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What to include in a resident satisfaction survey

April 24, 2024
Hannah Michelle Lambert
Content Writer

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Home is one of the most important places in someone’s life. So as a property manager, you don’t want to take it for granted that your residents have chosen your property as their home. For the sake of your residents, you want to make sure you’re keeping tabs on areas where you’re meeting, exceeding, or falling short of their expectations. 

This is for your business’s sake, too, though. According to a 2023 report, satisfaction with the property management team is the biggest deciding factor in whether someone renews their lease or not. That means that being proactive about providing a great resident experience is a highly lucrative strategy. 

You don’t want to wait for problems to arise, finding out what issues you need to address in online reviews or from complaints piled on your leasing team or maintenance staff. 

One property manager we talked to mentioned an open forum as a great way to gather this feedback. During this forum, he discovered a myriad of issues to improve upon, including roof leaks that were never addressed, a problem residents gave up submitting work orders for. “If I hadn’t opened up for feedback, I would have never known,” he said. 

Resident satisfaction surveys

Although hosting an open forum is a great strategy, it’s perhaps not the most convenient or feasible way to get consistent feedback from a variety of residents. That’s why sending out resident satisfaction surveys on a regular basis is a common solution to staying on top of evolving resident expectations.

Using the responses you get from these surveys, you can get ahead of problems as they’re just beginning and discover/invest more in the areas that you’re really shining. 

In terms of cadence, it’s typically a good idea to send out broader surveys on a regular basis, such as once a quarter or twice a year. You could also layer on additional context-specific surveys to engage residents at certain points in their experience. One property manager we talked to recommended the following:

“I’d recommend also sending them individually like after a work order is completed, a week after move-in, and a few months ahead of renewal.”

Key areas to touch on in a resident satisfaction survey

Everyone knows that the success of your survey is dependent on what you ask. You want to strike a good balance between asking enough questions to get valuable insights, but not too much where you overwhelm or annoy your residents. You also want to make sure that the questions themselves get to the heart of issues that matter. 

So we’ve talked to some property managers and dug into online forums and stats to determine what topics to touch on in your resident satisfaction survey. The tips below will give you the best shot at curating an experience that’s most likely to lead to renewals. 

Overall living experience

Of course, you want to pull some insight on how they feel about their overall living experience on your property. 

Apartment features

Start by asking about what they interact with every day: their apartment unit. 

Ask questions about:

  • The functionality and modernity of appliances
  • The availability of desirable features like air conditioning or in-unit laundry
  • The apartment layout

While the feedback you collect here may not be something you can immediately act upon, it can guide projects for your property. For example, if you see that everyone wishes they had air conditioning, but most people are fine with on-site instead of in-unit laundry, you have a clear indicator of where to invest in future upgrades. 

Maintenance

92% of residents say that they’ve had a negative experience with maintenance. This points to a massive opportunity to request feedback about how you can improve the maintenance experience. 

One property manager we talked to couldn’t overstate how important (and low cost) it is to improve maintenance response times when it comes to improving the overall resident experience:

“Start with stellar maintenance response times on work orders. This is the #1 priority that cost $0. I have a property built in the 60’s that’s 1000 units. My resident satisfaction would be significantly better if not for maintenance shortfalls.”

Ask questions about how quickly and effectively maintenance requests are handled, as well as your resident’s perception of how friendly or helpful the maintenance staff was. You can ask these questions in a broader resident satisfaction survey as well as immediately after maintenance requests are fulfilled.  

Cleanliness and upkeep

Tidy common areas are another major driver of a positive experience for many residents. You may want to include a question or two about the perceived cleanliness of common areas and the exterior of the property, including trash management, landscaping, and other upkeep like paint or pipes.

Management

There are several logistical considerations that your residents take into account in their overall satisfaction. 

Communication

Your team’s ability to communicate effectively has an incredible impact on the resident experience. Communication is critical for problem resolution, updates on policies, community news, and many other instances. 

Poor communication is typically one of the quickest ways to ruin a resident’s experience. A quick scan of any low-rated apartment building is riddled with complaints of terrible communication.

Look at the following review for a Los Angeles apartment complex: 

But on the flip side, good communication is also one of the easiest ways to fix a poor resident experience. One property manager shared a story with us of the transformative power of communication at a community they took over: 

“I took over a community about three years ago that was not loved on. Not by any means. If I remember, 1.4 stars. The residents hated everybody. I spent about three months just being a KIND person. Treating people with respect. Learning their names. Asking people how they are doing in their home, and GENUINELY meaning it…Sometimes you don’t have to jump through hoops to improve resident satisfaction.”

In your resident satisfaction survey, probe for their feelings about how your communication is. Include questions about the logistical factors like frequency of communication, availability of channels to contact staff, and how well-informed they feel about changes, but also ask about how they feel about the more human aspects of communication. 

Pricing

Although you may have very little wiggle room in the amount that you’re charging for rent, you still may want to inquire about how much value your residents feel like they’re getting from the price they’re paying, and if it will be a barrier to renewing their lease. This could guide long-term pricing decisions.  

Amenities

The main draw for many large apartment complexes is the amenities that come with them. As Wise Property Management mentioned:

“Well-maintained and thoughtfully designed amenities enhance the overall living experience, creating a sense of community and shared spaces that residents value and appreciate.”

So you should absolutely ask about how your residents perceive your amenities on your resident satisfaction survey to make sure you’re packing the biggest punch possible. 

Quality, upkeep, and availability

Especially if you have a large property and/or a small on-site team, you may not notice when issues arise with your amenities. This gives you residents an opportunity to bring these issues to your attention. 

It’s also an opportunity to see if there’s a shortage of any amenities. For example, let’s say you only have two treadmills in your fitness center, so they’re often in use when another resident heads there to use them. This survey can indicate to you that you may want to impose time limits or look into adding more treadmills.

Utilization

You should also ask questions about what amenities your residents are actually using, including parking. You may find some amenities have very little demand, while others are a hot commodity with residents. This knowledge can inform future decisions on which amenities to update or replace. 

Safety and security

Feeling safe is one of the most crucial components of a comfortable living environment. So you want to make sure you address this topic on your resident satisfaction survey. 

You could ask more general questions like how safe they feel in the community during the day and at night, as well as more specific questions about the effectiveness of your safety features, like night patrol officers, cameras, and parking gates

This section of the survey could also probe into any areas where residents feel vulnerable and ask for suggestions on improving security.

Ease and accessibility

There are few things that residents hate more than inconvenience, so creating a smooth overall experience should be near the top of your list of priorities as a property manager. 

Some areas that may be ripe for improvements are:

Parking

Ask your residents how easily they’re able to navigate parking themselves, or how easy it is for their guests to find a place to park. This could include asking about preferences for reserved vs. unreserved spaces, the availability of parking amenities like EV chargers, logistical issues like parking gate access, how effective they perceive your enforcement strategy, and more. 

Parking is often a major thorn in the side of residents, so your survey may reveal the need to address shortages or spot assignments, or to revamp your parking processes from manual systems like spreadsheets to a digital parking management system like Parkade

Accessible access

Even if you’re compliant by law with ADA guidelines about the number of accessible spots and ramps that you have, there may be a gap between those guidelines and the actual experience for people with disabilities or limited mobility. 

You may want to include some questions asking about how effectively they feel their needs are met with accessible accommodations like ramps, accessible parking spots, elevators, and wider doorways or passageways.

Convenient technology

Increasingly, residents are craving a tech-driven experience with their apartment complex. Here are some numbers to illustrate this growing need:

  • 45% of renters said that they wanted an automated system for maintenance requests.
  • More than 75% of residents indicated in a survey that they would pay more for a package of 3 smart home amenities.
  • In a survey where participants were asked what technologies were most important to them as a renter, over 55% said online payments, the second highest answer on the list.

Your resident satisfaction survey could dig into some of the areas where you’re not using technology currently, or the technology you are using is outdated, to identify areas for improvement. 

How to send the survey

If you’ve never sent out a survey before, you may be a little unsure about the best method to collect this feedback. 

Google forms is a popular free option that allows you to create a really simple survey that allows you to easily collect information from your residents. There are also purpose-built resident survey platforms like Respage that offer just a bit more sophisticated survey functionality. Depending on the property management system you use, there may be survey capabilities directly in the platform, giving you the added convenience of keeping everything in one place. 

Of course, the final, most important step is distributing the digital survey. To ensure that you get the most (and most reliable) responses possible, distribute the survey through a variety of channels. For example, you could send emails with a link to the survey, post fliers with QR codes around the property and leasing office, and leave a card with a QR code at residents’ doors. 

If you anticipate struggling to get the number of responses you like, you could even look into offering some kind of an incentive, whether you make something small (like a $5 gift card) available to everybody, or enter a smaller number of people into a raffle for a larger prize (like a $100 gift card).

Taking action after the survey

Your resident satisfaction survey shouldn’t stop at collecting responses, though. To make the effort you put into creating and distributing the survey worth it, you need to take some time to dig into the results, pull out interesting insights, and prioritize what you want to take action on. 

For example, let’s say many people expressed concern that the pool was always too crowded for them to be able to enjoy. Perhaps this leads you to put up a gate to ensure only residents can use the pool (if you find that non-resident guests are the problem), or if your community is large, you may decide to put in a second pool. 

Another example could be that you receive a lot of feedback that you don’t have enough parking spots in your lot or garage. This could be an indicator to dig into ways to make the most of the parking spaces you do have, or do a more extensive overhaul of your parking management strategy. 

Another possible way to leverage this feedback is to highlight it in your marketing materials like social media, flyers, or your website. If you get any incredible quotes demonstrating the positive experience you provide for your residents, go ahead and flaunt it.

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