How to review reviews and buy the best every time

How can you trust investment property management reviews?

Investment property management reviews are like spouses it seems – can’t live with them, can’t live without them (apologies my darling if you’ve read this). Working in the property management service industry, I’ve learned which reviews to believe and which ones to question.

Here, you’ll learn how to spot fake investment property management reviews from genuine. You’ll learn why people post malicious, negative reviews, and how some companies are combatting false positive reviews.

Let’s start with a couple of stories about the lengths people go to when there’s money involved. For this, we’ll look outside the property management industry, to remain completely unbiased.

Meet the king of positive reviews

You may never have heard of Todd Rutherford. At one time, he was pulling in almost £20,000 per month for what he called ‘artificially embellished reviews’ about books. Before his ad account was eventually suspended by Google, he farmed out pre-commissioned book reviews and posted them on sites like Amazon. All five-star reviews, with the sole aim of encouraging others to buy the reviewed books.

Google and Amazon have been particularly aggressive in tackling fake positive reviews of books, services and products. They’ve deleted tens of thousands, often with no warning.

It’s easy to understand why a company would pay for good reviews. But surely you can trust bad reviews, can’t you? Well, the answer is, not always. To understand why this is, you have to get into the shoes of the reviewer and ask, “What’s in it for me?” Here are a couple of stories from the hospitality industry to demonstrate what I mean. Ever seen a “remarkable heart stopping show?” only to be left a little disappointed?

Discounts won by nothing short of blackmail

A friend of mine (who sadly passed away) used to provide management coaching programmes in Jersey. Not living on the island, he always stayed at the same hotel. He never had any problems there. The room was always clean, the food always excellent, and the beer always cold.

He told me after one trip that the manager had spoken to him about an issue he had on a weekly basis. Guests were threatening to post negative reviews on TripAdvisor and Expedia unless they got a reduction – or even free – hotel room.

Several times he had refused. Each time he had been blighted by a negative review. And try getting those hateful comments deleted. Virtually impossible.

A free meal as a weekly treat

A chef I know used to work in a top restaurant in Liverpool. One evening an elderly couple complained about the food. The husband had eaten all his, but the wife had only eaten half her meal. She’d found a screw in it.

Needless to say, the maître d’ did not charge for either meal or any drinks that the couple had consumed. He didn’t want a scene in the restaurant that would upset other diners and possibly even hit the local press.

A couple of weeks later, the chef was dining in another restaurant. He was still smarting from the affront to his personal reputation. Then he witnessed something strangely familiar: an elderly couple complaining about the wife’s meal. This time, the wife had found a dead spider in the food.

As they left, the chef challenged them. After some cajoling, the woman took out a matchbox, in which was a dead fly, a rusty screw, and a couple of hairs. Apparently, it was a trick they used to get free meals everywhere they went. They’d been working the scam for years, and this was the first time they’d been caught out.

Can any negative reviews be trusted?

Some negative reviews are genuine. Some are false. To illustrate this point, you don’t need to look any further than a study which was itself reviewed in TNooz Blog. The study examined 500,000 hotel reviews. It found that small, independent hotels were doing two things to boost their business:

  • Posting fake positive reviews of their hotel – always four or five stars
  • Posting false negative reviews of nearby large chain hotels

In fact, chain hotels near independents receive five times more one and two-star reviews than the same brand hotel with no direct independent competitor close to it. In other words, the system of reviews is often misused by companies to promote goods and services and competitors to trash them.

How are review sites combatting fake reviews?

We’ve already discussed how Google and Amazon have started to tackle fake reviews. They’re not the only ones. Reviews on Expedia can only be made by someone who has stayed in the hotel and booked the hotel room through Expedia. It encourages hotels to challenge poor reviews, and itself reviews the integrity of the reviewer.

TripAdvisor is not so thorough in its approach. It doesn’t manage bookings and so can’t insist on a reviewer having stayed in a hotel to post a review. Instead, reviewers self-certify that the review is based on their experience and is their genuine opinion.

Pure review sites – those that have no relation to the business or service concerned – are, by their very nature, prone to abuse, either by a business or its competitors.

How can you spot fake reviews?

Here are seven telltale traits of fake reviews – positive and negative (thanks to Time Money). This list applies to all types of review, whether for investment property management, hotels, restaurants, local services, and so on:

  1. There is little or no information about the reviewer. Reviewers who post very few reviews, or post anonymously, are most likely to be fake reviewers.
  2. All-or-nothing reviews – (five star or one star) are most likely to be false. It is especially true of one-star reviews, according to a study by the American Marketing Association. Most genuine reviews find something good to say in a bad review and something bad to say in a good review.
  3. Fake reviews often come in batches. A company has no reviews one day or for weeks, and then four or five negative (or positive) reviews the next.
  4. A lack of detail. There is less description of the poor service or product deficiency. The review concentrates on the general rather than the specific.
  5. The review is written with small words. According to scientists, it takes a lot of brainpower to tell a lie. Vocabulary suffers, and words used reduce in length.
  6. A short review is almost always characteristic of a fake review. People take the time to write genuine reviews. If you read a review that is short, with small words, concentrated on one aspect only, and suffering from poor grammar and punctuation, it’s likely you’re reading a fake review.

However, there is one other giveaway that a review is fake:

  1. When a company responds to a poor review, if its response doesn’t receive a response, there’s a 99% chance that the original review was a fake. Most reviewers want a response. If the original complaint has not been resolved, the reviewer almost always posts a second review or response. Often, if the situation has been resolved, the reviewer will post a response.

How to form a good opinion from online reviews

There’s an art to reading online reviews. With this five-step process, you won’t be caught out by fake reviews again:

  1. Read reviews across multiple review sites.
  2. Ignore reviews by people who aren’t verified on the review site (this is especially true of negative reviews).
  3. Take less notice of the stars awarded than you do of what is written.
  4. Look for the telltale traits of fake reviews.
  5. Look at the whole picture. Don’t focus on the very best or the very worst.
  6. No one can please everyone all the time. So, look at all the reviews and form a complete opinion.

Yours in effortless property management,

Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA

About the Author:

Brett has over 20 years experience in all facets of property, he owns various companies centred around property and is the driving force behind the education and training at Ezytrac. His companies have sold over £850 million in UK and London property and he manages over 1200 properties through his estate agency chain. Today he shares his time between UK, Australia and Singapore. He is married to Arlene and together they have 4 kids. Brett holds both the Level 3 Property Mark Qualifications for Property Sales and Property Lettings and Management.