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App Brings New Dynamic to Resident Referrals

Resident Referrals
March 2019

One company is providing an app for current residents to download and use to communicate with prospective residents.

A new app is helping apartment operators lease to referred prospective residents and reward their existing residents at the same time.

Garrett Jones, CAM, Regional Manager Marquette Management Naperville, Ill., has been using the platform in Chicago since May 2018.

Rentgrata provides an app for current residents to download and use to communicate with prospective residents, “giving fuel to our resident-referral program,” Jones says.

Apartment communities make the app available for download from their website and encourage residents to sign up. Website visitors who are interested in feedback from actual residents use the app or its Message a Resident widget which lives on the community’s website, to pose a question related to that community’s lifestyle or neighborhood.

Current residents make themselves available to answer questions, and if they answer a question for a resident who ends up leasing at the community, the current and new residents split a cash commission, for example: $500.

“Residents like it because they have the opportunity to help bring other prospects to a property they already call home,” he says. “Traditional resident-referral programs are great, but depending on the resident’s situation, he or she might not be able to benefit. This platform gives any current resident nearly equal ability to earn income by essentially becoming a brand ambassador for the property.

Jones says of his sites that use the platform, the lead-to-lease conversion rate is above 75 percent.

“We like the program because in the vast sea of marketing, if we can pay referrals, it helps our residents and it helps us, oftentimes reinforcing the successful initiatives we have spent a lot of time on developing. It helps the property by fostering a sense of community because the incoming resident already has a ‘friend’ at the property.”

Marquette Management promotes the program to existing residents through a button on its websites, e-blast promos to encourage its residents to sign up and by hosting events sponsored by Rentgrata intended to publicize the app, which was named a Top Disruptor and Rising Leader in Real Estate by The Wharton MBA Program.

Jones says Marquette has seen good results with its $500 referral at its downtown communities. It offered $1,000 to residents who helped bring renters to one of its suburban properties where it was struggling with occupancy.

Jones says one downside to the program is the liability to potentially double-pay for leads.

“In a business where we are so focused on procuring cause for lead payout, the waters become murkier here,” he says. “For example, Zillow or a broker may be the prospect’s procuring cause, which we will need to pay due to their tracking or guest card. The same client may also speak to a resident via the app and therefore earn a referral as well. While this does not happen often, in some cases, it can increase the cost per lease and you have to be prepared for the potential additional cost liability. Acknowledging that fact, we believe our investment with Rentgrata has been beneficial.”

Conversations had via this app have helped Marquette identify unique selling propositions (USPs). Jones says his company found that “sometimes our residents say surprising things that can seem insignificant to us, but that they identify as a USP.

Rentgrata is able to pull some excerpts of the conversations and share them with us anonymously.

“For example, our property Catalyst, located in the West Loop neighborhood, is close to Chicago’s famed Restaurant Row and many of the other awesome amenities of the West Loop -- we exploit this because we believe in it,” Jones says. “However, we did not give much thought to the city’s Art Institute, also nearby. But because of one of our residents frequents that world-class museum, we understand that it is only a 10-minute bike ride away. Did we already know that? Yes! Did we promote it? No. But now we certainly can talk first-hand about our resident’s experiences there due to a shared conversation.”

Jones says his company also learn of residents’ perceptions about the community.

“It’s those little things you would not normally identify during a normal conversation with a resident,” he says. “The conversations help us get to know our property better and our residents even more so we can focus on the areas they truly love.