|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Matt Lexow-Gray|
|Posted on: 02/01/2008|
Purchasing an existing self-storage facility can be a great introduction to the industry if you know what you’re getting. The question is: What should you look for when you buy, and why?
Before you purchase a facility, evaluate your investment strategy. Are you looking for a steady rate of return, say 5 percent, 7 percent or 10 percent? Do you prefer minimal management responsibility and maintenance issues?
If this is the case, find a site that has reached stabilization, meaning the property has achieved market occupancy (typically 80 percent or more, annually) and rental rates. Stabilized properties may be your best fit if you’re prepared to “clip coupons” to achieve a steady rate of return on a monthly and yearly basis.
If, however, you want a higher rate of return or don’t intend to hold the property long, hunt for one that is a “value-add” play. This scenario is not for the faint of heart. These properties usually have issues related to management, advertising, competition, age of structure, etc. If your goal is to improve a site’s performance and you have the resources to do so, look for your diamond in the rough.
The Right Fit
Regardless of your investment strategy, you’ll need a proper fit. Some pointers: Always purchase based on actual operating numbers not pro forma. Provided by the seller/broker, a pro forma projects how the property can perform, but you need hard numbers confirmed by the following:
This data will reveal what, if any, problems exist at the facility, and help you determine if the investment is suitable. For example, let’s say a rent roll shows the property at 95 percent physical occupancy, but the monthly profit-and-loss statement reveals a 70 percent economic occupancy based on monthly receipts. It could be some rents are pre-paid, verified by higher revenue collected in preceding months. It could also mean a high number of delinquencies. If this is confirmed in the delinquency report, a red flag should be raised.
Other questions to ask the seller or broker include:
Never buy on a whim; analyzing the data you’ve collected is essential. Each investor must decide for himself if a property suits financial goals. Let the numbers, not emotions, be the deciding factor. The following are some of the most common financial techniques used when analyzing a deal:
Cash-on-Cash Return—The annual before-tax cash flow received. This simple calculation should tell you right away whether to proceed with the project. It is derived through a two-step equation:
1. Net Operating Income - Debt Service = Net Cash Flow
Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)—Rate of return used to derive the value of an income stream. This is the annual rate of return you’d earn if you were paying all cash for the property. It varies by location, age, operating history and market. As an investor, target a benchmark cap rate for your deals. The equation: Value of Property = Net Operating Income/Cap Rate.
Internal Rate of Return—The true rate of return on equity over a period of time. This calculation more accurately determines the return received over the life of an investment with compound interest factored in. This is a must if you’re looking at a value-add project with varying cash inflows and outflows.
Set a benchmark for each of the ratios outlined above and only invest in deals that meet or beat your goal. Patient investing is paramount.
Let’s Make a Deal
What is a good deal? More important, what is a good deal for you? Just because the numbers work for someone else does not mean the property is an ideal investment.
For stabilized properties, you need to meet your projected rate of return. For a value-add property, things get more complicated. Here are some examples of investment strategies that can be implemented:
Look at your buying options cautiously and creatively. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to improve a facility’s appearance and income stream. Regardless, don’t buy a self-storage property unless the price is right and you can meet your own predetermined benchmarks through the purchase. A successful investment career is ahead of you if you can do both.
Matt Lexow-Gray is a senior loan originator with S&W Capital and Realty, a boutique commercial mortgage and commercial brokerage firm that finds solutions for borrowers’ financing and property needs. For more information, call 888.525.9081; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.sandwcapital.com.