When Mike McCune and his team of real-estate professionals became involved in the self-storage industry from a brokerage standpoint five years ago, they made some important discoveries. "We found this was a very difficult market to get your arms around, so we started exploring it, and decided that what the industry needed was a brokerage network," says McCune, a 30-year veteran of the real-estate business who serves as president of Argus Real Estate Inc. and the Argus Self Storage Sales Network (ASSSN).
"We thought self-storage represented a much better investment opportunity for real-estate investors than what was being perceived by the investment market," McCune says. "A number of people knew about it, but the rest of the world was relatively unaware or thought that the risks of the business were excessive." Contributing to these general perceptions, he says, is "the fact that there was no organized market for buying and selling, and that the information available was very uneven in quality."
The Argus Self Storage Sales Network, based in Denver, has become the only national alliance of independent real-estate brokers that specialize in self-storage transactions, with 36 brokers throughout the United States. "The network provides potential buyers and sellers of self-storage facilities immediate access to a broad market while still maintaining the advantages of local broker expertise," says Jason Laughton, the company's director of operations.
Specialization and Market Distribution
"Argus is the embodiment of two principles necessary to successfully complete real-estate transactions," says McCune. "First, the broker must be knowledgeable in both local and national markets. Even more importantly, he must have a specialty in self-storage so that he can offer experienced, informed and professional advice to the client, whether they are a buyer or seller. Without the unique knowledge provided by specialization in the industry, a broker cannot provide the insight and experience needed to help the client in pricing, marketing, negotiating and closing the deal in a timely manner."
Laughton points out that the second necessity of a successful transaction is distribution. "I--as well as my associates--believe in a tried-and-true formula for selling real estate: Maximum distribution of complete information leads to more qualified prospects, which in turn leads to more offers and the best sales price. Thus, Argus is designed to give an owner the confidence that his property will get the largest, professional exposure to the purchasing market," he says.
To accomplish this "distribution" of information, Argus has aggressively developed a marketing approach that connects with those interested in the self-storage industry. The approach has several facets to ensure that all interested parties are aware of a property's availability.
Since the beginning of Argus' involvement in self-storage, it maintains a very active presence in industry publications.
Argus was among the first to utilize the Internet in distributing information about properties through it's home page at www.selfstorage.com. The Internet allows Argus to instantly provide pictures, maps, demographics and other detailed information on listed properties. An affiliation with the nationally known loopnet.com, the nation's largest source for commercial listings on the Internet, allows Argus and its clients access to information and is central source for searching self-storage listings.
Argus Market Monitor
Argus mails a monthly newsletter to over 15,000 industry professionals contained in a proprietary database. The Market Monitor features all available properties listed with Argus affiliates and provides a timely article on the real-estate aspects of the self-storage industry.
Argus representatives and affiliated brokers attend at least five industry tradeshows each year across the country, where they meet other industry leaders and learn the latest happenings in the industry. At tradeshows, clients' properties are prominently displayed in the Argus booth, where prospects and brokers can meet and discuss what is available.
Argus maintains one of the industry's largest and most comprehensive databases, including owners, investors and various self-storage affinity groups. This allows Argus and its affiliated brokers a broad reach in general marketing, and also allows special focus for certain types of properties or locations.
Argus adheres to a professional standard of quality in its representation of properties. Since a property presentation is usually the first thing a potential buyer sees and the principle selling document of a property, it must be thorough, clear and attractive. Argus presentations usually contain site plans, pictures, maps, detailed descriptions, demographics, historical financial information, proformas and surveys of the surrounding competition.
Although Argus believes that its comprehensive marketing approach blankets the self-storage industry with about 800,000 individual contacts each year, by far the most important part of the marketing program is the affiliated-brokers network. This network of 36 brokers represents an experienced, professional group of independent brokers affiliated with the ASSSN. The average broker has well more than 15 years of experience in real estate, and 40 percent of the brokers hold the prestigious CCIM, SIOR or MAI designations. Their broad experience and focus on self-storage bring to a seller or buyer intimate knowledge about the local market and the industry. By being active in their markets, the brokers have developed extensive industry contacts and relationships. In large measure, it is Argus' affiliated broker's experience, reputation, relationships and hard work that make the selling and buying process work so well.
A party participating in the ASSSN receives the services and benefits of the network simply by working with an affiliated broker. "It costs nothing more to the buyer or seller to benefit from the network. They simply pay a traditional brokerage fee to the local (affiliated) broker," McCune says.
The fees for ASSSN brokers are comparable to those charged by competitors in their respective markets, McCune adds. "The difference is our brokers are going to be more efficient because they have access to a large network. It takes less time for them to move properties, so they are motivated to make more money for their clients and for themselves."
The ASSSN, like the self-storage industry itself, is a reflection of the rapid maturation of sophistication of the industry. "The development of Argus has brought a new standard to marketing properties and representing clients. The industry deserves the specialization and marketing energy that Argus and its affiliated brokers bring to the real-estate market," adds Laughton.
The bottom line on this network, explains McCune, is "that it is successful only to the extent that buyers and sellers believe they are receiving what they are promised. What we promise is professional, thorough representation, broad exposure, and presentation of the industry to the outside world in a professional way."
For more information about the Argus Self Storage Sales Network, contact Jason Laughton at (800) 55-STORE.