My wife and I have been self-storage owners since December. On the day we closed on our property in Blue Ridge, Ga., it had a 19 percent occupancy rate. The facility looked like it was owned by the Addams Family. Weeds and grass that came up to our waist were growing between the rows of units. Some unit doors were open, and the spaces were filled with cobwebs, debris and a ton of mud.
We somehow managed to surmount all these issues and create a successful business. Here’s how we did it.
Cleaning and Repairs
During the acquisition process, we conducted a short due-diligence phase. It was obvious the seller didn’t put any time or money into the property. He had a full-time corporate job and lived a few hours away.
I hired a roofer and building inspector to give everything a thorough review. A survey company visited the site to mark our boundaries with neighbors. Despite the deferred care, everything checked out fine. There was one screw missing in the roof, causing water to leak into a unit. That was a quick, easy fix. I then made a list of everything else we needed to do.
I swept out each unit, then inspected and tested each door and latch. A few latches needed to be replaced, so I ordered locks to keep them secure until rented. I hired a friend to pressure-wash the buildings. That was hands down the best $500 I ever spent in my life! The facility looked brand new. One guy stopped by and asked how we built a new facility so quickly!
One of the bigger problems we faced was the facility being unsecured. We had our security company correct the gate as well as install a state-of-the-art camera system and backup power to keep the system going in the event of power failure. It’s all about having contingencies for the contingencies.
By mid-January, we were reaching the tail end of our capital-improvement campaign. Our facility is in a rural area, so we ordered about 20 trucks of gravel to spread out across the parcel. The community was taking notice of how much we had improved the property that once was an eyesore and lease-up began to take off.
Here’s my unofficial property-improvement checklist, from start to finish:
- Clean out each unit.
- Inspect each roll-up door to ensure it works flawlessly.
- Seal any gaps around the building perimeters.
- Pressure-wash each building and door.
- Fix the gate.
- Install new landscaping. (This was less than $1,000.)
- Add a state-of-the-art security system. (This was the big-ticket item.)
- Finish enclosing the property.
- Hire a pest-control company.
- Scrape/grade the lot and add 20-plus trucks of gravel.
- Add signage.
Getting the Word Out
One of the greatest moves we made was creating a Google My Business page. I learned how to use this feature from a YouTube video, and I can speak for the results. We also established a Facebook profile, joined our chamber of commerce and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. We sponsor events in our town and make sure we brag about it on our social media platforms. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, we held an open house and provided free drinks and promo items to folks who stopped by.
Today, we’re up to 70 percent occupancy and counting! I'm very pleased with this considering how crazy things have been this year. My wife and I run two other businesses, so we operate the storage facility from our main office about an hour away. We use videos we created with our iPhones to showcase our different unit sizes, how to open and close the roll-up door, how to use the gate code, etc. This has cut down on our trips to and from the site. Overlocks help keep empty units secure and prevent people from dumping garbage in them.
I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. It’s rewarding to turn around a property and watch your hard work pay off before your very eyes. We recently closed on the land across the street, where we may expand our facility or finally build a few homes with my uncle. I hope this is an inspiration to others who are considering a self-storage project!
Adam and Megan Armstrong are co-founders of A&G Storage Solutions in Blue Ridge, Ga. They’re lifelong residents of Metro Atlanta, along with their two kids and two rescue dogs. Follow Adam on LinkedIn. For more information, visit www.agstoragesolutions.com.