NASDAQ estimates that by the year 2040 — less than two decades from now — a staggering 95% of consumer purchases will be made online. In the meantime, “Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44.0% year over year,” according to an analysis by DigitalCommerce360 — figures that also represent “the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades.”
With more and more business taking place virtually, online reviews are exerting more and more influence over consumers — a trend we can clearly trace through recent statistics. For example, 94% of respondents to a 2020 survey said that positive reviews made them more likely to use a business, compared to 91% of respondents to the same study in 2019. This trend was even more pronounced with regard to negative reviews, which had the ability to influence 92% of the 2020 survey respondents, compared to only 82% of the 2019 respondents. Unsurprisingly, consumer trust in online reviews likewise increased during the same period, with 79% of survey respondents stating they trusted reviews “as much as personal recommendations from friends or family” in 2020, compared to 76% the previous year.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what types of reviews your business receives (a practice that was strictly banned by the FTC in 2017). You can, however, control the way your business responds to reviewers — an invaluable asset for reputation management. And in the multifamily real estate industry, that can make the difference between empty units and paying tenants.
That isn’t just our opinion, of course — it’s supported by new, national data. Let’s take a closer look at some recent research and break down what it means for your business. We’ll also share tips for replying to comments or ratings from tenants, and finally, offer some helpful resources where you can learn even more about the nuts and bolts of responding to reviews.
Why Are Tenant Reviews — And Owner Responses — So Important in the Real Estate Industry?
According to B2B real estate magazine Mann Report, the overall “reputation of the owner/management company” was the second most important factor in determining tenant leasing decisions, surpassed only by “proximity to work or office” locations. This finding came from Mann Report’s analysis of a national survey called the 2020 Apartment Resident Preferences Report, which drew participants from almost 373,000 renters in over 5,330 communities. Crunching the data, Mann Report also found that “nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) said they referenced ratings and review sites when thinking about renting at a specific community” — and that has significant consequences for your business. As Mann Report noted, “85% [of respondents] said online ratings and reviews influenced their current leasing decision,” while 79% said that “ratings and reviews stopped them from visiting a community” altogether. Yet here, one could argue, was Mann Report’s most important finding of all:
“More than half of respondents…[say] that when visiting an apartment opinion site, they expect to see a response from management to all reviews — positive, negative or otherwise — demonstrating the importance of responsiveness, engagement and open communication from management.”
We can’t emphasize that quote enough: over half of all respondents expected to see an owner response to online apartment reviews.
As the data makes clear, your real estate business needs to be ready with a review reply strategy, which can benefit your brand in multiple ways. Not only does responding to reviewers help you satisfy your residents’ expectations more effectively, it also provides you with a powerful tool for managing your reputation. And with “reputation” cited as the number two factor driving lease decisions, shouldn’t your business be aggressively seizing that opportunity?
Reputation management isn’t the only reason to have a review response strategy in place, either. Effective responses can entice new residents, and in some cases, even make current residents change their minds about terminating a lease and leaving your community. Additionally, owner responses can also provide an outlet to help sell your community, giving you a platform to call out “spacious floor plans,” “modern amenities,” “pet-friendly apartments,” “convenient parking,” “courteous service,” “luxury living,” “dazzling views,” or any other selling point you want to communicate to readers.
That being said, there’s a time and place to include — or omit — buzzwords and sales language. For instance, when responding to a tenant who’s angry about slow maintenance or ineffective pest control, it’s more important to offer empathy and provide solutions than it is to mention amenities (no matter how luxurious).
That might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s only one of the numerous considerations that goes into crafting an effective response to a condo, townhouse, or apartment reviewer. So what are some other tips and strategies you need to think about?
What Does Apartments.com Recommend When Writing Responses to Resident Reviews?
Apartments.com, which describes itself as “the leading online apartment listing website…[with] information on more than 1,000,000 available units,” offers a few suggestions that we think make a great starting point.
For example, one tip is to “reach out to the reviewer” by making contact and establishing a dialogue. As Apartments.com explains, an appropriate member of your team “should interact with the reviewer person-to-person,” letting them know that a real individual — not an automated system — is there to listen and assist. Here are two simple ways you can better accomplish this goal in your response:
- Use a personalized signature, such as “-Best, John Smith, Community Manager,” which instantly shows that a specific team member is reachable for support.
- Include contact information where the reviewer can reach you, even if you plan to contact the tenant yourself. Sharing your contact information is an easy, courteous way to make your review both friendlier and more helpful. For example, you might include a sentence such as, “Please contact our leasing office at (###) ###-#### or firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will be happy to [assist you / resolve your concerns / answer your questions in detail / take care of this for you / provide you with more information]!”
On a related note, Apartments.com also recommends that you be “personal and accommodating” in your response — even when the feedback you receive is harsh. We know that biting your tongue can be challenging, particularly in cases where the review is one-sided or exaggerated. However, as Apartments.com explains, this strategy isn’t about capitulating or “giving the customer what they want”; it’s about providing a response that will “protect your company’s name” and public image. By handling your reviews promptly and politely, you’ll represent your business as a brand renters can trust, building a positive, polished, and professional image — one courteous reply at a time.
Looking for more tips on replying to feedback from residents (or apartment applicants)? Here are five great resources to get you started, no matter what types of reviews you need help tackling:
- How to Respond to Positive Reviews
- How to Respond to Negative Reviews
- How to Respond to Neutral Reviews
- Tips for Responding to 1-Star Ratings
- Tips for Responding to 5-Star Ratings
And remember — we update our blog almost every week, so make sure to visit back for the latest insights from our response scribes.
We Respond to Online Reviews for Real Estate Companies, Apartment Buildings, and Housing Complexes
Ultimately, your response to a review could be the deciding factor that entices a tenant — or drives them away. Make sure you choose a trusted review response service to handle your company’s reputation, like Shout About Us.
We work with brands like Chick-fil-A, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Wyndham Garden Hotels, and PostalAnnex+, providing custom responses within 24 hours of each review. Serving agencies and resellers along with multi-location brands, we specialize in the multifamily real estate industry, offering seamless solutions for small, mid-size, and large residential complexes throughout the United States. Whether you manage an exclusive high-end luxury apartment, a quiet suburban community for families, or a trendy budget complex for college students, we tailor our responses to your unique brand and voice to deliver a better customer experience.
What could your business accomplish with more hours in the day? Find out by letting our skilled team of responders manage your company’s reviews. To learn more about our review reply service and how it could benefit your real estate business, contact Shout About Us online or request a demo today.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than five years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.