The real estate market has seen significantly less activity over the past two years. People are holding tight to equity. Low sales are likely being driven by lower leverages on bank loans and owners who are unwilling to reduce asking prices.
There are properties listed, but they are struggling to find buyers due to the reasons listed above or poor operation. The few properties that have traded hands have done so with cap rates ranging from sub-8 percent all the way up to 10-plus percent.
Another factor that has affected the Canadian market is the lack of interest by large companies in expanding portfolios. Two of Canada’s largest storage players are shying away from acquisitions to focus their efforts internally. The Hughes family, owners of Public Storage Canadian Properties, just bought out its shareholders. TKG-StorageMart Partners, another large Canadian operator, is working hard to stabilize its purchase of InStorage Real Estate Investment Trust by focusing on operations rather than aggressively pursuing acquisitions.
Stable, consistent, well-run operations are more important now than ever. A facility’s rates and occupancies need to constantly outperform the market if the business is going to succeed. If operations are not top-notch, the facility will not grow in value. As a result, obtaining any required financing will be a significant challenge.
The best operations continually find innovative ways to get consumers through the front door, including helping local charities and events, offering concessions for storage, participating in sporting events, and even trips. Stable facilities are investing more in staff training and additional consumer perks such as traffic cameras. These companies are also scaling back on Yellow Pages advertisements. Advertising is taking on new, cost-effective forms such as social media.
Opportunities for breaking into the Canada portable-storage market exist but will require realistic expectations and diligence on behalf of operators. If you can secure the necessary financing and an appropriate location, as well as deal with increased competition and logistical requirements, it can be a successful niche venture.
Foy & Co. Investment Real Estate Services specializes in equity raising and brokerage services for the Canadian self-storage market. For more information, visit www.foyco.ca.