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Rental Trends: Apartment Hunters Rely on Reviews, Search Sites

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and home owner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Renters increasing pay attention to online reviews when searching for their next place, one of several technology trends explored in a recent study by J Turner research reported by Multi-Housing News.

Understanding how renters search for their next place can help landlords decide where to devote their time and energy in order to attract the best possible pool of potential residents. Here are some of the key trends the study identified, based on responses from more than 25,000 residents of 500 properties nationwide. In addition, we included some practical advice on what you can do to capitalize on renters’ search habits.

  1. Renters rely on review sites.

Renters are increasingly consulting reviews and trust them more than they did a few years ago. The study said more than half of renters surveyed look at reviews at the start of their search, and nearly three-quarters use sites such as Google, Yelp and apartmentratings.com to get more info about places they’re considering. Google and Yelp are among the most trustworthy, followed by Apartment Ratings.

While many of the review sites may focus on larger apartment buildings, paying attention to what satisfies Arlington renters, and what they’re complaining about, can be a very useful tool for local landlords. And if you do have a presence on review sites, it pays to monitor it regularly and respond to any negative feedback quickly and professionally.

  1. Social media ranks low among searchers.

Only about 15 percent of apartment searchers rely on Facebook or Twitter, the study said.

By all means, repost your vacancies on Facebook and Twitter to increase the potential that others will share it. But don’t rely on social media as a sole marketing strategy.

  1. Listing sites are the top way to find rentals.

Not surprisingly, using listing sites was the most commonly used tactic, followed by driving by and word of mouth. Apartments.com and Apartmentfinder.com were the most popular sites, each used by about a quarter of apartment hunters surveyed.

This means crafting a solid listing with quality photos and posting it on multiple platforms is key. Consider spending some money for a photographer. Understand what renters in the market are looking for so you can highlight the best your property has to offer. It will pay dividends in the end.

  1. Boomers and Millennials prioritize different things.

The study showed a generational divide among people looking for rentals. Boomers prize peace and quiet, with three quarters ranking it as an important factor. But for millennials, getting a good value ranked higher.

Despite the differences, value and quiet still ranked high for both generations. So, when crafting your marketing, emphasizing the quiet nature of the unit or neighborhood will likely win points. Even those who want to be near the action don’t want to hear it at 3 a.m. on a work night. And with at least two-thirds of each group looking for value, study your local market when setting the rent to avoid overpricing.

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