What Do Renters Want?

Doug Miller, SatisFacts Research, and Mike Whaling, 30 Lines and TurnSocial, present the results of a survey describing what today's renter wants, especially when it comes to social media. And it's not what you think.

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

New York—What are your renters looking for? Do you know what they consider a “must have” vs. a “would be nice”? How are you managing your online reputation? In a webinar yesterday titled “Getting Inside the Head of Today’s Online Renter Behaviors, Preferences and Implications,” Doug Miller, founder and president, SatisFacts Research, and Mike Whaling of 30 Lines and TurnSocial, presented the results of an anonymous online survey describing what today’s increasingly Web-connected renter wants. It’s not what you think.

Today, everyone and their grandmother are connected to the Internet through email, social networking sites and smart phones. In fact, according to Miller, 87.2 percent of residents use smart phones.

And, with the popularity of apartment review sites skyrocketing, it highlights the importance of managing your company’s online reputation.

A reputation management system can be simple to set up. It can be a Google alert, or monitoring what people are saying about you on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.

“We live in a world of transparency,” Whaling said. “It only takes one second to lose your integrity.”

That said, advertisements for vacancies should not be limited to just online marketing.

“People are not all using the same sources [to find an apartment], so you need a broad approach,” Whaling said.

Because renters connected to the Internet has become so common, it is also important to monitor apartment rating sites. A bad rating could completely turn off a prospective renter from your community.

There’s a simple way to increase positive online reviews: Just ask your residents to review you.

According to Miller and Whaling, nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed said that if staff asked them, they would post a positive comment about an apartment; however, only 9 percent of those surveyed had been asked.

So, since so many people are using social media, should property managers try to connect with their residents this way?

Not necessarily, Miller said. “Social media, such as Facebook, has leasing and retention value but to a relatively small percentage of online residents and prospects; however, rating sites are a different story.”

This might seem unexpected. After all, with social media being stressed as something you either have to join or be left behind, many property managers have set up Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to set up a “community” feel in the buildings.

But, surprisingly, renters don’t need a sense of community. In fact, most people aren’t even aware when their apartment building has a social media page.

According to Miller and Whaling, a sense of community and social activities (and “traditional” amenities such as a conference room with WiFi and outlets for recharging electric cars) in the building are considered nice things to have, but are by no means necessities.

What, then, do renters want?

According to the survey, renters want to be able to pay their rents online (as long as there’s no convenience fee) and to have an online portal to submit work orders.

That doesn’t mean that property managers should give up on their social media sites. But Miller stressed it as “icing on the cake.”

Overall, when it comes to renters, communication beats social networking any day.

“It’s not a sense of community people want,” Miller said. “It’s fixing the toilet.”

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