior” range, while the aptratings scores fell into the “warning” category, and yelp scores were in the “red flag” range. Aptratings and yelp thus help very few communities – prospects rarely see a four star property!

So how do you combat this? A number of ideas have already been shared. For those of you who outsource resident satisfaction feedback programs, whether they be annual surveys or 365 day/year touchpoint programs (unclosed prospects, move-in, work order follow up, pre-renewal) – leverage your performance, even if the scores are only average (as they will likely be higher than what's on aptratings!). Using our example, the average property has real, legitimate and strong scores to promote to the world…so use them! Do what we suggest to all of our clients: promote your third party survey scores in every sensible place possible. We even provide digital logos so that properties can proudly promote their performance. And the results from our own client satisfaction survey that we conduct each year with our clients, almost 25% of our senior level client contacts reported having been told by properties that they had rented apartments due to advertising the award they won with us.

As Deon Sanders once said, “You ain’t cocky if you can do it.” If you have great scores from outsourced programs, proudly promote your outstanding performance…you earned it, you deserve it, and you will reap the rewards!

Whether or not you have a feedback program, but have low ratings on aptratings and yelp…it’s time for everyone on your staff to get refocused on communication, responsiveness and service delivery.

Rating sites are here to stay. We all use them to help select a hotel, car or flat screen TV...and your residents are no different. While we talk about aptratings.com and yelp, there are quality rating sites out there who are part of/support the multifamily “family.” When done right, and when you deliver great service, a rating site can and should be your most effective marketing tool for today's online prospects.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
anonymous's Avatar
anonymous
Brent,

How concerned should one be if ones manager and assitant manager are both writing lies on ratings to cover their asses, enforcing those not responsible for their actions to do the same; cover for their asses!

Sincerely,
Aononymous
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Tim Grace's Avatar
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Doug, even if one were to grant that the sampling bias that you argue is inherent to online user ratings/reviews does limit the projectability of that data, I think your recommendation to promote your third-party research data is no real replacement.

It's clear that a large (majority?) segment of consumers care primarily about peer reviews and crave the transparency that online review sites/content offer, even when these peer reviews are anonymous. Another segment of consumers may turn a skeptical eye to user reviews that lack appropriate context (i.e. does this person actually live there/do they really own that product?), favoring a trusted source of expert content to advise them, like a CNet review or Consumer Reports rating.

Nowhere have I seen a category of consumers who say "Yep, that positive rating that property told me they got from some survey company I've never heard of really eased my fears about living here." Perhaps if JD Power got into the apartment satisfaction rating game that could change (which would be terrible for consumers - those guys are among the worst researchers I've encountered), but with all due respect, SatisFacts "seal of approval" is 100% meaningless to consumers.

Say what you want about reviews sites only representing a piece of the puzzle (a reasonable skepticism), but suggesting that properties merchandise internal satisfaction research they commissioned through SatisFacts or others as a substitute is irresponsible and clearly self-serving. Consumers simply won't be compelled by claims they can't really source, verify or fully understand and, like it or not, they are more likely to trust an anonymous review on AptRtgs. This isn't to say that doing satisfaction research isn't extremely valuable for internal benchmarking and trending, just that it isn't going add much to the property review conversation being held here.

As you initially suggest, the focus should be on quality of product and service, not on the practice of sculpting reviews.

TG
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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I'm split with you guys on this one. First of all, Doug you say that to get better ratings on apartmentratings.com, just provide superior service and not worry about the site itself. But then you also say that the communities you have worked with still have low scores - so it seems to me that the improved service isn't affecting the apartmentratings.com score. (We are only talking about the affect on apartmentratings.com, not the affect on operations/turnover/etc, which are still large). So I still think communities can't take a "set it and forget it" attitude with the site. And even though there are multifamily-friendly ratings sites coming into play, which I love, that still doesn't mean that apartmentratings.com can just be ignored in my opinion, as it remains incredibly popular no matter the flaws.

Now as for promoting internal ratings or third party ratings, I actually think that is a great idea. Yes, consumers will discount the rating to a certain extent if they haven't heard of it before, but it will still have some effect. The only way, in my opinion, where it could turn bad is if it is a completely bogus rating or doesn't honestly evaluate the property. Over-glorifying a property that doesn't live up to those expectations, can actually make the property look even worse in comparison.

And to anonymous - If you have a manager and assistant manager writing lies to cover themselves, then you have a lot bigger problems than apartmentratings.com!
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Tim Grace's Avatar
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Brent, I suppose I agree touting some internal sat. metrics to consumers can't hurt, but simply don't think it can help in any material way. Maybe it's the skeptic in me, but I firmly believe that people are inherently mistrustful of claims they can't tie to something they know, so some statement like "85% of our residents are happy living here, according to a SatisFacts survey we commissioned" is falling on deaf ears.

So, while it probably can't hurt you to try this, I'd argue that you are better off focusing attention on tactics that actually have the potential to influence.

TG
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Anonymus's Avatar
Anonymus
What do you think should be done if the Manager and the Assistant Manager are being told by the owners that they have to have X# of good ratings on the website by the end of the week and that they need to make them up as necessary to get it done?

Morally and Ethically this is not a good situation in my eyes. Having been in the situation myself I know it is a bad feeling. After leaving the company what would possibly happen if the went on a posted that they were forced into doing it and they should not believe the lies?
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Well, when you state it like that of course it wouldn't be effective! :) But I'm of the opinion that people are surprisingly trusting on the Internet - they take things as facts if it appears to come from a reliable source that has done some sort of research. A badge that appears to come from a third party that simply says a percentage and the words "approval rating" would be seen as legit by many apartment hunters, in my opinion. Shoot, Toni Blake said she had success with communities giving out made up awards to themselves, so this should definitely work!

And Doug - you should contact Mike Whaling and figure a way to get the rating on his Turn Social bar.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Anonymous - Wow, that is sad to hear. Yes, that is incredibly unethical and it puts the onsite team in a horrible position. Ideally, the manager and assistant manager would refuse the order and leave the company if it came to that, which might be a good idea regardless. But in today's economy, or life in general, taking the high ground isn't always so easy.

As for posting on apartmentratings.com that they were forced to post those items, I don't know if it's worth it. They could contact the site and tell them that the posts are not legit, but openly warring on the site seems like it's going to cause more trouble than it's worth.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Anonymous's Avatar
Anonymous
With the status of job availability it is very tough decision. Thankfully, I have made my way out of it and in a much better place with a company that couldnt care less about ratings on websites like that.

I my eyes I think it is a useful tool but also know that typically only people who are angry and unhappy tend to be the ones that will speak up. Whats the saying for every person that is happy they will tell one person while for each angry person they will tell 10.

Everyones experience will be different at every property and in the end we have to look at the source on most of them. Most of the people posting are children in my eyes. Most are either on their first year out of their parents house or maybe a few years out so when things like they pay their rent late and have a late fee, they get angry. I think alot of people can see through their anger.

However, In a VERY recent experience I have found some of the responses to be very true. I hired a manager from a different company and the storys about how they acted and treated tenants came to be true at my property and that person was let go in only 5 weeks. Found that very interesting.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Anonymous's Avatar
Anonymous
I found this interesting...

What do you think should be done if the Manager and the Assistant Manager are being told by the owners that they have to have X# of good ratings on the website by the end of the week and that they need to make them up as necessary to get it done?

Morally and Ethically this is not a good situation in my eyes. Having been in the situation myself I know it is a bad feeling. After leaving the company what would possibly happen if the went on a posted that they were forced into doing it and they should not believe the lies? Enter code here
Please note: although no board code and smiley buttons are shown, they are still usable.
Anonymus


Three years ago I worked for a company who could care less about the ratings. This company took the "you must take these with a grain of salt".

I later worked for a company who wanted this website to be used as a bonafide marketing tool. Like the person above said, to keep my job I ended up creating all kinds of bogus email addresses in order to ensure positive ratings were posted. Trust me, I questioned this everytime, both personally and professionaly. Unfortunately I couldn't afford to leave my job at the time. The craziest part was being told to recruit residents to say nice things on the site. I remember making calls before leaving the office to residents asking, if not begging them, to post something nice before the morning so I wouldn't get chewed out the next day. I did leave the job and am now with a reputable company who would never ask that of their staff. Since that time, I much like a former company I worked with... I take those ratings with a grain of salt.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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Great reply, Tim. By no means are there delusions of grandeur in my earlier posting. I am not suggesting satisfaction awards are a replacement to rating sites. Being in the feedback business and being a consumer, I support rating sites; transparency is a great thing. The challenge for the industry and its players is how to deal with results from a given site that are tainted by how the ratings are collected. That is what this discussion has been about. I am simply saying that an apartment community should tout third party awards wherever they can.

One would be foolish to not promote results and actual testimonials given that these are based on surveys completed by residents – whether from us, CEL or whatever third party source! It’s one thing to write an ad that touts a property – awards can validate the messaging, essentially saying “You can read about all of our great features and amenities, but now look what our residents say and how much they love it here.”

I appreciate your issues with JD Power studies and their methodologies. That said, companies pay immense dollars to include the awards in their ads…and even focus entire ad campaigns on the awards they have won. And JD did try to enter the industry several years ago, unfortunately it did not last long, partially due to the astronomical cost plus the major five digit figure add-on cost if you wanted to include their logo in marketing.

All I know is the empirical feedback we have receive perennially from our own client survey continues to show a healthy percent of operators reporting that renters have cited seeing the award and that it impacted their decision to rent there.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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Brent, you shared some great thoughts…

You commented on my point of how our clients' property scores with us were 40% higher than their score on aptratings.com. In reference to client properties having lower scores on aptratings than from our programs, you noted “so it seems to me that the improved service isn't affecting the apartmentratings.com score.” That got us thinking, so we dove into aptratings and randomly selected 100 non-client properties to see how the scores on that site would compare with the scores of our client properties on aptratings. FYI, we randomly selected two properties from the largest market in each of the fifty states, and only selected property scores where there were a minimum of five residents rating the property. How did these random properties rate versus our clients?

Our client scores on aptratings were 9% higher than non-client properties: 3.08 vs. 2.83.

Nearly a ten point variance is significant, so I feel comfortable saying companies that really focus on service, regardless of whether or not they have their own survey program, will get higher scores in any rating environment. FYI, the SatisFacts Index overall average score for all client properties is 4.07…which falls into our “superior” rating category.

Interestingly, this 9% higher rating for our client properties is eeringly the same as an important metric from our client satisfaction survey: our clients report an annual resident turnover rate that is more than 9 points lower than the rate reported by NAA in the annual income and expense survey. Are these two “9” figures a coincidence? While I have my thoughts, who knows...and regardless the impact is huge. Using our $4,305 figure for the cost of each move-out in today’s market (including vacancy loss, concessions, marketing costs, turn costs, etc.), a 5,000 unit portfolio with a 9 point lower turnover equates to NOI being $1,937,250 higher and asset value being $27,675,000 higher. I’d say this validates the importance of focusing on blocking and tackling (plus measuring and promoting).

Brent, you noted, “Doug, you say that to get better ratings on apartmentratings.com, just provide superior service and not worry about the site itself.” I am not saying to ignore aptratings.com - I am simply saying that the best defense is a good offense – focus on service, work orders, communication, responsiveness – the blocking and tackling of property management. Our client’s property scores being 9% higher on aptratings.com than non-clients scores validates this point I think. And my other point is to get the maximum return from resources and assets you already have – and that includes proudly promoting strong resident satisfaction scores earned with whatever third party research company you might use (whether from CEL, SatisFacts, or whomever). There is no downside in any environment to promoting positive results earned. Like I pointed out in an earlier post, a healthy percent of our clients consistently report in our annual satisfaction survey that they get rentals by promoting their awards in guides, with the ILS, and the like.
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Brent Williams's Avatar Topic Author
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Great results, and a fantastic marketing angle, Doug! "Our clients have a 9% better rating on apartmentratings.com than the average apartment community." I would include that in all marketing materials ASAP if I were you!
Posted 12 years 2 weeks ago
Jenny's Avatar
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Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Last edit: by Jenny.
Pete Maysonet's Avatar
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In our employee training sessions, we actually teach our employees to direct our residents to these type of websites to provide their positive experience with everyone, and encourage them to write letters to our corporate office. As for the negative inputs, we encourage our Property Managers to visit the websites at a minimum once a month, and ensure that all negative postings are addressed and that the issue is rectified to the best of our abilities. This has really worked in many of our sites, as our scores are typically very high and our responses are usually extremely helpful and beneficial.
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Bob Wainner's Avatar
Bob Wainner
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Last edit: by Bob Wainner.
Nadina Cole-Potter's Avatar
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I come to this discussion as a broker for buyers of multifamily communities. Currently, we are pursuing "off market" "distressed" properties for our clients. That is, the properties are not listed for sale in the usual places where brokers let other brokers know a community is for sale. But the "distress" could be as simple as having paid too much and leveraged too heavily and failing to anticipate a falling market (I am in Phoenix). In doing so, instead of starting with the listing broker's marketing package (welcome to Fantasyland!), we compile our own dossier on the property. One of the last resources we use is ApartmentRating.com.

Yeeesh!!! Here is my take: 1) In my book, the most important accomplishment of a property management company (and its employees) is to preserve and increase the value of the property -- in the eyes of prospective and current tenants and in the eyes of potential buyers. Everything else a property manager does should arise from that goal. 2) What happens in ApartmentRatings.com isn't just a matter of good ratings vs. poor ratings. That is too simplistic.

What amazes me over and over is that it is apparent that many property managers are not even monitoring ApartmentRatings.com regularly and NOT FIXING THE PROBLEMS if they do! Attributing complaints to a disgruntled tenant doesn't get it. Because the same problems keep occurring again and again on the same property. And they are not monitoring the ratings of similar communities in the same neighborhood because if they did -- or if they knew their job -- they would make sure those problems did not occur at their own communities.

Finally, although I haven't explored the "I am the manager" link, it seems to me that instead of chasing positive reviews as counterweights, managers should write their own posts to the effect, "Thank you so much for sharing this information with us. We were not aware of the problem until now. Please know we will do everything in our power to correct it and will write again on this site letting you know what we have done to fix it. Please feel free to call on me in the office so we can discuss the problem more fully." Then use some creative interventions. And post again when things have been fixed (quickly, I hope). For instance, in this area, cockroaches seem to be a problem. Spraying is toxic and doesn't solve it (and it's true that some people are dirtier than I ever imagined anyone could be). However, giving all tenants 12 oz of boric acid powder (very cheap) to sprinkle in cupboards, on floors and on kitchen countertops is a nontoxic way to kill and prevent cockroaches. I also read research that said that small group meetings with tenants to show them other preventive methods (like using tied plastic bags for trash, cleaning off countertops and stove tops regularly, etc.) in a friendly way (let us help you protect your children)and also explaining that cockroaches do not respect apartment boundaries (and, in some geographical areas, income status) reduces the cockroach population. And if one of the postings says the trash bins are overflowing by the time the service picks it up, then for heaven's sake, add more bins and pay the extra pickup charge! And post on ApartmentRatings.com to say that you did.

If there is criminality, invite the police department to work with you to get rid of it (and the tenants who are causing it) and to prevent it proactively. We get police reports for our clients prior to their making an offer and heavy police calls at specific properties will bring the property price down (or have a buyer walk away). Several landlords and property managers have even set aside a small apartment for the police to operate an office until the place was transformed.

Finally, we are learning in our due diligence that many leasing agents lie, give conflicting information to tenants, fail to return deposits to tenants who leave units clean, don't keep promises, give outrageous concessions to get the units filled, are the tenants' new best friend when signing them up and act like they are pond scum once they move in, bait with immaculate model apartments and then have tenants move into dirty, moldy, leaking units, spring extra charges that were not disclosed, etc. And that is in "nice", mega-bucks-corporate owned communities!

There is no excuse for any of it!
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Marla's Avatar
Marla
We were doing some follow-up on a community trying to troubleshoot and find out why this community received so many phone calls and internet leads but a very low appointment show ratio. Some of the feedback we received was they continued to do more research online and came cross the poor ratings on apartmentratings.com so did not show up for their appointment.

We started promoting the website to the current residents and asked for positvie feedback to increase our ratings because the comments were from past management. So many great improvments have been made!!!

We also started offering a gift card for dinner if the customer who mentioned they did not show up for their appointment because of the poor ratings and asked them to come by, see for themselves and if we did not blow them away with the service we would buy them dinner!

Those two things seemed to get us going in the right direction.

We also joined apartmentratings.come for a fee so we can have access to more information. It has been a while but I believe in order for a manager to be able to reply they have to join for a fee?
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Dan Ferris's Avatar
Dan Ferris
I have read hundreds of these Apartment Reviews for many different
MF properties. Seems to be WAY TOO MAY "negative" reviews. But,
I have also seen many that HAVE to have been written by THE
PROPERTY MANAGERS...possibly in an effort to do some "damage
control"...to offset the bad reviews. Because, those bad reviews
bring their RATING PERCENTAGE "down"...and that could cost the Property Manager LEASES and $$$$$. I believe Property Manager's are "supposed" to ID themselves on their reviews...but, I haven't seen one yet. But, when you've lived at a property with a LOT of
serious problems...and your read FANTASTIC GLOWING reviews, sure
makes you wonder WHO wrote those reviews. Maybe "some" of the
bad reviews are being written by competition, don't know. This is
definitely a CHALLENGE to get these review sites to work for you.
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Brian Ralls's Avatar
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I was not aware that offering a small $5 incentive and a chance at winning a larger prize for residents to take the time to post their thoughts on our properties, whether they be negative or positive might be illegal (BTW we did get negative reviews and gave them the $5 gift cards as well and at the same time got the opportunity to address their concerns).

I went and read the regulatory docs that you linked to and found the following distinction:

"a consumer who purchases a product with their money and praises it on a blog or message board will not be deemed to be providing an endorsement"


It sounds as though we fall under this distinction as we were rewarding residents who currently purchase our product. I do appreciate your bringing this to my attention however and I will have our Attorneys look at this for assurance that we are not in violation of any laws or regulations.

We made it clear in our communications with residents that we encourage all feedback negative or positive and handled all the details of the program from a Corp level so they did not feel as if negative feedback might bring repercussions from their on site staff.
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Donald Davidoff's Avatar
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WARNING--long post :-)

I think the purpose of the phrase you quote is to make it clear that un-compensated endorsements from paying customers are always fine (a common sense rule). The challenge comes when a paying customer is also compensated for their posting.

Check out ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm for the actual announcement from the FTC. Specifically it says:

“The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

I’m not a lawyer, so it’s worth checking with your attorneys. It’s possible that a $5 card could be considered “not material,” but it’s also possible that any payment of any kind is “material.” I would certainly argue that, if you’re getting a noticeable increase in postings, then it is by definition material.

More information is at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf. In particular go to the end of this 12-page document. Under the section 255.5 “Disclosure of material connections” there are many examples. Examples 7 and 9 seem the most relevant to the online world.

Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.

Example 9: A young man signs up to be part of a “street team” program in which points are awarded each time a team member talks to his or her friends about a particular advertiser’s products. Team members can then exchange their points for prizes, such as concert tickets or electronics. These incentives would materially affect the weight or credibility of the team member’s endorsements. They should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, and the advertiser should take steps to ensure that these disclosures are being provided.

The award you mention is less than the value of either example, so maybe it’s ok? Then again, the clear FTC concern is whether the credibility of the endorser is compromised. I think even for $5, the answer is yes—if the FTC reads it that way, you’re at risk.
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Dennis Smillie's Avatar
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As long as ApartmentRatings is structured to deliver feedback without ownership of the comments scores will always be significantly lower there. Its the back end of the distribution curve, plain and simple.

ApartmentRatings is about their placement in the SEO environment, not validated feedback. Look at what drives their revenue model.

If you survey, your scores have positive value, and are typically 40% higher than ApartmentRatings.com. Use them to your benefit. They are yours, and more reflective of your customers perceptions in the aggregate than anonymous sites.

If you don't survey your residents,you are still surveying anyway. (YELP<APARTMENTRATINGS.COM etc) You just don't have any control over the "findings".

Bottom line - carpe diem - seize the day - go forth and survey!
Posted 11 years 11 months ago
Christy Metz's Avatar
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I'm actually doing a conference call with the folks at Apartment Ratings today. Came here to take the industry's pulse on this website and do some research before. I have a community that is getting some bad press that we suspect may be coming from an ex-employee, but of course, there is no way to prove that. Additionally, I came across a post that is a blatant violation of fair housing and tagged it to be removed....48 hours ago, and no response. The icing on the cake is that in order to respond to any of the allegations made on this site, I must JOIN their Manager Center by paying a per property one-time registration fee of $100 and then pay a per year fee on top. I have a hard time swallowing this, and would tend to lean toward being proactive in employee training and resident communication before doing this. What's the feel out there?
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Donald Davidoff's Avatar
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The big issue with AR is that, as Dennis points out, they allow (encourage?) anonymous postings which biases scores down and flaming up. If they really cared, they'd implement a model like tripadvisors.com does for hotels.

You may be able to get them to remove clear legal violations; although from experience, I can tell you that they won't remove libelous material just on request. They fall back on the "we just provide the forum, so we're not responsible for the material" legal position and tell us that, if we get a court order to remove the material, of course they'll comply.

The fee they charge to respond sure feels like a shakedown. You might be able to negotiate a reduction or elimination of the initial fee based on full participation of your communities, but they'll definitely still charge the $15 per community per month ongoing fee.

They've built up strong SEO, so you have no choice but to consider them.
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Christy Metz's Avatar
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Yet Apartment Ratings can ask US to pay in order to join Manager Center to counterpost?
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Lawrence Berry, CPM's Avatar
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Unfortunately this is a situation that is hard to fight. Residents can post anything, and as it states in their disclaimer, "Please bear in mind, many comments posted in online forums are highly opinionated. A negative opinion is not defamation-- and until a statement is proven to be a false statement of fact, we treat it as an opinion. As such, the accuracy or fairness of an opinion is typically NOT a basis for removal. If you have been advised that ApartmentRatings.com can be held liable for comments posted by users, please read our information for landlords."

The catch is for a resident to post it is free, but for us to provide our post (as there is two sides to every story) it costs us a fee. Too bad there can't be an effort to get everyone to say, "Hell no!" to what amounts to extortion in their fees for landlords. I would love for Fox news to get this story and see the extortion that it really is.



Read more: www.apartmentratings.com/rate/abuse#ixzz169M8LaEJ
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Ellen Thompson's Avatar
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There is something you can do, and that is stop advertising on apartmentratings.com.

Many of the ILSs are unknowingly running their Google Display Network ads on apartmentratings.com. Ask them to exclude the site in AdWords.

If you are advertising on Google AdWords and didn't opt out of Google Display Network (formerly content match) then your property ads are appearing there, too. It takes just a few minutes to exclude the site, which is something we did some time ago on our campaigns.

Here is how you do it:

adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=112273
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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One challenge is that someone Google-ing a property's name doesn't know that when aptratings comes up first or second in the search...that the site is not a ratings site, but a gripe site...and then they see the typically low scores (and not surprisingly low due to who posts ratings on the site). Interesting...we compared a random selection of our clients properties' scores that they earned with us against their scores on aptratings...our scores were 40% higher...of course that's due to a feedback program's results vs. those of a gripe site.

What we tell our clients is to work on the service delivery best practices that we monitor and educate on, so as to reduce the likelihood for upset residents. Seek out feedback at key touchpoints to identify if any issues, look at overall areas where there is an opportunity for improvement in best practices that we monitor...then start the planning process overall, and the remarkable recovery process with each resident in need. Our clients can also post positive resident comments from our feedback programs on aptratings (of course if they pay) as well as on their portals, in ads.
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Daisy Nguyen's Avatar
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Asking for the review is a great idea, but I have my sites go one step further - whenever possible:

If they have someone in their office where they have recently resolved a problem, taken care of something, etc. (a positive interaction), I have them bring up the site on the computer and ask if they wouldn't mind sharing their experience, while the leasing agent/manager/person asking for review goes and makes them some coffee/tea/etc.

It only takes a minute or two to write the review, and they can submit it while they are thinking about it, and while you go get them some coffee.

It's worked like a charm on many of my sites. We reserve this approach for those residents who are always in our offices. - Not on someone's first visit. Gauge the resident's willingness to do this.
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Donje Putnam's Avatar
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My problem with them is that they have a bug in their system that did not allow me to post a copy/pasted response, even from text editor (with no special formatting). But they have nothing to tell me not to do this. And after they took down my response they put "test" up and left it as the manager's response to the issue and didn't tell me! I'm still waiting for some things to be approved about my property, which is part of my "paid" subscription.

Urgh. Most of our properties do okay on there but one of mine is a doozy. Working to improve the issues. I've found that people who get to vent in person are less likely to vent online.
Posted 11 years 8 months ago
Amber Doyle's Avatar
Amber Doyle
I keep little cards in my desk that i give to people when they compliment their living experience at our property, the card urges them to go to aparmtent ratings and make a review, we actively reply to reviews on there and are honest and open. We getgood feedback from people who visit the site. We will not pay to use apartmentratings.
Posted 9 years 6 months ago
Jenette's Avatar
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I read through all the responses - there's quite a bit of information offered that's for sure. Agreed that it's tough to justify that manager subscription at $100 per (I thought it was 180 but read 100 here) plus yearly fees. As I'm sure some of you have noted, multiply that by 20, 30 etc and you're looking at an investment.

So do this - just reply as the manager. Create a username that makes it clear whoever is responding is the manager. I've done this for several properties and it's been just as effective as that ridiculously expensive subscription account. Bottom line, your property gets a response out there and the issue is addressed or, most importantly, a possible multi-tenant rant scenario is avoided.
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Posted 8 years 4 months ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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Greetings. Great posting Jennette. I applaud you for monitoring and responding to the reviews. Tons of research shows responding to positive and negative responses has a significant impact on brand perception and the likelihood to buy. And this certainly is critical on what is by far the largest apartment review site.

I do not agree with the statement that the cost for Manager Center is "ridiculously expensive." The annual fee is $230/property (there also is a one-time $100 initial set up fee). When one considers that the SatisFacts Index shows ApartmentRatings.com has become one of the top five ILS and has surpassed all printed apartment guides as a leads source, is $230/year expensive? How much do you spend with apartment guides and ILSs? I venture to guess many times more, with that figure into the $3,000-$5,000 range if you are also in a printed guide and their ILS.

Well over 30 million unique visitors go to AR.com each year - driven by the impact of millions of reviews and millions of unique visitors have on Google rankings (typically a property's page on AR.com achieves one of the top five rankings when you Google your property). A small $230/year investment gives you the ability to truly manage one of the top five online sites your prospects are visiting before they make a decision on where to visit or lease with. $230/year delivers the ability to manage what 30+ million visitors see. For example:

- Rather than you having to check your property pages on the site, with Manager Center you get notified every time there is a post on a property page.

- When you respond to postings, you are recognized by the system and noted as the verified manager, which of course lends greater credibility to replies.

- Instead of your residents managing what photos prospective residents see (say of a broken kitchen cabinet or some other unsavory photo of the dumpster ares), you can upload attractive photos that paint an accurate picture of your community.

- Continuing on how you can manage what prospects see, you can also add marketing text, rents and more. AR.com also now offers a "lead" product that delivers active, interested leads to your leasing office.

- A solid reporting suite is part of Manager Center, with obvious benefits coming from being able to monitor from 30,000' as well as down to the resident level.

- By the way, AR.com is shortly going to be rolling out a dramatically redesigned consumer facing site loaded with suggestions received as a result of meetings with numerous industry leaders.

Again, the cost is only $230/year...not per month, but per year.

Then there is what has become a huge benefit of subscribing to Manager Center...the ability to use the significant Verified Resident Program. This is an add-on program where one can integrate their program with us and their property pages. Resident postings as displayed as from a Verified Resident. Over 150 client have signed their portfolios up for this program since rolled out last year. When integrated with our Insite program, it reaches out to all residents who, for example, just moved in or just had a work order completed and asks them to take the brief AR.com survey.

In an analysis of the impact for first 75 clients after just 90 days, VRP led to: a 336% increase in the number of postings/year on property pages on AR.com (and thus a much better cross section of opinions); a 34% increase in the recommend score. By proactively requesting feedback, this leads sound cross section of opinions paints a good snapshot of what residents think.

Besides programs like this, other posters in this discussion shared what we also recommend to clients - including to promote your AR.com page to residents (cards in the office to hand out when residents come in to rave about you and your team; link on your Facebook page; etc.).

Sorry for the long reply. These MFI discussion groups are awesome as they let us all share our perspectives. I applaud your focus on responding to postings, and hope that my thoughts had some value. Rock on!
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Posted 8 years 4 months ago
Jenette's Avatar
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Thank you and no worries on a long post, as a friend of mine says, it's all gravy.

I understand the justifications offered, so will redirect the perspective of prioritizing where the $ is spent - which is always subjective.

Without going into too much detail, when you have a number of properties that are struggling to recover from (past) mismanagement, are situated in high vacancy areas and all the issues that go along with it, spending money on AR is not on the list. That's where the creativity starts. ;)
Posted 8 years 4 months ago
Doug Miller's Avatar
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Having cut my teeth in the biz over two decades ago as a marketing director for a fee manager with mostly C class properties (aka no budgets - just all elbow grease)...I hear ya!

I have some thoughts I'd love to bounce around. If you'd like to brainstorm a bit, call me on my cell any time! It's 410.598.1400.

Doug
Posted 8 years 4 months ago
Sandy Martin's Avatar
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Great discussion!

I just have to chime in that I get great, quality prospects from AR.com, but I am 100% recommended.

I read all of the ratings for all of the apartments in my area and I am seeing ratings increase and more manager responses than before.

Responding to negative reviews is vital!!!! It takes the edge off the review.

I think it is vital to a marketing plan to make 100% use of this site and invest in the fee. I believe the benefits of it are worth it.
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Posted 8 years 3 months ago
Rose M's Avatar
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I started doing this years ago, but now apartmentratings has a clause that managers cannot sign up without paying the fee.

The way I use apartmentratings effectively is by asking ALL residents to post a review- not just happy ones. Asking for reviews, even if they will be negative, allows us to solve issues we might not have been aware of otherwise.

I have a flyer posted in my common areas asking for reviews, hand out business cards that ask for a review at lease renewal, and when I email the follow up email after move out, I ask for a review again.
Posted 8 years 3 months ago