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Business Transparency

New Study Shows Transparency Appeals to Prospective Residents

June 24, 2020


The resident’s customer journey is being turned on its head during the unprecedented Covid-19 circumstances. Apartment marketers are faced with new challenges on how to “set themselves apart” from the competition.

Sure, social media and other marketing trends continue to evolve, but when it comes down to the resident signing the lease, it’s the pricing action for the apartment home that drives their decision to lease.

Transparency of this information is quickly moving up the chart of desirable data points that prospective apartment residents seek, according to a recent national poll of 500 residents, the plurality of them who pay between $500 and $1,500 in rent, earn $25,00 to $100,000 and live in a mid-priced apartment with modest amenities, according to independent survey firm Digible, who conducted the survey in 2020.

Taking out the obvious factors – rent rate and location – many multifamily operators are surprised that security deposit (66%) and move-out charges (56%) rank first and second, respectively, in these residents’ minds above other factors such as floorplan (53%) and amenities (45%).

The survey indicates 47% of the residents pay security deposits of between $250 and $750.

However, the security deposit amount and move-out charges are typically undisclosed by apartment communities. What if this weren’t the case? There are platforms that make this information available to prospective residents. And by using it, that info can be scored independently to give prospects a greater sense of their overall rental expenses. It’s a tact that residents say they prefer

  • 83% said that knowing deposit and expected move-out charges would be very influential when deciding which apartment to rent.
  • 58% said it would influence their decision to rent from the community or company that provided the information.

Resident Survey Responses

Here's how residents responded when they were asked if it would be helpful if apartment communities provided more upfront details about security deposit amounts and typical move-out charges:

“This is important information not usually available to renters. Often one just moves and takes one’s chances.”

“I’d like to get some sense of whether or not the landlord is fair. The security deposit information would help me gauge how fair the landlord is. It’s not make-or-break, but it would help me know.”

“If all other things were equal, this could be a deciding factor.”

“This is just as important as the condition of the property and the monthly rental charge. It would play a large part in my decision to rent or not to rent at a property.”

These dollar amounts are “known knowns,” as they say, and apartment communities choosing to display them are finding this information boosts placement of their communities via Google searches because Google emphasizes reviews in terms of volume and quality.

Transparency at Lincoln Properties

Lincoln Properties activated OpenProperty at 64 of its communities and has seen positive results as it brings transparency to its prospective residents. That evidence comes in the form of reviews, which boosts its properties for prospects searching through Google. (It soon will add more communities to the platform.)

Lincoln Regional Marketing Director Cadence Champ says most common resident reviews are posted based on emotion and therefore are a lot less objective.

“The reviews and ratings we get from OpenProperty take into account fairness and data: Was the resident satisfied with his or her move-out charges. Did they get their deposit back?” she says.

OpenProperty scores its communities’ transparency about move-out charges and creates a review that is picked up by Google for each move-out.

“Our scores have been positive and this helps us in SEO for Google results,” she says. Champ adds that while positive reviews will help, Google also considers review volume.

“Whether they liked living with you or not, you can’t be sure that residents will even post a review,” she says. “The way OpenProperty is set up, a review is generated automatically from every move-out."

OpenProperty ratings appear when residents search for a property by name. The link to the OpenProperty rating will display in the search results along with other ratings like those from Apartments.com and ApartmentGuide.com, and also within the Google Knowledge Panel to the right of the search results.

“For my onsite staff, many might not even be thinking about OpenProperty, because once I’ve set their property up on it, it’s a hands-off function. They don’t need to do a thing. But it’s helping to drive traffic through SEO. It’s a win-win.”

From Transparency to Ratings

OpenProperty is the only rental apartment community rating platform that makes security deposit amounts and move-out charges transparent to residents. It collects move-out data automatically from property management systems and uses the aggregated data to create a rating, which is included in a SEO-friendly page on the OpenProperty website.

Specifically, OpenProperty determines how much each resident is charged at move-out (damage, cleaning, unpaid bills) and uses a proprietary algorithm to compare this number to the rent. When move-out charges are low, the rating is high. Since OpenProperty analyzes data from every move-out, the percentage of low or zero-cost move-outs typically exceeds the move-outs where the resident was charged and this is reflected in the rating for the property.

When these ratings are picked up by the search engines and displayed in a search results page, they provide residents with an alternative viewpoint to the subjective ratings that are currently the norm. This is ideal for residents who desire more information about an apartment community to help them decide where to rent.