Avoiding Self-Storage Stagnation: Using Facility Renovation to Progress to Success

When you own a self-storage facility, there are countless factors that can bring the business to a point of stagnancy or decline. Many are surmountable through simple renovation. This article provides advice for choosing upgrades and completing the work.

By Jarred Buckler

In any business, there can come a pivotal moment when you’re faced with a choice: be overshadowed by the competition, maintain the status quo or risk making a change. When you own a self-storage facility, there are countless factors that can bring your business to this breaking point. Your site may be older, lack security, have insufficient lighting or simply be difficult to navigate. While these types of circumstances can contribute to the stagnation or decline of your business, they’re not insurmountable.

There are several options available that can help move your business from stagnation to success. One is facility renovation. This is especially important to consider if your property is aging. Following is advice for choosing the appropriate upgrades for your particular site and completing the work.

Areas for Improvement

First, focus on your curb appeal, suggests Dean Ballard, owner of Ballard Contracting & Consulting of Cibolo, Texas. Many potential renters may not even consider your facility if it isn’t aesthetically appealing. Improvements can be as simple as paint, new landscaping, door adjustments or new lighting.

It can also be beneficial to convert smaller, unused units to larger ones that may be in higher demand in your market, Ballard says. For example, if your facility has several empty, consecutive 5-by-10s, look into the possibility of removing the partition wall to offer 10-by-10 units instead. The same could be done with other unit sizes to give you more of the unit mix needed at your site.

Another area to consider is lighting. In addition to the potential tax breaks available to you upon installation, more energy-efficient lighting will pay for itself in cost savings over time. Also, updated lighting is visually appealing and leaves your facility more secure. It’s a simple, affordable change that can yield immediate results for your business.

Self-Storage Facility Renovation***
A completed facility renovation in Stephensville, Texas

Get a Fresh Perspective

Ballard offers two more pieces of advice: Use your friends and do your research. Prior to making any improvements to your property, invite a trusted friend or colleague to walk your facility grounds and offer suggestions. Often, someone with a fresh pair of eyes can provide a valuable perspective on a property’s condition and identify areas that need attention. It’ll be easier for an outsider to see these things than it will be for you or your manager, who may have become blind to facility conditions due to constant exposure.

Rely on the Experts

When you’re ready to move forward, use an experienced and competent contractor who’s knowledgeable and experienced in your area of renovation. To find a good candidate, begin by referencing a resource like the Inside Self-Storage Buyer’s Guide. You can also ask colleagues about the companies with which they’ve had good experiences and read reviews online.

If you decide to attempt the project yourself, keep in mind that self-performed work often ends up being very costly. For example, if you paint your roll-up doors without properly prepping the surface or using the correct materials, within a matter of months, they’ll typically look worse than they did before. This could end up nearly doubling the price of the project and delaying your facility makeover.

Working with a professional will be of particular benefit if your renovation includes the addition or expansion of storage units or buildings. Whether your facility is at capacity or you have customer requests for unit sizes that aren’t available, this can be a frustrating and ongoing problem for your business. Perhaps you want to add climate control, boat/RV storage or even a multi-story building. A self-storage expert can help you explore your options and look at what may work best for your particular space.

A specialist can also advise you on building codes, which may have changed since you constructed your original buildings. It’s good to familiarize yourself with the code requirements when you’re looking to expand. Not only will this keep you educated, it’ll help you create a more accurate budget for your project. For example, the city may require that you add or expand a detention or retention pond, or install a fire-suppression system in your buildings. Knowing to expect these requirements will keep your project on course.

Whatever improvements you decide to make at your self-storage facility, do your homework to make smart decisions about scope and cost. Your project can range from simple and inexpensive to much more complex. In either case, if you keep an open mind to renovating or expanding your existing site, you can help your business move toward increased occupancy and revenue.

Jarred Buckler is a regional sales consultant for A-Lert Building Systems, a New Braunfels, Texas-based company that designs, engineers, manufactures and installs self-storage buildings across Canada, Mexico and the United States. To reach him, call 210.860.2772 or e-mail [email protected]. For more information, visit www.alertbuildingsystems.com.

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