MyNewPlace and Walk Score Team Up to Promote Walkable Apartments
"Location, location, location" has long been the cornerstone of the real estate industry. (The top apartment search sites – as selected by the tech-savvy readers of Lifehacker – all incorporate map-based search into their interfaces.) Now, MyNewPlace (MNP) is taking the notion of prime location to the next level by working with Walk Score to deliver more information to apartment hunters using their site. (MNP is no stranger to working with third-party sites to add interactive features to their listings.)
According to MNP, they are now the first major apartment search site to incorporate the Walk Score walkability ratings on every listing. Users will be able to sort apartment listings by their Walk Score, which should provide the prospect with a better snapshot of the surrounding neighborhood. One can presume that better informed prospects typically make for more qualified leads for apartment marketers. (More on this in a bit...)
In case you're not familiar with Walk Score, it's a website that rates a property’s walkability by analyzing the address to determine what sort of amenities are within walking distance. The higher the walk score, the more "walkable" a location should be. Walkability can be attractive to prospects looking for a neighborhood with easy access to all the conveniences of daily life – grocery stores, restaurants, schools, public transportation, etc. Here's one look at how the Walk Score ratings are integrated into MNP listings:
Why Add WalkScore?
MyNewPlace believes that the addition of Walk Score to their listings reflects renters’ emphasis on neighborhood information when choosing an apartment. One of MNP's recent surveys found that 79% of renters said that local information was an important factor in selecting what apartment to pick. With Walk Score built into MyNewPlace listings, renters are now able to get a true feel for the neighborhood and determine if it will be a good fit for their lifestyle. (What else are you doing to promote your property's neighborhood?)
Apartment marketers may think they have the best location – good neighborhood, great local attractions – but this feature will allow prospects to see that for themselves. By including walkability scores in their apartment searches, MNP believes they'll be able to deliver owners a distinctive competitive advantage.
The integration appears to be part of a two-way partnership. While Walk Score offers their own embeddable "real estate tiles," MyNewPlace is also powering an embeddable Walk Score Walkable Apartments widget – you can grab it here. MyNewPlace is also sharing data with Walk Score, showing how many apartments are available in the metro area searched by the user:
For more information, check out the announcement on the MyNewPlace blog.
My take: It's not an earth-shattering announcement, but it's encouraging to see that MyNewPlace continues to add new features to their listings. 'Renters by choice' are looking for convenience, and the Walk Score data could be an interesting way to deliver that information without the prospect leaving the site. I'm curious to know if apartment marketers with suburban properties can turn the feature off if they're concerned about their score, and I look forward to hearing from MNP down the road about how features like these influence the effectiveness of their advertisers' listings.
What do you think? Will apartment hunters use this new feature? And if they do, how big of a factor is walkability in the apartment selection process? Is there any downside to this partnership?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
MyNewPlace and Walk Score Team Up to Promote Walkable Apartments
Monday, January 04, 2010
ApartmentGrade is a new site dedicated to providing renters with high quality unbiased reviews of apartments. We conduct independent research to find out who does the best job; from the leasing agent to maintenance requests we help you find the right apartment.Leigh Curry and Lucas Haldeman are behind the site, and I had a chance to talk with them about it shortly after the announcement was made -- here are my notes from that conversation:
First, it's important to understand what ApartmentGrade is trying to do, as well as what it's not trying to do. AptGrade isn't competing as an alternative to Apartment Ratings or Yelp -- visitors can't go to the site to post a review of any given community. Instead, AptGrade is trying to become something of a "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval for apartment communities.
Rather than relying on comments from current or past residents, the ApartmentGrade team conducts a simple seven-question survey to judge how the property is doing. (They are currently working with at least two large multifamily operators.) They can conduct the survey for you, or you can add their questions into your existing survey program. Once the surveys are collected and validated, AptGrade lets the property owner choose which grades they would like to have featured on the site. There's no way to tell when the last survey was conducted at a property, but Leigh promises me that they'll soon have the survey dates posted.
Once the owner has selected the properties they want to feature, AptGrade sets up a profile page for the property. Any requests for more information are directed to the owner's ILS of choice. AptGrade makes money by referring these leads to the ILSs. It's unclear whether an owner could elect to send the traffic to their own website rather than an ILS, but I would have to imagine this shouldn't be too difficult to do.
ApartmentGrade will provide property marketers with special "badges" to indicate their high grades on their websites and ILS listings. To encourage marketers to post as many of the properties in their portfolio as possible, AptGrade will also provide badges for those companies that post a very high percentage of their properties' grades to the site. (I'm not sure this is enough incentive, but at least they realize the potential issue and are trying to address it.)
There is no way for readers to leave comments on individual properties at this point, although Leigh acknowledges that this is something that they made add later. As an alternative to comments directly posted to the site, they may also choose to include existing comment feeds from social media sites related to the property.
They plan to drive traffic to the site by focusing on search engine optimization and through several partnerships with apartment listing sites (ILSs).
So what do you think? Would you use ApartmentGrade? Do you think prospective renters will use it? I'd love to get your comments on this one. And if you can, check out the FIVE pages of comments on the entire subject of apartment ratings and reviews on the MFI discussion board.
Here's the full text of the announcement posted to Multifamily Insiders:
Finally there is a solution for owners and managers that are fed up with sites like ApartmentRatings.com and ApartmentReviews.net!
Announcing ApartmentGrade.com -- http://www.apartmentgrade.com -- the first web site dedicated solely to providing prospective renters with professional, credible, objective, and accurate reviews of apartment communities based on the current resident’s feedback. When prospective residents view a multifamily community at ApartmentGrade.com, they will see a review based on expert, professional, unbiased ratings of the existing residents of the community.
Who better to rate your community than your current residents?
-- Provides high quality, unbiased data from current residents to prospective residents
-- Promotes the positive aspects of apartment living
-- Highlights outstanding apartment owners and managers
-- Works with the multifamily industry, not against like other rating sites
How Does ApartmentGrade.com Work?
Using a proprietary scoring model, ApartmentGrade.com works with owners and managers that provide "internal" resident surveys or work with resident survey companies including CEL Associates, Satisfacts, J Turner Research, Kingsley, etc. We take that survey data to provide an unbiased and definitive "grade" of each apartment community based on the ratings of that community's residents.
This rating service is also free. That's right -- absolutely free. ApartmentGrade.com will also post your grade to its web site for no charge. On top of it, if the owner or manager of the community is uncomfortable with the grade assigned to your property, then we will re-rate that property for free if desired. Also ApartmentGrade.com will only post those communities that the owner or manager has authorized to be posted. You don't like your rating, we don't post it!
What do prospective residents see?
When prospective residents do a city, zip or state search on ApartmentGrade.com, they see all pertinent communities in that search parameter that are currently rated by ApartmentGrade.com. Each community listing also has a Google map, physical address, phone #, rent ranges, and bed and bathroom options. However to get more information on the property, if a user clicks on "Check Rates", "View Photos", "Get Driving Directions" or the photo of the community, the prospective resident is directed to the owner/manger's ILS of choice
To see some live examples of properties that have currently been rated and are posted live on the web site, please type in the following city searches:
-- Rochester Hills, MI
-- Bloomingdale, IL
-- West Chester, OH
Why should your multifamily company be involved?
Positive ratings drive engagement and demand. A prospective resident looking at two buildings side by side, similar in many aspects, rent, size, neighborhood, now have a reason to pick your property. A positive rating will not only give you a means to increase closing ratios, it can also help at renewal time.
Why leave an apartment with award winning customer service for some place unknown? ApartmentGrade.com is a partner to the multifamily housing; unlike current rating sites we are not trying to drive traffic through salacious anonymous gripes.
At ApartmentGrade.com our core goals are to provide high quality data while promoting the positive aspects of apartment living; rather than call out under performing properties and managers, we seek to highlight and promote the best operators and the best run properties.
By being a part of ApartmentGrade.com you are gaining a powerful tool -- independent confirmation that you provide a great place to live. We guarantee no other web site offers objective reviews and ratings of apartment communities like ApartmentGrade.com
To learn more:
Please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-882-3868 for more information on how your company's communities can participate immediately for absolutely no cost.