Overview: With forum posts ranging from “love them” to “hate them” apartment shops are definitely not for every shopper. However, as they usually requiring extensive narrative with every question, these shops do generally tend to pay more than other types of shops. For the experienced shopper, multiple locations are almost always available, and if you have the ability to pay attention to detail and provide well-written narratives these shops can be quite lucrative.
Project variations: These assignments most always specify what type of apartment should be inquired about or requested. Some are even more specialized, such as campus apartment complexes. These shops require the shopper to be of age to pose as a college student or the parent of a college student. Other types of shops include HUD, or income based housing as well as targeted shops that require interaction with a specific employee.
Visit and reporting requirements: Most companies that I have completed assignments for have followed the same general scenario; basically calling to schedule a tour of the facilities, keeping the appointment, obtaining the required literature or business card, and waiting to see if the associate attempts to follow-up on the visit with personal contact. The reports are typically very detailed and require narrative for nearly every question. Be prepared to be contacted by editors to clarify information when accepting these assignments.
Strategies: While apartment shops usually require answers to the same basic questions, be sure to fully read the specific scenarios and requirements. Be prepared to provide (or make up) all required information, such as income or family status, that may be asked during the tour or interview. If you are not from the immediate area, you should also have an explanation as to why you are moving. The targeted shops are sometimes hard to complete. The shopper is required to speak with the target employee on the telephone, without asking for that employee. This sometimes makes it hard to actually schedule the tour. I have had shops rejected when the target employee was not available even though I had scheduled an appointment with that employee.
What others have to say: Judging by the forum posts that I have reviewed, the general consensus seems to be that targeted shops should be avoided. The requirements for these shops sometimes make them next to impossible to schedule, especially if planning to be in that area on a specific day. The only company that I know requires target shops is EPMS. All other types of apartment shops seem to have mostly positive reviews, as long as the scenario is clearly stated in the shopper instructions.
Estimated pay: I have not seen any apartment shops for less than $30 in my area. And since I live in a rural area, bonuses are often offered due to driving distance. With bonuses these shops average around $50.
MSCs: Companies that currently have apartment shops include JM Ridgway, Jancyn Mystery Shopping, Quality Scheduling Group, Ellis Partners Management Solutions, Apartment Shoppe, the Shadow Agency, and Remington Evaluations.
Further Reading: FAQ: The Basics of Apartment Mystery Shopping. Discussions on Mystery Shop Forum.