Social Media is Out, Ratings and Reviews Are In

HOUSTON, TX - J Turner Research, a leading market research firm exclusively serving the multifamily industry, today announced the findings of Trends in Resident Technology & Communication Preferences: What Do Residents Want?, the largest and most comprehensive multifamily-specific survey to date examining the technology preferences of apartment prospects and residents and the impact these factors have on rental housing decisions. 

Results of the ground-breaking survey provide insight into the ongoing importance of technology-optimized ILSs, drive-by, and referral research by apartment prospects; determine demographic use and absorption of smartphones, tablets, and other devices for researching and communicating with apartment operators and property managers; and investigate emerging resident and prospect patterns in the use of social media and online ratings and reviews sites, often with demonstrable results running counter to widely held industry tenets and the resulting business operations strategies.

For instance, a compelling majority (95 percent) of the 41,303 respondents to the initial 29-question survey said they did not visit Facebook or Twitter during their apartment search. However, 74 percent of respondents reported using ratings and reviews sites, and additionally reported on their perception of the trustworthiness of each site used during the search process.

Information remaining of key importance to apartment prospects on the web includes prices, floor plans, and location, the top three things survey respondents said they look for on an apartment community’s website. When asked for the sources used during their apartment search, prospects reported focusing primarily on Internet Listing Sites (65 percent), drive-by (39 percent), and referrals from friends and family members (24 percent) as the top three search channels for finding a new apartment.

“This survey provided an outstanding opportunity to better understand the dynamic technology expectations of today’s apartment prospects and residents,” said Joseph Batdorf, president of J Turner Research. “It affirmed the power of customer satisfaction-driven referral, offered insight into price expectations by demographic and search method, and laid substantial groundwork for determining the paths prospects take when looking for an apartment—and the devices they use to navigate those paths.”

Trends in Resident Technology & Communication Preferences: What Do Residents Want? explores online apartment search patterns, behaviors, and preferences across 1,231 apartment properties operated by one of the 10 participating multifamily firms, including the Archon Group, Berkshire Property Advisors, the Bozutto Group, Camden Property Trust, Concierge, Essex Property Trust, Forest City Enterprises, Holland Residential, Lincoln Property Company, and Pinnacle, an American Management Services Company.  Survey results were initially announced during a companion panel presentation at the 2012 National Apartment Association Education and Conference entitled Trends in Resident Technology and Communication Preferences: What Do Residents Want?

Additional Technology Preference Survey Findings Include:

  • At 89 and 88 percent respectively, laptop and smartphone ownership is highest among Millennial renters.
  • 89 percent of apartment residents have never communicated with their apartment community via text.
  • 65 percent of survey respondents said they are using their smartphone now more than they did just six months ago.
  • Craigslist is used most often by the youngest apartment search demographics, but leads consistently to the highest rents ($1,298 per month on average).
  • Only 9 percent of apartment residents admit to writing a “mostly negative review” about their community online.

Sixty four percent of survey respondents have volunteered to be included in follow-up research to this survey. In fact, J Turner Research has already completed its first follow-up, to a subset of 10,000 original survey respondents, who further commented on their use of social media. According to the follow-up survey, of those residents who are aware of their community Facebook page, more than two-thirds (66.25 percent) of apartment residents said they “never” interact with it, while almost the remaining third (27.8 percent) say they interact with their community Facebook page for updates about community events and activities.

Based in Houston, J Turner Research specializes in developing and executing innovative and affordable research services for the multifamily industry. The company utilizes e-mail based surveys to accurately measure perceptions of prospective residents, current residents and employees to help owners understand how to optimize operational and marketing efficiencies.