Out of every 10 people that look for a new apartment, nearly seven are using ratings and reviews, according to Highly Recommended: The Influence and Impact of Online Ratings and Reviews on Apartment Searchers sponsored by Apartment Guide and conducted by Kingsley Associates.

The survey, which included responses from 29,907 current apartment residents, pointed out that different demographics use ratings in different ways. For instance, women are much more likely than men to leave either a mostly negative or a mostly positive review. And more than 70 percent of residents under 34 were likely to probably or definitely consult online ratings and reviews in their next apartment search.

“To me, the takeaway is that they [reviews] matter to everyone,” says Scott Asher, vice president of marketing and operations at Apartment Guide. “I don’t think it’s a Gen Y thing or a tech thing. I think everyone is interested in knowing what it’s like to live in an apartment.”

In fact, only 8.6 percent of renters surveyed said that reviews are not influential to their purchasing. A large number of respondents (87.6 percent) say ratings and reviews are one of several factors—or are one of the most important factors—influencing their decision of where to rent an apartment. Overall, most apartment seekers will rely on ratings and reviews before they consider recommendations from friends or family.

“Often they don’t have a friend or family member who has lived in this city or looked at it, so they’re relying on these reviews,” Asher says. “They use them and feel like they’re more valuable than a referral from a family member or friend.”

Quality of Review Matters
Most respondents (83.7 percent) said they would consider a property with all positive reviews, but even more (86.2 percent) say they’d be more likely to consider a community with almost all positive but some negative reviews mixed in. More than one-quarter (26.3 percent) of respondents said they are more likely to consider a community when it has a mix of both positive and negative reviews.

Only 1.3 percent of respondents said they are much more likely to trust anonymous posts over those that had been third-party certified. Residents in the 25- to 44-age range said they wanted to see 11 or more reviews for them to be useful. Generally residents like to see between a half-dozen and two-dozen responses for any community. Only 17.3 percent of respondents said that less than five reviews was useful.

“There probably is skepticism about reviews and the motive behind it,” Asher says. “They realize that there is a chance that people are trying to game the system.”

Almost seven out of 10 respondents (69.5 percent) said they expect apartment communities to respond to reviews online.

“When you respond to the reviews, renters are much more likely to have confidence that the property manager is on top of things,” Asher says. “That restores a high level of trust in that property as well.”

In all of the various data points, produced in the survey, one thing ultimately stand out. “Reviews matter,” Asher says. “If you’re not actively monitoring what’s out there, you’ll probably be left behind.”