By Pamela Alton
There are several reasons why a tenant will choose to rent at your facility, including: location, convenience, hours of operation, price, cleanliness and attention to maintenance. You do not have to have a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility with video cameras, door alarms, etc., to run rings around your competition if it is clean and well-maintained.
Take a look at your site through the eyes of a prospective tenant. Would you rent at your facility? People choose to use storage for a number of reasons, but one thing is certain: They are storing because they believe their items are valuable. Otherwise, they wouldn't pay rent each month to keep their goods. Does your manager receive plenty of calls and get people to come and visit the facility, yet they don't choose to store there? Could it be because the facility is dirty, run-down and in need of major repairs? Most prospective tenants will come visit the facility they are considering to store at before they actually move their items into a unit. The first impression means everything.
Maintenance of a facility should be a full-time job for your onsite manager. Keep in mind that there is more to maintaining a facility than just running a broom around the floor of a vacant unit. Maintenance and cleanliness mean different things to different people. Don't assume your manager has the skills or the knowledge it takes to maintain your facility. Show them what is expected of them and make sure you give them the tools to do their job effectively.
Obviously, the manager must keep all vacant units swept, clean of dirt and debris, and free of insects and rodents. The facility should be sprayed regularly to keep insects at bay, and rodent poison should also be placed in each unit. Look up at the ceiling in a unit and make sure all cob-webs are removed. It wouldn't hurt to place a copy of your facility's rules and regulations, along with a list of items that are illegal to store, on the inside wall of the unit. Hallways, stairs and elevator shafts should be swept and kept clean. Hallway lighting should be checked daily, and any burnt-out bulbs should be replaced immediately. When your manager does his morning "walk down," taking extra locks for overlocks, he should also bring a notepad and pencil, and a small broom and a dustpan so that he may accomplish several tasks and save some time.
Keeping hallways, stairwells and entryways swept will give interior units a well-maintained look. This tells the prospective tenant that the manager cares about his facility; in turn, the tenant will feel good about storing their good with your company. Make a note here that using blowers in the hallway does not keep them clean--the dirt and dust just goes into the air and right back down again. You might consider getting a push-type of sweeper that has revolving bristles. It can be pushed down the hallway, it picks up a lot of dirt, and it can be attached to the back of an electric cart so it can be pulled behind to sweep the driveways. This does wear out the bristles faster, but your manager can do this daily and keep his driveways neat and clean without hiring an outside driveway-sweeping service. The interior and exterior roll-up doors should be dusted on a regular basis also.
The exterior grounds should be kept clean, lighting should be adequate, and flags, banners and signs should all be in good condition and replaced when necessary. Drive through your facility in the evening and look for places where lighting could be improved and to see how well-lit your signage is. Landscaping should be trimmed and well maintained, any large trees should be pruned, and worn-out plants and shrubs should be replaced. If you have extensive landscaping, hire a landscaping company. If your manager is doing his job correctly, he has enough to do besides spending his time gardening.
The same goes for the maintenance of or electronic gates, elevators or lifts. They should be inspected by a licensed, reputable company experienced in servicing these items. Your manager can do minor repairs; however, I would advise hiring outside contractors for any major repair work.
The following list includes some of the tools and items your manager will need to do his job:
- Electric golf cart
- Extension cords
- Carts, dolly (hand and refrigerator)
- Driveway sweeper
- Brooms (push and regular)
- Dust pans
- Electric drill
- Light bulbs
- Cleaning supplies
- Bathroom supplies (toilet brush, etc.)
- Miscellaneous tools (wrenches, etc.)
- Bug spray and rodent poison
- Facility signs (gate and office hours, closed holiday, etc.)
- Overlocks (keyed alike, 100, red)
- Vacancy tags and keyed-alike locks (100, yellow or green)
Each year you should assess the condition of your facility and make note of any major repairs or deferred maintenance that must be addressed. Collect bids in advance for the repair work so that you may build it into your annual budget. If you have asphalt driveways, you need to have any cracks repaired and the whole facility resealed every two to three years. Each year, have your roofs inspected. Patch spots that may cause leaks in the future, have any skylights resealed and dented downspouts replaced. A new coat of paint on the exterior buildings and interior hallways can make a world of difference. A 20-year-old facility can have years taken off with a fresh coat of paint. Even roll-up doors have been successfully repainted for a fraction of the replacement cost.
Office and Apartment
Another area for consideration is your facility office. Is it time to update it by purchasing new office equipment, replacing flooring or carpeting, installing new counter tops, or putting on a fresh coat of paint? What about the onsite apartment? Does it need new carpeting, flooring, counter tops, appliances or painting? Make sure you sit down with the manager each year and discuss the condition of your facility, office and apartment. Receive at least three bids for improvements and add the cost into your annual budget.
Maintenance of your facility is the responsibility of your manager, and it is the owner's responsibility to supply the manager with the necessary tools and funds to accomplish their tasks. If you have more than 1,000 units, you will want to consider a full-time maintenance man to help your manager. By keeping your facility clean and in good repair, you can extend the life of your investment, your manager will experience the pride of ownership and people will want to rent at your site.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, the largest nationwide manager-placement service serving the self-storage industry. Mini-Management also offers full-service and operations-only property management, policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections and audits, consulting and training seminars nationwide. For more information on the various services offered by Mini-Management, call (800) 646-4648.