Insights from Einstein: How are Students Different from Conventional Renters?

Apr 9, 2024 by Turner Batdorf
Turner Batdorf

Welcome back! I will waste no time getting into this month’s content: students! But I must add a disclaimer first. Even if you do not manage students, don’t just log off and wait for May’s blog. With takeaways about student renters come insights into Gen Z. Yes, Gen Z- the massive renter group on the horizon for many of you. So, whether it is today’s reality or a problem for the future, let’s get into understanding the student renter using Einstein.

Now, if you are following our J Turner Research socials or Multifamily Executive, you probably saw that we released our annual student company rankings for ORA earlier in the year. This is the ranking of all the student managers and top 100 student properties based on their ORA Scores. Specifically, and without getting too into the weeds, they get ranked based on the quality of their star ratings. You can see with a quick analysis that student properties/companies tend to score lower than conventional, which tells us that students may be more dissatisfied.

Perhaps they are just grumpy and/or hungover, but I believe there is a lot to glean from getting into the open-ended data expressed in online reviews. What students care about and, most importantly, what drives student renters to be satisfied or dissatisfied, is pretty unique! While a lot of the same things matter to them as all renters, there are some key differences. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the 5 biggest takeaways from comparing students to conventional renters.

1. Amenities Really Matter

Students care about amenities. This seems like an obvious statement because of course they want the most Instagramable pool, the best gym for “getting gains,” and a game room that will make their apartment the host site of their friend group. But… they don’t just want bells and whistles. They really care about the amenities being readily available and operating correctly.

A whopping 29.62% of all reviews for student properties mention something about the Condition & Availability of Amenities/Common Areas. That is 34% higher than what we see when analyzing all renters (22.10%). Moreover, while the average renter talked about amenities at a lower rate in 2023 (21.23%), student renters talked about them more! 32.46% of all reviews left in 2023 had a mention about the condition and availability of these spaces.

Condition & Availability of Amenities/Common Areas Lifetime Reviews 2023 Reviews
All Renters 22.10% 21.23%
Students 29.62% 32.46%
Difference 34.06% 52.89%


This category was also mentioned positively in 31.99% of 4- and 5-star reviews, making it a primary driver of student renter satisfaction.

2. Customer Service Matters Less

On the contrary, Customer Service moves the needle less with students than with your average renter. Now, if you read our previous blogs, you know that Customer Service always matters. It is still the top-mentioned category for students in both negative and positive reviews. But it is important to note that there is a stark difference between student and conventional renters in terms of how they think about it.

Specifically, Customer Service gets complained about by students at an equal rate to conventional renters, but it gets complimented far less often. AKA: if you mess up, they will let you know about it. But they are not as easily impressed or connected to the staff (I know… frustrating!)

Customer Service Positive Mentions in 4- and 5-Stars (2023) Negative Mentions in 1- and 2-Stars (2023)
All Renters 67.34% 61.42%
Students 57.69% 59.02%
Difference -14.33% -3.91%


3. Maintenance Does Not Impress Them…

Just like we saw with Customer Service, a similar trend exists with both Maintenance Service and Maintenance Timeliness. Namely, students will complain at the same rate as the average renter about maintenance, but they compliment maintenance far less often in 4- and 5-star reviews. In this case, the difference is drastic.

Positive Mentions in 4- and 5-Stars (2023) Maintenance Service Maintenance Timeliness
All Renters 21.85% 13.89%
Students 12.28% 11.55%
Difference -43.82% -16.84%


My hypothesis is what I call the “Amazon Effect.” Students in 2023 have grown up with services like Amazon Prime which has consequently altered their perception of “good” service. Amazon will do anything for you: hassle free returns, speedy customer service, ample communication, etc. But after a few years of having it literally at your fingertips, it is easy to take it for granted. All of a sudden you find yourself complaining about your same-day delivery being delayed until tomorrow morning. 10 years ago, same-day delivery did not exist…

Students have been a couple of clicks away from getting anything they want from the time they had any level of discretionary income. I can’t help but wonder if the standard of service has been raised to a point that the “wow” moments that have historically won over older generations are going to be much harder to come by with Gen Z.

4. With That Said, Make Turn Count

Student renters are unique because they typically move-in in incredibly large waves and sometimes almost all at once. The process to get the units ready in between school years, known as “turn,” is incredibly challenging for onsite teams because of the amount of work that needs to be done in such a short time. Because of its challenges, there are plenty of companies that really struggle to execute it well. This is evident by how often it gets complained about. And, therefore, it can be an online reputation murderer.

Students mentioned poor Move In Quality as a source of their dissatisfaction in 20.65% of 1-and 2-star reviews in 2023. This number is up from 15.36% lifetime. Moreover, this 2023 number obliterates the marks set by the average renter that you can see below.

Move in Quality Lifetime Reviews 2023 Reviews
All Renters 9.17% 12.36%
Students 15.36% 20.65%
Difference 67.44% 67.04%

We should note that Move-In Quality gets complimented by students at a lesser, but similar rate to conventional properties. Our takeaway? It is critical to figure out turn or it will undo a lot of the good you have done to boost your online reputation the other 11 months of the year.

5. It is Not All Stark Contrast

While I have drawn your attention to categories that have large variance, there are a lot of similarities between student renters and conventional renters. While the order is slightly different, the same 10 categories get discussed the most often in online reviews among both student and conventional renters. Categories like Security, Noise, Communication, Financial Clarity, and Cleanliness still really matter and should be viewed as essential for driving overall satisfaction and loyalty to the property.

In Conclusion...

You need to care about this generation. Apart from the fact they are going to make up a good majority of the renter population in a short time, we also know that Gen Z is smart- they do their research and are reading your reviews. J Turner Research’s latest Internet Adventure Study noted that they were the most likely generation to decide not to tour a property after reading a negative review (66.7%). We identified in today’s blog that they have seemingly higher expectations too, so we must get our operations in order so that we can meet them where they are at.

I appreciate you tuning in, and I am excited to continue diving into this data. Next month we will turn our attention to the effect of each category on your star ratings and ORA Scores.


The insights in this blog came from utilizing J Turner Research’s text categorization tool, Einstein Thought Analysis. Einstein Thought Analysis is a proprietary AI software that will objectively show you your operational strengths and weaknesses based on anything anyone has ever said about you online in reviews. What is being said is incredibly valuable because it is essentially the "why" behind your scores. Reviews are unprompted descriptions of why a resident is satisfied (left a high star rating) or dissatisfied (left a low star rating). This means that what is being complimented and complained about can be seen by owners and operators as drivers of satisfaction/dissatisfaction. For more information, please visit here.

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