Unraveling the Hidden Facets of Apartment Renting With Secret Shoppers

Tips from MHN's 2023 Leasing Professional of the Year for better renter retention.

Given the escalating demand of renters and the pressing issues of low occupancy rates, multifamily property managers face a constant task of guaranteeing an exceptional living experience for their renters. In addition to that, there is the need to enhance their competitiveness, improve resident satisfaction and drive long-term success in the rental market.

Westminster Management’s Leasing Specialist Yalem Haile
Yalem Hailem, leasing specialist at Westminster Management, was MHN’s 2023 leasing professional of the year. Image courtesy of Westminster Management

Probably one of the most effective ways to evaluate the various aspects of the rental process in apartment communities is to hire a secret shopper. They provide unbiased and detailed feedback by offering a fresh perspective on the property’s strengths and weaknesses.

Their reports are then provided to the property management company, who can use the feedback to identify areas for training, make operational improvements and enhance the overall resident experience.

Benefits of mystery shoppers in multifamily management

The essence of secret shopping is to unravel the hidden facets that shape the renting experience, from initial inquiry to lease signing. Besides receiving an insightful feedback from the mystery shopper due to its unbiased interpretation, hiring a secret shopper can highlight staff training opportunities if needed. By identifying gaps in customer service, property managers can tailor their training programs, ensuring their teams are well-equipped to provide an outstanding resident experience.

Mystery shopping can also help property managers stay ahead of the competition. By understanding how a property compares to competitors in the eyes of potential residents can give a strategic advantage. Lastly, the report obtained from the mystery shopper empowers property managers to implement targeted improvements, fostering a culture of continuous enhancement. By identifying areas of improvement and implementing changes based on feedback, companies can ultimately enhance their competitiveness, improve renter satisfaction and drive long-term success in the rental market.

Secret Shopper Process

Apartment renting is not only about the place itself, but also about the location, amenities, community and lifestyle overall. To do that, a prospective renter must go through a leasing agent.  

The process starts when the mystery shopper assumes the role of a prospective renter—making inquiries either in person, over the phone or online—probing the leasing office with a myriad of questions: How swiftly do they respond to inquiries? Are they knowledgeable about the property’s amenities and leasing terms? These initial interactions set the tone for the entire renting experience. The secret shopper might request a tour, taking note of amenities and apartment layouts, but also how the tour is conducted, how knowledgeable the leasing agent is, and more.

Getting a perfect score

What does it take to get a perfect score on a secret shopper report? Westminster Management’s Leasing Specialist Yalem Haile, who was MHN’s 2023 Leasing Professional of the Year, gave some suggestions.

Beyond the tangible aspects, the secret shopper examines the intangible realm of customer service and satisfaction. This includes the customer service evaluation and the leasing process assessment. How effectively do leasing agents address concerns and resolve issues? Is there a genuine effort to foster a sense of community through resident events and engagement initiatives?

“Achieving a perfect score on a secret shopping report as a leasing agent requires attention to detail, exceptional customer service and a thorough understanding of the renters’ needs,” Haile said.

An agent’s work doesn’t stop there. After the interaction with the potential renter, following up to gather feedback and address any remaining questions or concerns, shows willingness to assist even after the initial contact.

Besides the overall interaction with the potential renter, a leasing agent’s job includes staying informed about local real estate trends, rental rates and market conditions in order to help set competitive rental prices and adjust strategies to attract renters, noted Haile.

The agent needs to ensure the property is clean and well-presented, maintain a professional appearance and demeanor during in-person tours, address all aspects of the renter’s inquiries, paying attention to even the smallest details, anticipate questions and provide thorough, accurate information, all of which the secret shopper is looking for. Additionally, according to Haile, being flexible and accommodating to the renter’s needs by “offering options and solutions that align with their preferences and maintain a positive attitude even when faced with challenges,” can significantly increase changes of receiving a perfect score on a secret shopping report.

You May Also Like