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A Drab and Depressing Vet Trip Presents a Good Lesson on Self-Storage Upkeep and Renovations

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While it can be fun to be nostalgic about the 1980s, you certainly don’t want your self-storage business to put off those vibes. A recent visit at a veterinarian clinic provides some good lessons for operators on the importance of property renovations and upkeep.

Last week, my darling cat, Archer, was full of sniffles and emitting a hacking cough. The poor kitty needed a trip to the vet. I decided on one that’s close and that I’ve frequented before. To be honest, it’s not my favorite clinic for many reasons, including the difficulty to access as the parking lot can only be entered from one direction. But as any pet owner knows, securing an appointment these days is a challenge. As Archer has a history at this office and I was able to get in quickly, I booked it.

As I waited for the doc to come in and assess my cat, I made note of the room. And I immediately recalled all the reasons I didn’t like this place. To put it plainly, the office is stuck in the 1980s. The owner and veterinarian is older, and his business is seriously dated. The floors show major signs of wear. The under-the-sink cabinet inside the tiny room where we waited had goops of caulking on it where it was attached to the wall. An old-school label maker had been used decades ago to tag the drawers. But the letter L had long since been rubbed off on the word literature, and the bottom label was completely illegible. The table holding my dear Archer had seen better days, and the walls were badly in need of a fresh coat and brighter paint.

If you’ve ever taken a pet to the doctor, you know it can be stress-inducing. I was already concerned about my pet, and the dreary environment was honestly depressing. Rather than feeling confident in the vet’s abilities to treat my cat, I worried that we made a mistake going there.

Like this vet’s office, there are thousands of self-storage facilities that opened in the 1980s. That’s 40-plus years! Many owners have put in the effort to keep their sites updated—adding technology, handling repairs, replacing unit doors and other building components. There are also those with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. They’ve likely enjoyed decent occupancy for decades and have little interest in adding money to a business that’s already doing just OK. Of course, there are a multitude of investors who see these sites as hidden gems that, with some TLC, can be brought back to life. They’re turning these properties around and making money the original owner never dreamed of.

If you hope to entice renters, “just OK” probably isn’t going to cut it anymore. Most operators are in markets teeming with choices on where to store. The broken gate, gloomy office, dented unit doors and other poor aesthetics are turning people away. Simply put: your business is losing money. Will it take money to improve your site—yes. But it’s worth it on so many levels. You’ll attract better-quality tenants and employees. And you’ll ultimately elevate the value of your business today, which means higher rental rates, and tomorrow, a bigger paycheck when you sell. A well-kept site also dissuades criminals from targeting your property. Is it time to assess your facility?

Of course, it’s not just about the big projects. Property upkeep is really an ongoing endeavor. Be sure to check out the November issue of Inside Self-Storage. You’ll get guidance on property maintenance, office makeovers, refreshing your retail space, and how to keep your rental trucks, unit doors, signage and roof in perfect condition.

Sure, I received the medicine Archer needed, but I didn’t have an enjoyable experience. Even though the office staff was friendly, the vet was a bit gruff, which alone is enough to make me think about ever returning. It was almost as if I was interrupting his afternoon nap!

For many, a dated office wouldn’t be off-putting. Some might not even notice it. For me, it meant so much as I was entrusting this man and his business with my pet. There likely won’t be another visit. How many of your prospects and customers are having that same thought about your facility? Work hard to get that number to zero.

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