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Shoot for the Stars: How to Find That Perfect Apartment Using Yelp

Nearly 2/3 of renters consult online review sites as part of their apartment search, and sites like Yelp can be a great tool when you’re on the hunt for a new place. So what do you do when the stars don’t align and you see a low score for the community you thought was the home of your dreams?

It’s really easy to become star-struck and focus only on an apartment community’s score. But if you do a little more exploring, you’ll get a better sense of what an apartment community is truly like on Yelp.

Here are our tips on making Yelp a part of your next apartment search:

Peek at the pictures.
The first images in the photostream are typically posted by the apartment management company – they’re tagged as “From the business owner.” Keep scrolling for photos by actual renters and you might see something you’d never be shown on the carefully chosen tour path.

Avoid ancient history.
Yelp has been around for more than 10 years and factors even those oldest reviews into the star rating. But a lot can change in 10 years – an apartment community could have been dramatically renovated, switched management teams or changed ownership. Be sure to look at the most recent reviews for a most accurate picture.

Search out hidden reviews.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for “other reviews that are not currently recommended.” These are reviews not factored into the star rating because Yelp has deemed them not reputable. Often, it’s simply because they’re from first-time reviewers with no Yelp friends. Read these with a grain of salt, but they often provide an interesting perspective.

A special note on hidden reviews: Just like any company on Yelp, apartment management companies might request that Yelp check a review for violations like hate speech or harassment … but they can’t pay to have them moved to the “not recommended” section or removed altogether.

Review the responses.
Many apartment management companies actively respond to Yelp reviews. See if the responses are adversarial and accusatory versus empathetic and collaborative. How the apartment manager responds to reviews often translates to how they treat their residents in person.

Expand your horizons.
Yelp isn’t the only place you’ll find apartment reviews – check Google+ and Facebook too. And because those sites are newer than Yelp, you’ll see more recent reviews and, most likely, a more accurate score.

Now that you’ve gotten a better sense of your prospective new home, what should you do if you encounter something alarming in the reviews? Just ask the apartment manager. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that they’ve hired more porters to help address the trash issue that had you so worried, for example.