Apartment living offers a variety of term options for residents – which means people can easily come and go. But, what if you could reduce turnover rate and build loyal residents who stay longer? If this sounds ideal, then a resident referral program may be exactly what you need.

Many multi home residential complexes use referral programs as a way to maximize occupancy. And for good reason, they’re easy to run and can be cheaper than traditional marketing tactics as you only pay when a referral signs a lease. The trick is creating a program that actually works by getting residents to actually participate. 

Fortunately, we know a few tips for running a successful resident referral program. But, before we explore these tips and best practices, let’s cover some basics.  

What are resident referral programs?

A resident referral program is a program that has been streamlined to encourage residents to recommend an apartment complex to friends. This incentive-based program rewards residents whenever a referred friend or family member starts renting an apartment from said complex.

The best residential referral programs are run with referral software, which tracks the referrals residents send in. It’s much easier to keep track of referrals with software than with a manual method. In fact, this is especially true for larger networks, where multiple apartment complexes fall under the same owner. A resident in this scenario can refer a friend and be credited if the friend decides to rent from any of the qualifying apartment homes from the same owner.

Benefits of resident referral programs

92% of people trust their peers’ recommendations more than any other form of advertising. Therefore, a resident referral program can take advantage of this built in trust and social proof. 

Plus, referred friends know what to expect as they are often familiar with your apartments, because they’ve seen where their peers live. Which basically means many referrals are actually warm leads.

hirschfeld referral credit

That’s not all, there are many reasons resident referral programs work so well.

1. A referral program can help market your complex to people who are actually interested in finding a new apartment. This means you can stop wasting time advertising to uninterested people. 

Meaning: This is essentially a lower-risk form of advertising. The only “advertising” costs are paid when the referral actually starts renting.

2. Referred friends are also more likely to continue to rent from you, reducing your resident turnover rate. This is because referred friends have approximately 16% higher lifetime value than typical residents. 

Meaning: By keeping residents longer, this becomes more cost-effective than ads, listings, and other ways of finding new residents (lower resident acquisition cost).

3. Based on statistics for all types of referral programs… Referred friends are 4x more likely to rent an apartment when referred by a friend. And once a referral becomes a paying resident, they can refer friends too.

Meaning: There is the potential for repeated growth if one person tells friends about you, their friends become customers, these friends refer you to their own peers, and so on.

4. Referral programs make existing tenants feel more involved in their apartment community, since they have some influence on their new neighbors.

Meaning: By rewarding your tenants for their involvement in the program, you can also incentivize existing tenants to continue to rent from you (reducing turnover rates again).

5. With software, referrals are easy to mobilize (word of mouth is more predictable).

Meaning: Thanks to software, referrals are also easier to track and reward, so you know if you’re reaching your goals. Plus, it makes it easier for residents to share!

These reasons merely scratch the surface of the benefits of a referral program for your apartment community. The truth is, when done correctly referral programs can be very valuable to any business. But, residential and multi home communities happen to be industries that naturally work really well with referral marketing.

Referral software for apartments [Free Tools]

These referral tools for apartments are a free and easy way to help you start your referral program.

Free Tools + Services:

Want a fully automated referral program for your apartment business? Run your referral program with us at Referral Rock. Find out how we can build your program with you (and tailor it to your unique needs)

Are you ready for a resident referral program?

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering if you should start running a resident referral program. The truth is, not all apartment owners are ready for a referral program. So before you dive into planning a program, you must make sure you meet specific criteria.

Before starting a resident referral program, make sure:

  • Your residents are happy. You need several satisfied residents who have continued to rent from you for a while. If your residents are not happy, chances are they will not refer anyone to the community.
  • You provide exceptional service. You are consistently meeting residents’ needs and addressing their concerns as they arise. You can always run an NPS survey or look at your Google reviews to get an idea of how well you’re doing and how happy residents are.
  • There is already good word-of-mouth. Do you have residents who are willing to refer you? Do you have stellar social comments or reviews? Do you have evidence that residents have already recommended you to friends? If word-of-mouth is already happening, it’s a clear sign that you should start a program.
  • You have plenty of apartments. You need to make sure you have room to accommodate more residents. If there is no space, then it probably doesn’t make sense to ask residents to bring in anyone else.
  • You know who your ideal resident is. Knowledge of what makes the ideal new resident can be beneficial in planning your program. Honing in on your ideal resident can allow you to create a program that motivates those specific people.
  • There are reasons to share. Knowledge of what would motivate existing residents to share (both rewards and intrinsic benefits) can help you drum up motivation. 

If you can confirm you meet all (or most) of these requirements, chances are you are ready for a referral program. 

Resident referral program essentials

If you have come to the conclusion that you are ready to start your resident referral program, this section is for you. You may choose to go old school, and self-track with spreadsheets on your own accord. But, we have a whole slew of referral program ideas that can help you streamline the process and take your program up a notch.

resident referral program time brookridge heights

Here are 10 ways you can get your program up and running successfully.

1. Use referral software

As we all know, people come up with software to help you with a specific pain point or challenge. Referral software does just that. It takes away the headache of tracking and sharing referrals manually. And although you may be tempted to use manual referral programs (referral cards), this makes things difficult to track and keep up with. 

If you opt to use a referral software, you can trace every referral back to the resident who made it, and can reward residents for successful referrals right away.

Not only will your program look more professional, but it’s going to make the process so much easier and less time consuming on you.

Referral software can:

  • Generate trackable links that residents can share in any way that works for them.
  • Allow you to keep tabs on the status of every referral. You’ll also know who made it, if the referral becomes a paying customer, and you’ll be able keep residents updated on their referrals.
  • Issue rewards automatically. Once a referral meets your specified conditions – the software can be triggered to send the reward. Again, taking another thing off your plate. 
Bonus: Referral Rock offers easy-to-use referral software that works for every business, including apartment complexes! And a dedicated onboarding specialist (included with every plan) will help you with every step of setting up and running your program.

2. Decide on the reward structures

There are so many reward structures to choose from. You may start with one and then decide to change it up as you go. When coming up with your reward structure you need to consider a few things:

WHO: You’ll have to decide if you will reward just the referring resident, or if you will also reward their friend when they start renting.

  • Single-sided reward (just the existing resident)
  • Double-sided reward (both the existing resident and their referral)

WHAT: What will the reward be? We will discuss this more in the following section.

WHEN: Another thing to consider is when will the referrer get a reward? 

  • Only when their friend starts renting? 
  • After their friend has continued to rent for a specified period? 
  • Will they get a smaller reward if the friend is approved to tour the apartment? 
  • Or a combination of all of those?

HOW: How is the referral going to earn their reward?

  • Will you do a referral raffle, where a referral earns the resident an entry into a drawing for a bigger-ticket reward (possibly in addition to the guaranteed reward)? 
  • Will you go tiered, where the resident will receive a smaller reward for the first couple of referrals, and on the third referral receive a larger reward? 
  • Or will it be a specific amount or reward for each referral?
refer a friend and get 300

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what is most beneficial for you, but double-sided rewards may be more motivating at turning referrals into residents. 

3. Decide on the type of reward you’ll offer

There is one goal of a referral reward – and that is to motivate existing residents to refer. So you’ll have to consider what reward fits your residents best. If you are unsure, it’s best to ask residents directly about what rewards will be most motivating.

Alongside what is most motivating, you need to keep a few things in mind. 

  • Rewards should be cost-effective. Yes, you want to reflect the value of a new resident to your apartment complex business. But, you also don’t want to break the bank. If you already have a marketing budget, perhaps put a portion of that towards a referral program for a fiscal year or calendar quarter.
  • Pick an actual referral incentive. Examples of referral rewards that work well include money towards rent, cash, gift cards to local businesses, referral gift baskets, useful items for the apartment, and other tangible items of value.
  • Provide a few options. If you’ve gotten feedback from residents on what motivates them and find that answers are not unanimous, you can consider multiple gifts. By offering multiple reward options and giving the resident a choice, you are sure to make everyone happy. You don’t need a long list of options. By providing just 2 or 3 options will allow the resident to choose what’s best for them. 

For example:

  • Credit or coupon to use towards rent.
  • A gift card – can be local or more generic like an Amazon gift card.
  • A home item like an air fryer or coffee pot. 
falcon ridge referral reward options
Bonus: If you reward the new resident, money towards rent is the best option (encourages them to rent and stay a resident).

4. Make referring easy

After you decide what your reward and reward structure look like, you need to consider how residents will refer. The key is to make this step as easy as possible. Even with a great incentive, people may not refer if they feel like it’s too difficult to do so.

Fortunately, referral software will let you set up a streamlined referral page or portal that makes it easy for residents to refer. With software you can generate one-click referral links for every resident to share.

Whether you choose to use a portal or a specific referral landing page, you’ll have to consider a a few things:

  • Easy to follow. The program should be easy to understand (explain how the program works in 3-4 steps). This is where your resident will learn about the program a bit more and send referrals from. If it’s complicated and unclear, you’ll likely miss out on referrals.
  • Explain possible incentives. This is your chance to make the rewards, and terms for earning them, clear. Let them know what needs to be done in order for a referral to count towards a reward.
  • Be mobile friendly. Optimize the portal for mobile, so residents can share with friends on the go. Many people do everything right from their phone, so it makes sense to be where they already are. 
  • Quick and simple are key. We cannot stress this enough, make things easy. Residents should be able to refer in as few clicks or taps as possible. 

5. Include multiple sharing options

The entire point of a referral program is to get people to share. If you want residents to share, you’re going to have to provide them ways to do just that.

Consider how residents naturally share things with friends. Are many of your residents on social platforms, or are they more of an email or text sort of bunch? You can use all these channels and sharing options in your resident referral program.

  • Include private options. Include email, SMS, and multiple social media platforms your residents use. Some residents may prefer sharing via a direct or personal message over sharing with their entire friends list. 
  • Also include mass options. But, some residents may also prefer to mass-share. Social media can be especially effective, as that’s where people naturally share with many friends at once.

Additionally, you can always give them their personal referral link as well. This way customers can copy and paste anywhere – whether they have the referral page or portal open or not.

6. Let customers send a message to their friends

When the resident shares your apartment complex with friends, they should be able to send a personal message via your software. Personalized messages really help make the process seem unique, even if the whole process has been automated. 

You could go about this two ways. 

  • Option 1: Send a message automatically. However, if you do, it should mention the friend by name and sound like it’s coming from the existing resident. By adding in the names, you give the referral an opportunity to make a connection.
  • Option 2: You can give residents space to personalize their own message to their friend. You could even provide a prefilled message and allow the resident to edit or make suggestions if they want. 

Either way, you’ll want to make this seem as relatable as possible. By simply using names, you can create a sense of trust. 

7. Promote your program

After putting in all of the work to create your program, the last thing you would want is to have it fall flat. Unfortunately, many businesses set it up and expect it to fly on its own and start producing results. That’s just not the case. 

However, if you include it in your regular marketing or make the program visible on your website, resident portals, and email communications, you can have a wonderfully successful program. 

Once you have established certain automations to include program promotion, you can set it and almost ‘forget it’. But, this little bit of work getting it launched is necessary. 

There are so many simple things you can do to promote your residential referral program. Most of them are options that you can set up initially, and that do not require any effort aftwards. You can make sure residents know about your program by promoting it these different ways:

Set it and forget it options:

  • In your email signature. Once you add it, you won’t ever have to change it (unless the landing page or link changes).
  • Via dedicated emails (personal and mass). If you shuffle this email in with your regular email blasts, you can create it once and send it out again and again like regular communication. Or add it to an automated email campaign, so it sends off automatically.
  • On your social media pages. Add a link in your headline or ‘about’ section, and you won’t have to worry about constantly sharing it. 
  • Within physical and/or digital resident newsletters. If you’re sending a regular newsletter, you’re most likely using a template or outline of some sort. Add a link into the template and you have instant program promotion.
  • On your rental website. This one is especially important if not all your residents use your resident portal. This way, if someone does happen to look at your site, they’ll see the program too.
  • On your online resident portal. Residents will likely use your portal at some point. If they are already logging into their account, you can use it as an opportunity for a quick share. 

Options that require a tiny bit more work:

  • Signs and postings placed on property. You may not always want to have these up. Or you may need to swap them out with other signs for events, etc. If you have a lounge area or recreation area, these could be great for smaller flyers that you may not have to replace so often.
  • Personal flyers. Small flyers that you place in residents’ mailboxes, or on or under residents’ doors are also very effective as they are guaranteed to be seen. But with people moving in and out, you may have to share these every few months.
  • Personal conversations with residents. If you’re already talking to them, you can easily slip referral info into the conversation. 
grove parkview resident referral program

All of these things are incredibly easy to do. And once you’ve placed the program in plain sight, you can let it roll on without having to do much at all.

8. Train your staff

All your apartment complex staff must be trained on all aspects of the program, so they can tell residents about it whenever they talk to them, and give residents consistent information.

This is also a huge aspect of successful program promotion! If you’re trying to get staff to talk about the program during conversations with residents, then they’ll likely need to know what it is they’re talking about. 

There are a few things that can help get everyone on the same page:

  • Have a training session. It’s best to train staff in person, rather than sending an email – at least initially. But, this definitely does not need to be an all day event or formal training. Instead you can add it as a bullet point to discuss during a team meeting. 
  • Keep information readily available. Staff should know the basics, but keeping a packet of the program’s terms and conditions within reach is also important. Add a packet with supplemental information about the program to the break room, or simply make it available via share drive or folder. 

Just as you would want your staff to know about your lease agreements and apartment amenities, you should want them to know all about your program. In fact, your program can be treated as an amenity.

9. Show residents you appreciate their referrals

Not all referrals sent will work out. Even if their referred friend doesn’t become a resident, send a thank you note (via email or written) to show that you appreciate the resident’s referral.

Even though this is nothing monetary, the kind gesture will be well-received and you may even get future referrals from that resident down the line. And if the resident’s referral does work in your favor, be sure you don’t drop the ball. 

Here are some tips on how to keep your residents engaged while showing appreciation for their efforts. 

  • Reward ASAP. Be sure to reward residents as soon as they earn a reward (software will do this automatically!). This way the resident stays engaged and the excitement may prime another referral – sooner than later. 
  • Show progress. Keeping residents updated on the referrals’ status is another important way to show appreciation and keep residents motivated to make more referrals (software can help you do this, too!).
  • Showcase engagement. You may want to consider spotlighting a “referrer of the month” on social media, your newsletter, or both. 

Just as you use recognition to get employees motivated to keep working hard, you can give referring residents the same motivation with a little recognition.

10. Track your progress 

Aside from showing your residents their personal progress, you need to be aware of the program’s overall progress. Tracking key metrics will help you evaluate what may not be working, and can help you fine tune when need be.

You can do this with spreadsheets and math, or you can opt for a referral software – which will do all of this for you.

You can track every aspect of a program with software, but there are a few metrics that tend to matter the most.

Use referral software to track metrics like: 

  • How many referrals residents send each year
  • How many referrals become new residents each year 
  • Revenue from referrals
  • Average resident lifetime value through referral program vs. overall 

This is the information that will help you decide whether your program is working for you and worth the effort of making tweaks and continuing.

Resident referral program examples

Now that we understand what aspects make a resident referral program great, we need to showcase a few examples. It is important to note, that it can be difficult to tell if these programs are run by software – as some opt to use a form instead of a call to action (CTA) button. But, this type of lead capture can still progress and flow through a referral system.

Here is what we think these program examples do well, and what they could improve. 

1. Bungalow

bungalow resident referral program

This one simply looks nice. They have a strong headline, and eye-catching CTA. They also cover what reward is up for grabs. Overall, we think it is a very solid program.

What we like: A strong headline, a evident CTA, and reward information. Plus, it looks like this covers multiple properties!

Suggestions: It’s unclear if there is a reward for the referred friend.

2. PPM

PPM resident referral program

This one is another one that is visually appealing with its ‘meet the neighbors’ sort of feel. We like that the bolded text is what the resident is likely most curious about too (what is this page for, and what will I get from this).

What we like: They have a strong headline and offer reward information. This one has great visual appeal, and works for multiple properties run by PPM.

Suggestions: The CTA could have been stronger. We like that there is an indicator to click a link to fill out a form, but it could be better done as a button, which then leads to the same thing. 

3. Lakeside

resident referral program friends make the best neighbors

This one seems a little old school. But, the reward structure seems like a real winner. They took a tiered approach and for each referral, the reward gets even better.

What we like: We like their reward structure, they made it worth it to keep referring. 

Suggestions: There is no clear indicator of what to do next to refer. They could have used a CTA or simply mentioned ‘stop in or email for more detail’. It’s just a little too open ended.

4. One Uptown Newport

one uptown newport resident referral program

The reward takes center stage, which means residents are sure to see it. The referral form is also right there and it’s evident what the resident needs to do to refer. This referral page is short and sweet. 

What we like: They give some good energy by mentioning the resident will get a great neighbor along with cash. Using emotion is another way to provoke a response (or in this case, a referral).

Suggestions: They use the phrase “register online today,” which is sort of confusing since it looks like the referral form is right under the headline. Does this mean filling out the form signs you up for the program, or are you actually sending a referral?

5. Strata

strata resident referral program

City Center’s property Strata, gives residents all the insights to their referral program  – conveniently from their website. Their terms and conditions are also easily available as well, and the instructions to participate are listed out. 

What we like: The headline gives all the information a resident needs to know, which we like to see. We also like that this is a dual-sided program

Suggestions:The referral is left to do most of the heavy lifting. They are the ones who have to call and mention who referred them. A lot of things can get lost along the way, and they may forget to mention they were referred. We’d suggest using a form or system to track these referrals and making the bulk of the work come from the resident (i.e sharing a link, etc).

6. Sentral

sentral resident referral program

They offer a pretty great incentive, $500 per qualified referral. Even just referring one time would be a great incentive for a resident. We also like that this program covers all the properties under Sentral – which just expands the playing field for more referrals.

What we like: Seeing the $2000 reward is pretty appealing, but that’s the total capped amount someone can earn. We like that they break down the reward on the same page so that everyone is, well, on the same page.

Suggestions: It doesn’t look like there is a reward offered to the referred friend. Since the amount at stake for the resident is on the higher end, it may make the referral question what’s really in it for them.

7. Wheelhouse

wheelhouse apartments

Wheelhouse offers a rent credit based referral program. This program seems pretty straightforward and it’s evident what the resident must do – fill in the form. 

What we like: They use playful words to create their headline, and we like that the program is explained alongside the form. This page covers everything a resident would need to know to refer.

Suggestions: While the headline is creative, we would have liked to see the reward mentioned in it. By making the reward more visible, they may be able to provoke more referrals. 

8. Center Square Lofts

center square lofts

This one mentions a double-side reward. “When you refer a friend, you’ll each receive $250 when your friend moves into their apartment at a City Center Residential property”. By using a double-sided reward, a referral may be more inclined to become a resident as there is a benefit for them too.

What we like: The headline covers the reward, which is a great way to showcase the benefit of referring. 

Suggestions: Having the referral do the leg work doesn’t always go smoothly and it really leaves the whole process in their court. This means the referring resident is really out of the loop on what is going on with their referral recommendation (and that can suppress future referrals from happening later on).

9. Meeting House

meeting house

This landing page is nice and sweet. They give all the necessary information on what the program is about and how to receive a referral reward. Overall, we think it looks nice.

What we like: We like that they offer a Visa gift card as the reward. Since this reward has a cash value, and can also be used pretty much anywhere, it’s likely to be a great motivator for residents.

Suggestions: We like having a CTA, as it really drives someone to take action. Asking for someone to pop by the office leaves a lot up in the air.

10. Aria

aria resident referral program

Aria’s referral page layout is pretty straightforward. There are two headlines that offer insight to what this page is all about, and what the benefits of participating would be. They keep information short and sweet, which makes processing the program really easy.

What we like: We like that they drive home the benefit, and they use some heartfelt language. “You’ll get a great neighbor” showcases that there is more than just a cash benefit.

Suggestions: Some finer details would have been nice to see. For example they could have expanded the sentence under the $1000 headline to include specific terms. Ex: “Refer a friend to Aria and you’ll get a great neighbor AND extra cash when your friend signs a 6 month or longer contract.” Adding in a tiny bit more detail about the program can really help you avoid possible frustration. 

Are you ready to start your resident referral program?

There are so many benefits to running a referral program for your property. And, if your property already has clear indications that it’s ready for a program, why not explore that potential? 

Running a resident referral program does not have to be difficult, or really all that time-consuming. If you set it up for success, you may be surprised at its success.