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Student Retention: We're Not Gonna Take It

college kidsIt may come as no surprise that students generally score their satisfaction with rental housing a full quarter of a point lower than the average renter. Those who manage student housing can attest to students (and their parents) having higher expectations and being more vocal about their opinions.  This makes sense, as this may be the first time a student is away from home and their parents are not caring for the home. Many have no idea what housing in the real world is like! And while school may be out for the summer, there are many students (and their parents) who are finalizing their decisions on where the student will be living next fall. Here are some standards to put in place in order to position your community to be the student's home away from (mom and dad's) home.1. Be courteous and professionalAccording to the SatisFacts Student Index, students give their property management office team an "Average" rating when it comes to basic courtesy. Students are people too! What you may be interpreting as entitlement or rudeness may be a cover for insecurity and misunderstanding. Use every interaction as a positive opportunity to educate them on what they can expect from the property team, the best way to go about submitting work orders, what the timeline for resolution might be and why. Just as parents aim to shape their children to be self-sufficient, confident members of society, Student housing providers can aim to shape students into responsible, educated renters.2. Communicate - their wayStudents,......
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What does the Satisfacts Research survey on “All That Apply: Residents’ Leading Marketing Sources” really mean?

NAA’s UNITS magazine published a Satisfacts Research survey in their April issue titled “All That Apply:  Residents’ Leading Marketing Sources.”  The web-based survey queried 34,000 apartment residents who had moved within the last year, asking what sources they used from a prepared list of 36 possibilities, giving the option to check up to 20 of these sources. 

A survey question like this can tell us a great deal . . . notably that shoppers are utilizing an abundance of information resources, not surprising for most of us.

But does it really tell us that “Drive-by/signage” is the “leading” source, or that social media is “rarely used”?

Doug Miller, President of Satisfacts, was quite gracious in spending time with me over the phone recently to discuss the methodology behind the survey.  Here’s what I learned, and what you should also know:

·      Survey question:  “When you rented at your community, what sources of information did you use to find out about the community?  Check all that apply, up to 20.” 

·      The list of sources was a simple list, no clarification or further explanation provided

·      There were 15 Internet sources listed under the heading “Internet”, as in “Internet – Apartments.com”, “Internet – Property Website/Portal” and so on.  But many sources were omitted, like RentMineOnline.com, Oodle.com, ApartmentList.com, RentSocial.com and many others that carry apartment content. 

·      Similarly, all print publication sources were listed with an “Apt Guide” heading . . . “Apt Guide – For Rent”, “Apt Guide – Apartment Guide”, “Apt Guide – Apartment Finder” and “Apt Guide – Other”.  While those of us in the industry can muddle through that one, would the typical apartment resident be confused?  As one of the provider names is the same as the heading (Apartment Guide), it is easy to imagine that there was some respondent error here.

·      Facebook was included as one of the “Internet” choices, as well as Twitter and MySpace (really?), but other social media sites were not listed – like Pinterest, community or management company blogs and other sources where the industry has seen a great deal of activity.   

·      ApartmentRatings.com was included as an “Internet” source, but not Yelp.com or the many other ratings & reviews options we see the consumer utilizing.

·      There’s nothing at all in the survey about Mobile as a source – and that means none of the many apps and mobile sites were taken into consideration.  As mobile is the fastest-growing digital resource, this is a big missing component.

So, back to my original question:  Does the survey really tell us that drive-by/signage is the “leading” source?  Just my opinion, but don’t most of us drive a neighborhood we’re thinking about living in?  And while that helps us to know if the geography is right, does it really help a consumer narrow down the specific apartment community they want to take a look at? 

Also, with over 80% of Americans now using the Internet (via their desktops, laptops, smart phones and every other digital device with internet connectivity), and over half of Americans purchasing on line, does it really follow that the highest percentage any Internet provider garnered in the survey (Rent.com) was only 14.1%?  It just doesn’t add up.

Speaking of “adding up,” I saw a recent communiqué where one marketing provider was totaling their print and Internet percentages from this survey to come up with their “share” of usage.  Not so fast – since the survey asked respondents to “check all that apply,” there is overlap in the percentages; totaling is completely erroneous, as the same respondents checked multiple sources. 

As a long-time industry supplier with many years in the marketing arena, it troubles me that some readers might misunderstand these survey results, and that other marketing experts in the field are using the information inappropriately.  Shouldn’t we really be asking (in addition to a more precise usage survey) what sources are meaningful or most helpful?  What type of information is critical in making a decision on where to rent?  How important are ratings/reviews and friend’s recommendations in making your decision?  It seems to me that those questions would give us much more insightful, actionable answers.

I'd love to know your thoughts!

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