Nixing the Myths Surrounding Third-Party Management Services for Self-Storage

By Amy Campbell Comments
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In fact, regular communication is a key to symbiotic relationship and future facility success. “Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions,” Van Horn says. “Often times, most issues can be cleared up through a phone call or meeting. Also, take advantage of our knowledge and contacts. If you need something for your facility, such as new financing, real estate or legal advice, your management company will know someone who can help you.”

Myth 5: Managing a Facility Is Easy

Anyone who thinks overseeing the security, marketing, maintenance, collections, sales and legal aspects of a self-storage facility has never stood behind the counter. The fact is, managing a facility is hard work!

Like our friend Stan, many owners have other jobs, family commitments, interests or investments, leaving little time to focus on the daily operation of a self-storage property. Those who assume they can hire an inexperienced family member or even an “experienced” manager to oversee their million-dollar asset shouldn’t be surprised when the property doesn’t perform well.

“Just as you would not act as your own surgeon or attorney, you are probably equally unqualified to take on the task of managing full-time a self-storage facility worth millions of dollars in today’s very complicated and competitive self-storage environment,” says Kenneth E. Nitzberg, chairman and CEO of Emeryville, Calif.-based Devon Self Storage, which owns or manages 32 facilities across the country.

Just keeping up with the legal aspects of lien sales is a job. “The legal landscape is constantly changing as various state legislatures pass new laws, state agencies implement new regulations, new court cases are decided that could impact the facility, and new and various taxes are imposed,” says Nitzberg, noting that someone needs to not only review these changes but implement them as well.

Myth 6: All Management Companies Are the Same

While it may seem on the surface that all management companies are alike, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some are nationwide, others concentrate their services by region. Some offer the full gamut of services—from hiring managers to overseeing marketing—while others allow owners to pick and choose the services they need.

“Some companies create a machine that manages many storage facilities in a cookie-cutter fashion, based on years of experience and a lot of data. Other companies are very involved on a daily basis, focus on training, drive local marketing and customize strategies for each location,” says Alyssa Quill, vice president and managing partner of Storage Asset Management Inc., a York, Pa.-based company that oversees more than 25 properties along the East Coast. “Third-party management companies in self-storage also vary in the way they work with owners of the facilities they manage.”

If you’re considering hiring a third-party management company, do your homework. Ask for referrals, make sure you understand all their fees and the services they provide. Then let your new partner prove its worth.

“There are a number of great management companies in our industry. Once you make a choice, trust your management company to make any necessary changes to your facility's day to-day operations,” Van Horn says. “Our goal is to manage all of the important metrics of your facility and sometimes that means we have to change something. Sometimes we need to make these changes, and we need your support.”

One thing Stan the Storage Owner knows for sure—his current course is getting him nowhere. Now that he has some facts, he can evaluate his short- and long-term goals to determine if hiring an outside management company is the right move for him.

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