While online reputation is by no means a new thing, how people process and utilize review data to make decisions constantly evolves. For example, in the multifamily industry, more people are using reviews in their decision to tour a community. In J Turner Research’s 2021 “Internet Adventure Study, Part III,” we found that just short of 89% of prospects use review data when conducting a search for an apartment. In comparison, a similar study we performed in 2016 saw that number at 83%. More specifically, we have found that prospects have become savvier, looking for data points like recent, positive feedback; consistency across review sites; and supplemental pieces of feedback to validate the resident satisfaction they are perceiving from a singular star rating.

As the pioneers and scorekeepers of ORA, the industry standard to measure and benchmark a property’s online reputation, we feel a duty to make ORA as equally dynamic as the prospects that are looking at reviews. We not only want ORA to continue to be an accurate reflection of how a prospect compares one apartment with another during their search, but we also want to make this score as reflective as possible of the true heart of the matter—resident satisfaction. Every one to two years, J Turner Research goes through an exhaustive process of working with a third-party statistical group to better understand new information like the recent prospect study and updated trends within the review landscape. From there, we enhance our ORA model to make it reflective of our collective findings. In this most recent iteration, we are going to augment ORA with three additional factors to its calculation.

  1. First, we will begin to factor in recency of reviews. Specifically, our model will look at how well the teams are doing in generating recent, positive feedback. The algorithm will value properties that are improving their star ratings on influential sites within the last six months. In the recent “Internet Adventure Study, Part III,” only 27% of prospects said that they do not consider the timeline of when the review was left. Thus, we can ascertain that prospects are looking not only at the star rating, but they are also trying to determine the most recent quality of service at the apartment community. Consequently, new management and ownership will benefit from being more able to improve ORA scores with their efforts.
  2. Second, we reviewed and adjusted review sites that are positively or negatively skewed. To make ORA more accurate, we used a percentile breakdown of star ratings nationally to determine the true resident satisfaction within the star rating on each review site we track. As we published in the fourth edition of “The Mechanics to Online Review Sites and ILSs,” the average star rating on specific review sites ranges from 2.63 all the way up to 4.31. Therefore, comparatively, a 1.5 star on a negatively skewed site could be more representative of a 2.5 star on another site when looking at it from a percentile standpoint. Because ORA reflects how a prospect compares one property with another as opposed to within a vacuum, we will adjust the model to represent the true resident satisfaction within that star rating.
  3. Last, our ORA model will begin to value properties that have more validation and less disparity across their search impression. The model will reward properties that have a diverse portfolio of consistent feedback across multiple review sites and ILSs. During our study, prospects overwhelmingly gravitated toward properties that had a substantial number of reviews on multiple sites with star ratings that lined up across the board. On the contrary, they shied away from properties with outliers in terms of star rating and volume. Similar to a consumer making a purchase decision based on online reviews, prospects want reassurance that the quality/service is consistently there; disparity and inconsistency only creates doubt. ORA will now better reflect that psychological behavior.

The enhancement to our ORA model will go into effect in September, reflected in the Oct 5, 2021, publication. Most properties will see some change with their ORA score. The changes vary, with some being drastic (10+ points) and others rather minimal. Going forward, we project it will be easier to improve your ORA score as recent reviews will now be weighted heavier.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway is that while the national average is showing a minimal adjustment, the range of ORA scores is broadening greatly. In fact, on the positive side of the spectrum, the Elite 1% is currently forecast to cut off at a 95 or 96 under the enhanced model, in comparison to last year’s qualifying mark of 90. What this data shows is that teams that have been taking care of their residents and getting that feedback online are being more appropriately rewarded with a higher ORA score.

As one final measure of our review process, we took the scores from the resident surveys we conduct with our partners and ran a correlation to the ORA scores under the enhanced model. The results were strongly correlated, reinforcing that our enhanced model directly aligns with the true picture of resident satisfaction.

We are excited to have the enhanced model in place as it means ORA is giving properties the most accurate gauge on the quality of their online reputation in comparison to their regional and national competitors. Ultimately, our goal is to provide our industry with a score that directly correlates to increased prospect demand based on the online perception of a property, and we are confident this enhancement is a massive step in continuing to do that.