I first saw the announcement early last week that APFM had launched a new consumer review site. Because I have a deep dislike for the APFM business model, my immediate question was whether this would be a good thing for the senior housing industry and consumers or just another way for APFM to suck more money out of the industry, while providing little, if any, value.

The launch immediately went on my “must write about” list for this week.  Before I had a chance to start writing, I received an email from an APFM PR person wanting to know if I would like to hear more about the site. My first thought was that they had reached out to me because I am a famous senior housing blogger, but apparently that wasn’t it.  The real reason is that, in reading the preliminary program for the annual ALFA convention in Charlotte, they saw that Blair Carey, of RetirementHomes.com, and I are doing back-to-back sessions on managing, developing and using your on-line reputation.

I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with a PR representative for Senioradvisor.com and I asked some pretty direct and difficult questions. At the end of our conversation she recommended a further conversation with Eric Seifert, the president of Senioradvisor.com.  That conversation will take place on Monday afternoon April 1.  What follows is a summary of how the site works.

The Basics

  • The website currently has more than 137,000 senior living properties in their database. To give some perspective, APFM has about 20,000 partner communities so the vast majority of the communities listed are not APFM partners.  This is a good thing because it means there is potential for a level playing field.
  •  The listing for each site includes the name of the community and the street address, but the only phone number is for APFM.  As an experiment I called the APFM number and asked about a random non-member (or at least non-rated) community.  The representative told me they had no information about the community and suggested I look it up in the phone book or call 411.
  • The site currently has more than 17,000 reviews.  At least today, all of the reviews come from registered consumers at APFM and were submitted in the last three months.  As a result only APFM partner communities have any reviews. A curious note: it appears many of the partner communities don’t have any reviews.  This could mean they received no referrals from APFM, that the reviews were so bad they were not included or that people just did not submit reviews.
  • Each senior community listed (both partner and non-partner communities) has the ability to claim their listing. This will enable them to respond to negative or erroneous complaints.  In addition, they will be able to ask (coerce?) those individuals who write negative ratings to remove or modify them.
  • It is theoretically possible for a non-APFM registered consumer to write a review on partner and non-partner communities but, before the review is posted, it will be reviewed by someone at SeniorAdvisor.com.  It is unclear how the review process works and how long it will take for any given review to be published.
  • I spent some time looking at the reviews for several dozen senior communities in about half a dozen market areas across the country.  The majority of them had 4 & 5 star ratings. I could not find a single individual review or overall review that was less than 3 stars.  Even with those with 3 star ratings the comments were generally positive or neutral.
  • I don’t know for sure, but it is hard to imagine that no one ever rated a single partner below 3, so I suspect those consumer reviews didn’t make the cut.

I continue to be suspicious that this website will not be a level playing field.  I have fair number of additional questions I will be asking Eric tomorrow.  If you have questions you think I should be asking, post them here (not in a LinkedIn Group, because it likely will not make the cut), before 1pm PDT on Monday April 1 and I will do my best to include them in my conversation.  I will present “rest of the story” on Tuesday or Wednesday evening this week.