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.

I Love Being an Ellis Apartment Mystery Shopper!

My journey to becoming an Ellis apartment mystery shopper started when I decided I wanted to be a ‘stay at home mom’ when my kids were little. At first, I got a job at their elementary school as a teacher’s assistant. Later, I decided to find another way to make money and still be available at home. That’s when I found Mystery Shopping accidentally. Someone mentioned that they had done a few shops, I asked how to get started, and off I went.

I went to Volition.com (unfortunately the site no longer exists), which had lists of all the shopping companies. Since I had no idea what I would like to do, I took almost every type of shop that was offered. I must have registered for a hundred companies. After a while, I found that I especially liked doing apartment mystery shops, and Ellis was the company that seemed to have the most shops, the nicest and most helpful staff, and paid the most.

I found that I enjoyed visiting communities, talking with leasing agents, and pretending that I was really looking for an apartment. After a while, I learned what a great presentation was, and what was not so great. Most of the times, the evaluations were very good. The leasing agents did everything right. And occasionally, something in the presentations was lacking. I was and still am glad to be part of a team that’s involved in helping leasing professionals hone their leasing skills while also celebrating their successes.

Ellis also has phone only shops, which I find extremely easy to do. And I don’t have to leave my comfy place! I am proud to say that I have completed more than 5,000 phone shops. Also, unbelievably, I have completed more than 1,000 in-person apartment mystery shops!

Amid all of this, the unexpected happened: Coronavirus. For some time I stopped all mystery shopping on-site and did only phone presentations and virtual tour shops. I learned how to record the videos of the virtual tours, compress them, and send them in with the report. After a year or so, Self-Guided Tour shops were the new thing.

Now we are almost back to normal, and hopefully it will stay that way. There is an almost unending flow of shops that Ellis puts online for shoppers to assign. I like that I can choose to have a busy mystery shopping schedule or can take it easy for a while.

When I contact the EPMS team through the envelop icon on my shop dashboard, they are always helpful, professional, friendly, and understanding. Even when I have had to cancel a shop (which is not often) they are always kind.

My most important advice to new shoppers is to always follow the client’s shop instructions exactly. There is a lot of typing required in most of the reports and it is important to double check your spelling and grammar. I have loved when I have gotten positive feedback from the editors, who have said that they looked forward to getting my shops because there wasn’t much left for them to do. That is a great ‘pat on the back’ for sure!

I have worked as a contract apartment mystery shopper with Ellis for 22 years. I have made a few friendly connections and I appreciate when schedulers reach out to me when they have a special type of shop.

Ellis is a great company and has a team who cares about their shopper. I plan to continue with my apartment mystery shopping for Ellis for many years to come. I encourage you to do so as well!

Contributed by Sherry W

If You Can’t Say Something Nice – Offering Constructive Criticism

You already know the point of apartment mystery shopping is to offer feedback on your apartment shopping experience. Most of the time, you’ll have a good experience with good service. However, once in a while, the experience will be…less than desirable. It is in these instances that you need to be especially thoughtful about how you deliver your feedback. Clients want to know the facts, but they expect to receive that information with courteous, professional language.

For starters, remember that you’re not really looking for an apartment – you’re only pretending! This will go a long way to help you remain neutral and not rely on emotions to evaluate the shop. Sure, the apartment you’re looking at may be way out of the price range you would spend in real life or maybe it doesn’t look at all like the type of apartment you would choose. Keep in mind that your primary objective is to rate the service performance of the agent, not rank the actual apartment in terms of which looks nicest or has the best price. This way, you won’t feel indignant if the apartment is “too expensive” or “not new enough”.

When you complete a shop and the agent isn’t very friendly or helpful, do your best to stick to the facts instead of fixating on one specific behavior or statement. It’s okay describe your experience in terms of how you felt (i.e. “I felt like I was interrupting”, “I was not offered any refreshments”, or “I did not feel like the agent was motivated to help me”), but try to avoid making assumptions about the agent’s intentions or reasons for behavior. To state, “I was not greeted when I entered the office and waited several minutes until I was noticed” versus, “The agents were all very rude and completely ignored me when I came in because they were too busy chatting” is a more professional, non-emotional way of telling the story. Keep this in mind when listing areas for improvement, as well. For example, try saying, “She could have taken more time to ask about my needs before ending the call” instead of “Next time she could try to actually do her job and find out what I wanted”.

One other area where it is important to exercise tact is when you are describing the actual community. If a particular community is older and possibly in need of updates, but is otherwise tidy and well-kept, avoid making derogatory statements like, “The community was old and outdated”. Instead, try being more specific, like “The community grounds were free of trash and the landscaping was well maintained. The buildings looked like they could use a fresh coat of paint.”

All in all, remember that this is a business interaction. You are essentially working for the apartment management companies on a contract basis, so when you write a report, think of it as writing an email to your boss. You can share your concerns, but do so in a polite, professional manner. Doing this will help you to be a 5-star shopper!

Welcome to the Team! – Getting Started with Mystery Shopping

If you’re looking for a simple, flexible way to make some extra money this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place! Apartment mystery shopping is a great way to supplement your income on your terms. Shop compensation is paid via direct deposit once a month. You can find shops in your area (or in any area, if you’re planning to travel) and you can choose which shops you want to complete.

Before you can start shopping, you’ll need to visit our website to apply. You’ll complete the application and then review the reference materials to help you understand how it all works. Once you’ve completed the application process and have a shopper profile established, you’ll find we have multiple helpful resources on the home page, including several instructional videos. In addition, our staff is just an email away to help walk you through the application and shopping process.

Make sure you have access to a telephone as well as a computer with an Internet connection as most apartment mystery shops require you to complete a phone call and an on-site visit followed by an online report to evaluate the service you received. If you don’t have a computer at home, check out your local library to see if there are computers available for your use. You may also want to consider creating an extra email address or two that you can use for your apartment shopping.

Once you’re ready, you can log in, enter your zip code and find shops near you to work on. When you accept the shops, you will have a follow up person assigned to the shop who is there to help you. Anytime you are not sure how to proceed or have difficulty, you can use the little white envelope to send a message to your follow-up person for help. We’re looking forward to having you join our team!

3 Steps to Have Fun Shopping in 2017

stocksnap_ryklc0oeqlReview 2016

Take some time to look at the types of mystery shops you completed in 2016. To make this easier, you can look at your “I want to Check on a Payment/See my Previous Shop Contracts” tab within the EPMS portal to see all the shops you completed in 2016 listed in one place.

How many apartment mystery shops did you complete last year? Would you like to complete more shops this year? What type of apartment mystery shops did you complete (regular, audio, video)? Would you like to explore new types of apartment mystery shops?

Ask yourself those questions to start and if you think of more questions, feel free to ask those as well. From there, you can make a clear plan moving forward.

Adjust Your Schedule

I am sure you made New Year’s resolutions. If so, hopefully one was to add more mystery shops to your schedule!

Decide how many mystery shops you can do in a month and stick to it. It not only helps with your discipline, it will add a little extra money in your pocket each month. Let’s not forget you will be doing a great service to the apartment community’s customer service arena as well. The residents and future residents will thank you.

Mix Them Up

Take some time to look at your review list and see which types of apartment shops you completed the most.

If you completed many regular mystery shops where you would complete a phone call then visit onsite, then try a recorded onsite mystery shop. There are also video shops. Choose not to be nervous about video or audio shops as they can sometimes be easier than they appear.

After all, variety is the spice of life!

Two Tips to Grow Mystery Shop Monthly Income

89Let’s face it, we mystery shop because we like to provide invaluable information to companies so they can continue to provide great customer service to their clients. However, we also like to make money. We have bills to pay and we want to enjoy life; that takes money.

First, decide how much money you want to make each month. You should determine how much extra money you want to make each month and you can decide a different amount from one month to the next. Remember, nothing is set in stone here.  From there, you can work out the math for how many shops you need to complete to make that amount of money.

The great thing about apartment shops is it costs no money for you to complete the shops, meaning  you do not have to buy any item or pay for  anything and wait to be reimbursed. This is great, not to mention apartment shops pay well.

You should check the mystery shop site weekly. There are some mystery shop companies that will send you weekly emails on what is available. Otherwise, you will need to check the site to make sure you are able to secure the shops you want to complete.

Mystery shopping gives you the flexibility to make more with less time invested than going to work. Take some time today to check EPMS and see what shops are available for you to complete during your spare time. You can thank me later!

Top Skills of Successful Mystery Shoppers


Successful mystery shoppers are the best at what they do because they consistently complete mystery shops. You can read about doing something all day, yet if you do not take the time to apply your skills, you will never gain the real world experience needed to be one of the best. If you work to develop the skills below, you will be come a great mystery shopper!


Love what you do (or at least like it). If you like, or even love what you do, you will want to do more of it. Am I right? The more you like mystery shopping, the more shops you will want to complete. The more mystery shops you successfully complete, the more practice you will get and the better you will be at completing successful shops.

Do not assume anything. What I mean by this is that you should read everything. Do not assume because you have done a similar mystery shop that it will have the same instructions and directions. Remember, there are companies that hire EPMS to have these shops completed. They will have slightly different parameters and information they want gathered for each shop.

EPMS makes it easy to read through each section of instructions and you must mark it as complete before you can submit your shop results for review. This is a good thing, so make sure to read through everything.

Take action! The best way to refine and learn something is to put it into action. In this scenario, this would involve completing mystery shops. Actually log-in to the shopper area and select shops based on your schedule to complete. It can really be this simple if you allow it.

Overall, if you follow these 3 skills, you will definitely become a better mystery shopper than you are right now. Remember, this applies to you whether this is your first or one hundredth shop.

Best Way to Grow Your Mystery Shop Skills

16It does not matter whether you are a new mystery shopper or you have been doing this for years; you can grow your skills at any level of your mystery shopping career.  To be the best at anything, you need to focus and grow your skill set. This takes time and dedication, yet it does not have to take all of your time. If you are strategic and plan accordingly, you can get a lot done in a small amount of time.


The absolute best way to grow your mystery shopper skills is to practice. Actually this is the best way to grow any skills. If you’re only doing one or two shops a year, there is no way you are going to learn the ropes of being a successful mystery shopper. You may be wondering how many shops you should complete per month or year. Well, this truly depends on your schedule and availability.

The ultimate best way is to practice your skills. And the best way to practice your skills is to mystery shop. There are a variety of mystery shops available. You can do apartment shops, restaurant evaluations, hotel shops; the list can go on. Choose the type of mystery shops you like the best, select a reputable mystery shopping company and start shopping!

For apartment shops, EPMS is one of the best companies. They have a variety of apartment shops to choose from along with the ability to select a majority of the available apartment shops to assign to yourself. Remember, you can always decide your schedule of shops based on your own free time. There is no clocking in or out with mystery shopping!

3 Reasons to Mystery Shop Now


Mystery shopping is a fun and engaging way to make sure companies are meeting their customer’s needs. Companies invest money to train their staff, so they want to make sure the staff is following the training. Mystery shops give companies the opportunity to collect data and gauge the performance of their staff.


One reason you should begin mystery shopping now is to make extra money. You get paid to complete mystery shops, which is a good thing as your time is valuable. The great thing about apartment mystery shops is that they pay well relative to completing other types of mystery shops. You can make as little or as much money as you like with mystery shopping. It simply depends on how much time you have and how confident you are with completing multiple shops.

Another reason to mystery shop is that you can work on your own time. You can choose mystery shops that fit in your schedule and you do not have to worry about clocking in or clocking out; there are no set schedules. Mystery shopping companies do not have a minimum number of shops you need to complete each month. It is completely up to your schedule.

Finally, you stand to gain new skills when you start mystery shopping. The more mystery shops you complete, the better you will be able to complete future shops. You will also feel more confident completing multiple shops, which allows you to get better shops over time. You will feel more comfortable completing numerous shops per month as you get the hang of what is required to complete a successful shop.

Overall, mystery shopping is great way to build your skill set, make more money, and make a difference in customer service.

Conducting the Phone Portion of a Shop


There are typically two components to apartment shops and the first starts with a phone call. During with phone call, you will assess the leasing agent’s ability to learn your apartment home needs, share details about the community and apartment amenities, and entice you to visit the community and tour the facilities. This phone call is typically recorded. EPMS will provide a toll free number you will dial and enter a special code unique to that shop.


There will be times where you cannot get a leasing agent on the phone right away and you may need to either call back or in rare cases, leave a message. In those cases, if the leasing agent returns your call, you will need to make an excuse to call them back on the recorded line using the EPMS toll free number. With most apartment shops, you will either be assigned a specific leasing agent to call or you will have the opportunity to shop any agent that answers the phone.

Either way, it is up to you as a shopper to allow the leasing agent to do their best. Try not to lead the call as it is the leasing agent’s job to ask you questions and inspire you to take a tour. The phone shop must be completed prior to taking the in person tour, which you will always say yes to when and if it is offered by the leasing agent. Once you’ve completed a couple of phone assessments, you will see how easy they really are.  Do not worry and remember to allow the leasing agent the best opportunity to be successful!