Apartment Mystery Shopping: Work Smarter not Harder

There are several strategies that you can use to make your apartment mystery shopping experience easier to report and get accepted.

Recorded shops

Did you know that recorded shops, whether it is over the phone or at the property, offer you help when you are completing your report? Once the call and/or visit are recorded, listening to that recording can help you complete your report accurately, without having the stress of remembering what happened with the shop. Conducting recorded apartment mystery shops is a way to ease your stress of having to remember and in some cases, provides additional proof that you completed your shop. Tips for recorded shops:

  • Start your audio or video recording before leaving your car
  • State the property name and/or shop number as well as the date and time
  • Remember to not shut the recording off until you have reached your car again
  • For video (camera) recordings, make sure you have a good angle for the camera
    • Try it out at home before going to see what the angle is recording and if you can hear the audio as well
    • Try a sitting and standing position to help evaluate if it is a good angle
  • Do not constantly touch the camera- once it is angled appropriately, leave it

Back up documentation

Back up documentation is another way you can reduce the stress of getting your report accepted. Back up documentation would be floor plans, pictures of the property sign and/or of the apartment or amenities, pictures of the “We will return sign” that are date and time stamped for multiple times you were waiting, business cards, fee sheets or any other documentation where the leasing professional has written their name or made handwritten notes on.

  • Do remember that photos of staff members and/or residents are not acceptable back up documentation
  • Also, if you are completing a non-recorded shop, an audio recording is also not considered acceptable as the recording can not be sent with the report
  • Go ahead an upload your back up documents prior to filling out the report so you don’t forget to include them

Avoiding distractions

Another way to make your apartment mystery shopping experience easier is to avoid as many distractions as possible. Try to make calls is a quiet environment without loud talking, loud TV or radio, etc. Also, try to complete the shop without taking additional people with you. Other distractions can include squeezing in a bunch of shops with back-to-back times may make you feel anxious and then less focused on the shop you should currently be engaged with. When completing the report, again, listen to the audio to help you complete the report, if it is a recorded shop. If it is a non-recorded shop, try to complete the report the same day you visited so you can best remember what happened.

These strategies are intended to help reduce the stress of shop completion and increase your accuracy.

Apartment Mystery Shopping in Beautiful New England

As summer temperatures begin to cool, we look for ways to welcome the coming of fall.  The green of summer is beginning to turn into the brilliant colors of autumn.  Bring on the Halloween and harvest decorations and all things Pumpkin Spice!  There is no better place to celebrate fall than in New England!

Some of the most beautiful fall leaf colors can be found in the state of New Hampshire.  Franconia Notch features a 1.5-mile hike called Artist’s Bluff.  It is a relatively easy hike and will reward you with some of the most beautiful views in New England.  The Kankamangus Highway is a 34.5 mile scenic byway which will take you through some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the White Mountains. 

Massachusetts is also known for fall beauty and fun.  Those looking for a road trip to Western Massachusetts will enjoy Mt. Greylock State Reservation.  The summit of the mountain provides a panoramic view of 5 states.  On a clear day, visitors can see up to 60 miles of colorful trees.   If you prefer to stay near Boston, you will still find plenty of scenic color to enjoy.  Boston Commons features oak, maple, and beech trees that erupt into color every fall.  The town of Concord hold both history and scenic wonders.  It is home to the Concord Bridge, Minute Man National Historic Park, and literature’s famous Walden Pond. 

While you are visiting the area, why not take a little time for Ellis apartment mystery shopping?  We have lots of shops available in many areas throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  In New Hampshire, apartment mystery shops are available in areas such as Portsmouth, Lebanon, Manchester, and Salem.  In Massachusetts, we have apartment mystery shopping opportunities in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Weymouth and many other areas.  Perhaps you could do a mystery shop in the morning before sightseeing in the afternoon?  Devoting one day of a mini vacation to apartment mystery shopping could defray a good part of the cost of your getaway.  If you would like help in plotting a route of shops in New England or any other area, please contact your scheduler or login to your shopper account and search for open apartment mystery shopping opportunities in any zip code. 

Whether you are apartment mystery shopping in your home neighborhood or venturing afar, feedback from shoppers helps apartment managers improve their leasing presentations and the overall customer experience.

Mystery Shopping in the Beautiful Pacific Northwest

There are few areas of North America more beautiful than the Pacific Northwest.  Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascades Mountains, the area between Everett and Tumwater, WA includes the metropolitan areas of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.  Interstate 5 runs the length of the state of Washington, connecting those cities from north to south. 

Apartments Everywhere!

With so much natural beauty and temperate weather, it is no wonder the Pacific Northwest is one of the most robust apartment markets in the country.  EPMS has apartment mystery shops available throughout this area, with more shopping opportunities being added every day.  If you live in the area or are visiting, a road trip along Interstate 5 would take you past countless apartment communities where we have available shops. 

Is the Mountain Out?

It might be nice to enjoy a little natural sightseeing during a day of mystery shopping.  If the weather is clear, you may find that “the mountain is out,” meaning Mount Rainier can be seen through the fog and clouds.  There are numerous spots along the highway that offer great views.  On the clearest days, Mount Rainer can be seen from as far south as Portland, OR.  If you are traveling from north to south, a good turnaround point may be Tumwater Falls Park, just off Interstate 5 at exit 103 in Tumwater, WA.  Tumwater Falls Park offers an .9-mile loop walking trail.  It is an easy trail and is open year-round.  The park also has restrooms and good parking.   Visitors will enjoy historic foot bridges and see the 82 foot drop of the Deschutes River into Capitol Lake. 

Coffee Anyone?

In addition to its matchless scenic beauty, the Pacific Northwest is the capital of coffee culture.  If you have finished your onsite visits for your shops, a stop for coffee may be a nice break.  There are countless local, independent coffee shops, which are part of the Seattle culture.  Why not make it part of your day to visit an old favorite, or find a new one that you love.  If you’d like a bit of a coffee adventure, The Starbucks Roastery Reserve would fit the bill!  It is located at 1124 Pike St. in Seattle, off Interstate 5 at exit 166.  The Roastery is an immersive coffee experience that will thrill all five senses of any coffee lover.  It is one of the few locations where you can see Starbucks Reserve coffee roasted onsite.  Certified Coffee Masters love to discuss all matters coffee related, like the finest sommeliers love to discuss wine.  There are lots of seating areas and free Wi-Fi, so why not spend a few minutes entering your shopping reports while the details are freshest in your mind?

If you would like to complete shops in this area or any other part of the country, just log in to your shopper dashboard to search for available shops.  You can search for shops near your home or in any other area you’d like to visit.   If you are interested in a route of shops in one area, email your scheduler.

Follow up Success!

Did you know that an Ellis Mystery Shop is not complete when you submit your report?  The leasing professionals you shop are scored on their telephone presentation, their onsite presentation, and any follow up contacts they make after your visit.  These contacts (or lack of them) have a great impact on the score the community and the leasing agent receive for that shop.  What are some things you can do to ensure the follow up score is fair and accurate?

  1. Don’t ever decline to give your contact information or say that you prefer not to be contacted.  It is generally required that a community follow up with you.  If you are asked if you have a preferred method of contact, just say that any method is fine with you.  Don’t give the impression that you do not wish to hear back from anyone after the shop.
  2. Always provide valid contact information.  We understand you may sometimes vary your name or phone number between shops to avoid becoming known as a shopper, but the contact information you give must always be valid.  If you have used your own phone number for numerous shops, perhaps you could use a relative’s phone number or a work number to receive contact.  You can set up additional free email addresses at yahoo or gmail.  Just be sure you remember how to log in to the account so you can check for any emails from the community.
  3. Check your spam folder for any missed emails.  Check your phone for any missed calls or voice mails from the property.  Remember that the caller id may not show up exactly as the name of the community.  If you see a missed call or find a voice mail from a community you have shopped, please award credit for the contact.
  4. If you speak with a leasing professional in a follow-up call, do not say that you have already leased elsewhere.  Just say that you are still looking.  You don’t want to shut down any further contacts that could impact her score.
  5. Please report any follow-up contacts that you receive at the bottom of your shopper dashboard.  Scroll to the bottom of your shopper home page and you will see any shops awaiting follow up reporting.  Click on the exclamation mark next to the name of the shop.  You will enter a “yes” or “no” for each of the three types of follow up individually – phone, email, and mail.  You won’t be able to enter a “no” for any of the three types of follow up until it has been 5 days after the visit, but that will not cause your report to be considered late.
  6. If you receive a late follow up after your report has been finalized, please email followup@gracehill.com the type and date of the contact.  We will be happy to add that to your report.

The last few points on a shopping report that are awarded for follow up contacts often make a huge difference in the score of a mystery shopping report. 

Why Should you Shop for EPMS?

If you have signed up with Ellis or other mystery shopping companies, you probably receive our emails and other communication about available shopping opportunities near you.  If you have not done a shop for a while, you may have even forgotten why you signed up as a shopper, or how you found us in the first place.  Why should you consider renewing your acquaintance with us and doing some shops for EPMS?

Would you like to make a little extra money?  (Seriously, who wouldn’t?)  If you are saving for a vacation or would like to get an early start on your holiday shopping, mystery shopping is an excellent way to make some money.  Our shops pay a flat fee per completed contract.  You will find a nice surprise in your bank account a few weeks after your shop when your shop is paid by direct deposit. 

Many apartment communities have furnished, professionally decorated model apartments to tour.  Do you ever drive by a community near your home or work and wonder what it is like inside?   Sometimes seeing the finishes, layout and decor in a model apartment may give you ideas for how to make your own home serve you better.  EPMS Apartment Mystery Shops offer a glimpse into apartment communities right in your area. 

Mystery shopping for EPMS is completely free!  We never charge a fee to become one of our shoppers.  There are no costs associated with the tours you will take for your shops.  Apartment mystery shopping does not require you to make a purchase and then wait for reimbursement.  You will not tie up any of your own funds to do our mystery shops.

You may find a new home for yourself as part of our shopping process.  It is not unusual for a shopper to fall in love with a community they visit as part of a mystery shop.  Maybe you will be impressed by the layout, storage, and appliance finishes.  Perhaps you see residents enjoying the pool and think how much you would enjoy a swim after work.  If your lease will be up soon, mystery shopping can be a great way to get paid for your own apartment search.  If you find a new home in the process, we could not be happier for you!  We only ask that you do not lease at the time of your visit, to give the leasing agent time to follow up with you so she can earn that credit in the report.  And remember, you should never disclose that you are a mystery shopper, even after you move in!

Mystery shopping truly does help others!  When you provide honest, objective feedback through a mystery shopping report, you are helping our clients train their leasing consultants to provide the very best customer experience possible.  A truthful, well thought out mystery shopping report is a great service to the leasing consultant you shopped.  Your experience in the leasing presentation is representative of hundreds of prospects who will take a tour of that community or similar communities.  If there is information that you would have liked to receive as part of the presentation, the shop report allows you to ensure it is included in future presentations.  If an amenity is shown to you in a way that really builds value, the shopping report will make sure that feedback is noted.  Sometimes leasing consultants have given so many tours that they forget that prospects don’t always know what questions to ask.  As a shopper, you will have great influence in making sure the leasing presentation is excellent for prospects in the future.

Why don’t you take a few minutes today to log in to your shopper account and look for available shopping opportunities near your home or work.  If it has been a while since you logged in, make sure your contact information is up to date to make everything go more smoothly.  If you have any questions along the way, just email shoppersupport@gracehill.com and we will be happy to help!

Time Zones- How Important Are They?

Everyone wants to have a successful mystery shop the first time they attempt it. One of the key items to look for to ensure your shop is successful, is making sure you are shopping the property during their business hours as well as the times that the customer has outlined.

It is easy to pick up a phone or virtual tour mystery shop and think oh it says, “Anytime”. However, “Anytime” does not mean “anytime”. It means any time that the property is open for business and/or during the hours specified by the customer. You MUST be mindful of the time zones. If you do NOT call during the property’s business hours, your shop call will be considered invalid. For example, if you live in California and your shop is in Florida, that is a difference of 3 hours (3 times zones). If you wait to call at 3PM California (PST) time to call Florida (EST), it will be 6PM in Florida and it may be past the property’s open hours for business.

One helpful practice is to print out or save a time zone map of the US on your phone and/or computer. Another option would be to Google in the search bar the name of the city (e.g., “What time is Chicago, IL” ) and then Google will tell you what time it is in Chicago, IL.

There are apartment mystery shops available throughout the US – including Alaska and Hawaii! If you pick up a mystery shop and realize the time zone difference will not work with your schedule, you can decline the shop f you do so quickly so another shopper can accept it. If you pick up a shop and can’t determine what the time zone is, feel free to reach out for assistance.

Last thoughts on how to have a successful apartment mystery shop based on time: Make sure in addition to contacting during the property’s business hours that you also look at the specific instructions to see if there are specific times you are not supposed to be calling. For example, “Do NOT call between 12 and 2” or “Best time to call is between 2P and 6P”. These are time requirements from the customer. Again, if you have any questions about the specifics for a shop, you should ask instead of assuming.

Time zones are very important! Following the time zones will help you:

  • to fulfill the customer’s requirements
  • to be successful with reaching a targeted leasing professional
  • to reduce the number of attempts made to reach an on-site leasing professional
  • get your shop accepted and get you PAID!!!

California (and a little mystery shopping), Here I Come!

Where are you traveling this summer?  California always ranks among the top states for vacation travel in the country, but this summer it is better than ever!  Always known for its sunny days, the state has also received lots of much-needed rain in recent months.  This has led to cooler temperatures in most of the state.  The rainfall has also improved the scenery in many of the state’s natural recreation areas by raising the water level in lakes and rivers.  Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park is famous as one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.  Recent rainfall and unusually high snow melt in the spring means the falls are flowing at near record levels and are perfect for sightseeing.  The rain has been a healing touch to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, which were recovering from the wildfires of recent years.

Toward the southern part of the state, you will find some of the most scenic coastline in the country.  Santa Barbara is known as America’s Riviera.  With summer temperatures often in the 70’s, it is a sunny oasis offering fun for everyone.  Southern California is home to Universal Studios and Disneyland.   There are plenty of natural and man-made attractions to interest everyone.  On a walk through Hollywood, you are sure to spot some celebrities – or at least you can find their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With all these places to visit, there are also many apartments available to be mystery shopped!

Why not take a little bit of your time to do a few mystery shops?  EPMS has lots of shops available throughout the state of Callifornia.  You might like to spend the morning doing a couple of shops, then spend the rest of the day sightseeing.  You could easily earn enough to pay for a few meals or a tank of gas with just a couple of shops.  Our apartment mystery shops can be a great way to get a feel for the area as a local, rather than just as a visitor. You never know, a road trip may turn into an ideal location to move to. Plus, you could have the benefit of knowing exactly where you want to live based on your mystery shopping!

If you live in California, a road trip to a different part of the state could be a great adventure!  You can plot out a few shops along your route and they may take you to parts of the state you have not visited before.  If you are planning a short day trip, doing one shop would not take much time and would make your short adventure much more cost-effective. 

If you would like assistance in plotting a route of shops, please email scheduler@gracehill.com  Our team will be happy to add shops to your to-do list and may be able to suggest areas you would like to travel where we have even more opportunities. 

Apartment Mystery Shopping in the Sunshine State!

Are you fortunate enough to be a resident of the great state of Florida?  Or will your travel plans take you there this summer?  With its beautiful beaches, natural springs, and world-famous tourist attractions, the state of Florida holds appeal for everyone! 

Florida is enjoying a tremendous influx of new residents moving in from other parts of the country.  “Snow birds” have long visited Florida in the winter months to escape the cold in northern states.

This makes the state a thriving market in the apartment industry!

The services provided by Ellis Mystery Shoppers can help ensure that everyone gets a great leasing experience at an apartment community. Ellis Mystery Shoppers evaluate the customer service provided in the leasing presentation at selected apartment communities.  Shoppers give feedback that is priceless to our clients, as their perception of the experience reflects what would have been the experience of a real prospect under the same circumstances. 

Are you traveling to Florida on vacation this summer?  Perhaps you could spare a bit of time to shop an apartment community.  If you are visiting the world-famous beaches of the Gulf Coast, we have shopping opportunities available in Panama City, Tampa, and Naples.  If your family is traveling to Disney, we have lots of shops in the Orlando, Kissimmee and Daytona Beach areas.  If you are driving south to embark on a cruise, we have lots of shops available in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.  You could earn a bit spending money while only taking a little bit of time out of your vacation.

If you live in the area and are interested in plotting out a road trip of multiple shops, we can help with that!  Please email scheduler@gracehill.com and our team will see what is available near you.

Regardless of your reason for visiting Florida, you will find lots of sunshine and happiness!  Burt Reynolds once said, “Florida is a very healing place!”  We could not agree more!  We wish you safe travels and happy memories in the Sunshine State!

How COVID changed apartment shopping-

New Ways to Tour

As we are all aware, the emergence of the COVID pandemic changed how people interacted with each other. It also changed apartment mystery shopping. There are now more options provided for touring/seeing an apartment at the location.  Below are some key takeaways to help you with your post COVID mystery shops.

On-site guided Tours-

For a guided tour, you will tour an apartment (and the amenities) in person at the community with a leasing professional assisting you and leading the tour. Depending on the location of the shop, you may have to wear a mask based on local and/or state guidelines. Also, the leasing professional may not shake your hand due to COVID safety protocols. Make sure you read the client’s specific shop instructions and the questions on the report to ensure you are giving credit as required.

Self-guided Tours-

For this option, you will arrive on-site and hand over your ID and they will give you keys to an apartment for you to go look at and then return the keys to get your ID back. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to talk with the leasing professional after you complete the self-tour. Another option is you login to a mobile application, upload an ID and then you are given a code to a lockbox for you to enter in order to get in to see the apartment.

Virtual Tours-

When a leasing professional talks about a virtual tour this could mean several things.

  • Virtual tour video
    • Is a pre-recorded video of an apartment and/or a leasing professional walking through and talking about an apartment (or amenities for that matter). This is NOT a live virtual tour. This is a video. The video can be personalized which means that the leasing professional videos themselves in a specific apartment to meet your needs and addresses you personally in the video to discuss this particular apartment.
  • Live virtual tour
    • Is where the leasing professional schedules a specific time and date to tour with you virtually. They may use any platform (e.g., Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams) to conduct the tour. The leasing professional calls or emails you and when you connect/log in the leasing professional takes you on a tour of the apartment (or amenities)
  • Virtual tour walk-through
    • Is where the leasing professional leads you through a virtual tour video while on the phone with you. The video can be emailed to you or something you can see on the website.

What type of tour am I supposed to take?

When signing up for a shop, please look at the client’s specific shop instructions which will indicate the type of shop that is required. If you EVER have questions about the type of shop, you can use the white envelope on your shopper page to contact a team member who can provide clarification about the type of shop.

Rejection Hurts!  How to GET your report Accepted!

There is no doubt that rejection hurts!  Studies show that feelings of rejection and the experience of physical pain are both felt in the same area of the brain.  We hope that our mystery shops are enjoyable to complete and bring the satisfaction of a job well done.  We never enjoy notifying a shopper that a shopping report they have submitted is being rejected.  Here are some ways to ensure your shopping report is accepted so that our client can use it and you can be paid.

  • Read all the way through the instructions for your shop before you begin.  Some shops include specific days of the week to shop.  Many shops have a “target agent” you must speak with, or an agent you are requested not to shop.  Some shops require that a specific scenario be used, or a question asked. 

  • Listen carefully to the telephone greeting when the phone is answered.  If the greeting does not match the name of the property, reach out to us before proceeding with the visit.  We will be happy to make sure you have reached the correct community.

  • When you arrive at the community, double check the exact name of the community and the address to make sure it matches your shop instructions.  Different properties may have very similar names and differ only in words like “Estates at ___” or “Woods of ____”.  Two properties may have entrances from the same private road or parking area.  The address and name of the community will usually be found on the door, so it is a good habit to double check as you walk in.

  • You are always required to bring a valid, government issued photo ID and willingly present it if asked.  If you can’t tour because you don’t have your ID, your report will not be accepted.

  • Do not decline a tour for any reason if one is offered.  You may have said you are looking for a two-bedroom apartment and they only have a one-bedroom to show.  You should not decline to look at the one-bedroom, and you should appear interested and engaged in seeing it.

  • Do not disclose that you are a shopper at any time during your shop, or at any time later.  If you are asked directly if you are a shopper, please say that you are not.  If your shopper identity is compromised, we will not be able to accept your shop.

  • Submit your report in a timely manner after your visit.  We request that reports be submitted to us within 24 hours after your visit.  We understand that unforeseen circumstances may require a little extra time, but our clients don’t have confidence in the accuracy of a report submitted long after a visit.  Experience has taught us that the most accurate reports are submitted quite promptly.

If something out of the ordinary happens that you feel may affect the acceptance of your shop, please notify us right away by clicking on the envelope icon next to the name of the shop on your shopper dashboard.  Most problems can be resolved easily, and we are happy to help.  It is our goal to help shoppers get every shop accepted, so we can meet our due dates for our clients and build a long-term relationship with a happy shopper!