How to Read Apartment Ratings and Reviews: Can You Spot a Fake?

Online apartment reviews can be incredibly helpful when choosing an apartment, but only if you know which ones to trust.  Unfortunately, fake reviews are posted by those aiming to either promote or slander a property, leaving you with a biased opinion and no better idea about where to live.  Want to combat the influence of phony reviewers?  Follow these guidelines to prevent biased ratings from swaying your opinions about an apartment.

Signs of a Fake Reviewer

Who might write a false review?  All types of reviewers could have ulterior motives.  For example, a rogue employee from the apartment in question might write a glowing review to improve the image of the apartment.  If you think this is the case, keep an eye out for language that sounds like it might be from a brochure.  Conversely, you might also encounter an overly negative review, possibly from a competing community or a disgruntled tenant who feels he has been wronged.  Inflammatory language about pests or terrible conditions is common among fake reviews.  These reviews are often vague, playing on the reader’s emotions rather than presenting the facts.  Last, check multiple review sites.  If you read lots of reviews that use very similar language, you may have cause for suspicion.  In short: if an opinion seems too good or bad to be true, there’s a good chance that it is. 

How to Spot a Helpful Review

When reading an apartment review, check for specificity.  An ideal review will do more than just insult the property or management; instead, the reviewer should lay out grievances, and/or praise in detail to give the reader a thorough understanding of the situation.  A really helpful review will include names, dates, and locations.  Also look at the types of reviewers.  (If you are looking for a single-family apartment, for example, note if an apartment is reviewed mostly by students or singles.)   Look for reviews that discuss issues like maintenance, management responsiveness, the desirability of the neighborhood, the price of the apartment vs. its value, cleanliness, amenities, and the quality of the apartment over time.  And remember, not all reviews are recent, and therefore not all are relevant.  Reviews that are extremely old or were written when the apartment was under different management may no longer apply to apartment life there today.  However, if the apartment has been under the same management for years and has consistently gotten poor reviews, steer clear.

Look at the Overall Picture

When evaluating apartment ratings online, take into account what the overall opinion of the place seems to be.  Check multiple sites if you can, look at how the reviews have changed over time.  Be conscious of the big picture, and you will be more easily able to find a well-reviewed apartment that is right for you.

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