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May 8, 2024

The Resident #001: What Do Residents Care About?

What do residents care about? Using topic analysis of 400,000 reviews, we have the benchmark data you need to read.

Welcome to The Resident. Each month, we explore multifamily reputation and sentiment data. Our research is based on the Widewail Multifamily Reputation Index, a database of 400,000 resident reviews. For more, go to widewail.com/data.

I’m so excited to have a data resource tailored to multifamily. After months of work, we’re ready to get going.

My goal for this newsletter: show what an amazing tool reviews can be for your communities.

We started our research journey five years ago, partnering with a PhD student and a stack of 10,000 reviews. This was the beginning of the voice of the resident. What do residents say matters to them? And more importantly, what matters enough that they would publicly announce it?

Now, we’re doing the same thing but on the scale of entire industries. This fall, we launched automotive, building a database of over 4,000,000 reviews.

Today, we begin to pull back the curtain on multifamily. Over the next few months, we will share our findings with you.

Here’s the type of information you can expect:

Reputation Metrics

Metrics like review volume, rating, negative percentage, and response rate are the gold standard for any community's reputation. We will share general industry benchmarks and break them down further to uncover specific PMC and regional trends.

Topic Mentions

Using AI, Widewail analyzes free text to identify consistent topics. We’ve pulled out 49 of the most common ones, reporting how often each is mentioned in various scenarios.

Lifecycle Stages

We will compare the reputation, topic, regional and brand-level reputation performance specific to each lifecycle stage.

Brand Scorecard

In June, we will publish our first multifamily brand scorecard, a deep dive into the NMHC top 50.

Resident #001 is an initial look at topic benchmarks. These are the topics that PMCs should focus on to improve their reputation at the community level. These are the topics that residents care about in public.

This isn’t to say that, for example, because RENT only comes up in 0.95% of reviews, it does not matter. Rent prices are, of course, a key component of the leasing process. But, our research, for example, suggests that offering rent concessions will not likely result in more positive review activity. I recommend you look other places first.

I’ve broken topic benchmarks into three groups: highly influential, consideration-worthy, and surprisingly little influence.

Highly Influential Topics

Onsite Team Members

Mentions of ONSITE TEAMS show up in 60.6% of positive Google reviews. That is 3.8x more often than the #2 topic, LOCATION.

As our industry attempts to figure out AI, this research is a gut check; in the eyes of your residents, their experience with your team is by far the most important.

My recommendation: if you’re working on implementing AI, our research suggests using technology to clear the way for onsite teams so they can focus on the one thing technology cannot do well - face-to-face support.


The #1 topic in negative reviews, MAINTENANCE is the largest contributor to negative public feedback in multifamily.

There are two ways to boost your reputation: maximize positive reviews and minimize negative reviews.

Getting MAINTENANCE right will likely differentiate winners and losers in the next 2-3 years. Those who can take advantage of the massive volume of maintenance engagements and turn those into positive reviews will see a significant competitive advantage.

Generating review volume is a function of opportunity, and multifamily has two clear high-volume engagement opportunities: tours and maintenance requests.

The industry has a significant volume problem. The average community generates 1.6 Google reviews each month, which depresses review scores. Low volume means organic negativity wins.

The industry benchmark is a 3.8 rating. The first step to improving ratings is improving review volume. The auto industry, historically surrounded by a halo of negativity, averages 4.44 across 17,000 dealerships. Why? Dealers average 10.4 reviews/month, with many generating 100+ each month.

For more, get the benchmarks cheatsheet.


A collection of support, sign-on, and service topics highlights the middle of the pack in positive reviews.

  • Move-in
  • Helpfulness
  • Leasing
  • Management
  • Friendliness
  • Tours
  • Service
  • Professionalism

In negative reviews, the four major topics in the middle are communication, safety, billing/fees/rent and cleanliness/pests.

To see exactly how often each of these topics is mentioned in resident reviews, download our benchmarks cheatsheet.

Surprisingly Little Influence

Topics with mentions in <1% of reviews.

Positive: pricing, rent. scheduling, technology, virtual viewing and appliances

Negative: moving process, tour guide, appliances

Any surprises here for you?

Multifamily Topic Benchmarks Cheatsheet

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I've previewed a handful of the topic benchmarks above. For the full list, download the cheatsheet.

Download here.

Thanks for tuning in!

I will be publishing resident data in this newsletter once a month.

For more, register for all three Voice of the Resident events. The first event is next week.

May 9th @3PM EST: Voice of the Resident: Tour/Move-in

May 29th @3PM EST: Voice of the Resident: Residency

June 6th @3PM EST: Voice of the Resident: Retention

As we launch more material, find it at widewail.com/data.

Be sure to follow Widewail on Linkedin for regular data updates.

See you next month - Jake, Marketing, Widewail