Apartment owners and managers are voicing increased concerns regarding Internet Listing Service (ILS) pricing models and reporting methodologies. As the paradigm for apartment marketing has evolved from printed locator guides to the Internet over the past decade, so too has the tracking of lease leads, particularly those leads generated by ILSs, and even more specifically those leads that ILSs are charging back to multifamily operators as part of their normal billing cycle.

The issue received widespread attention in October when Carmel, Ind.-based J.C. Hart Co. vice president and director of marketing and training Mark Juleen posted a video highly critical of Santa Monica, Calif.-based ILS Rent.com on industry blog sites.

“I feel like the pricing model is flawed, and it needs to be fixed,” Juleen tells MFE. “The reason I posted the video is because I want something to happen. I feel like if I just called up the ILS, little me here with 2,500 units in Indiana, the response would be ‘yeah, whatever.’”

On the contrary, Rent.com president Peggy Abkemeier was quick to respond by commenting to the posts online and also phoning Juleen. “I think both property management firms and ILSs share the same concern of accurately attributing signed leases to the appropriate marketing source,” she says. “Because ILSs want to quantify the value they bring to their customers and property management companies want to effectively allocate their marketing dollars, the lack of clarity over lease attribution can be frustrating for both parties.”

Juleen’s not alone in feeling the pain of trying to reconcile monthly ILS lead-to-lease billings with guest cards and other on-site confirmation offered by residents as to how they were specifically referred to properties. “One of the drawbacks to marketing on the Internet is deciphering all of these hits and reports and translating the information into actual traffic and leases to justify the costs involved,” says Chicago-based RMK Management executive vice president Diana Pittro. “Part of me wants to say forget it, I’m just going back to print guides where prospects bring in your ad or coupon, but you can’t go back there.