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Best Foot Forward

July 2, 2007

8 Min Read
Best Foot Forward

While deciding to use self-storage can be somewhat of a utilitarian decision for customers, choosing where to store ones cherished belongings can be more of an emotional choice. If the renter has used storage in the past, he may be more selective during his next experience, especially if he had any problems the first time around.

A great looking facility will generate more phone calls and visits, and dispel concerns of hard-to-please prospects. A well-groomed site tells renters you care about your business as well as their goods. Whether your project is first or next generation, improving curb appeal can directly increase profits.

A Fresh Perspective

The first thing you need to do is examine your site from all angles. Owners often develop blinders with regard to what their site looks like from the streetor to customers fresh eyes.

If youre lucky, your facility is visible from multiple streets or highways. Inspect it from any place customers can. Sometimes the site looks great from one direction but not so flattering from another. Once youve evaluated your site, its time to get to work.

Clean, Clean, Clean

My mother used to say cleaning is caring. A clean, wellkept site will give prospective renters the impression their belongings will be safe and secure.

Some tasks should be done daily. For example, clean up those old newspapers, plastic grocery bags, and all other trash that blows up against your fence. It only takes a few minutes and the results are immediate. Other cleaning tasks can be performed occasionally throughout the year to ensure you maintain your wow factor.

Pressure-washing will not only make your buildings look better but will prolong the appearance of the paint. If you have just a few buildings, you can wash them all at once. If you have a large site, set a schedule that staggers washing throughout the year, but make sure all buildings are cleaned at least annually. I recommend using a mild liquid detergent to clean off the dirt and grim. If chalking and fading doors are an eyesore, there are a number of products available that can restore their luster.

If you want to make a more dramatic improvement, consider a fresh coat of paint, which is a very economical way to give your site a facelift. Painting curbs not only gives your site a fresh look, it can aid in keeping renters from driving onto your grass or other landscaping.

Pay attention to the condition of your bollards too. They should be painted a bright color or you can use plastic covers. This will not only make them look better but will help protect your buildings, gate operator and A/C units.

Another area that makes an impression is your driveway. Paved versus gravel drives add a much cleaner look and keep the dust to a minimum. If your site is paved with asphalt, you can clean and reseal it, which will extend its life.

Fences Make Good Neighbors

One thing most of us have figured out over the years is a fence really only keeps the honest people out. Fencing is therefore a component of appearance and implied security, rather than being a sure way to deter crooks.

Whether youre building a new facility or adding a fence for the first time, there are many options that will add pizzazz to your site. One of the most attractive is an aluminum fence that has the look of wrought iron without the high cost. There are other low-cost alternatives such as coated chain link that comes in an array of colors. If your neighbors property is unsightly, you may wants to do some form of privacy fence. There are a variety of choices here too, ranging from block to wood to colored slats that can be used with chain link. Cost, maintenance and curb appeal should be considered when making your choice.

If you have an existing business, make sure your fence is in good repair. Any holes should be mended and leaning posts should be straightened. Weeds should not be entwined in the fence. Spraying Roundup or another weed killer along the fence lines should minimize this issue.

Green Is Good

Landscaping is one of the most important factors in creating curb appeal. It can be the welcome mat to your business and make your facility warm and inviting. It shows you care and are attentive to detail.

All too often, a facilitys color palette consists only of the building/trim, door and pavement colors. Landscaping allows you to be creative and enhance or add color. Consult with your local nursery to develop a plan that complements your site and m a lot that and management style. If you dont spend a lot of time at your site, choose plants that require little or no maintenance.

Also make sure to buy plants, shrubs and trees that will thrive in your particular environment. Consider heat that may be thrown off drives and your sites sunlight exposure and water conditions. Moderately spaced trees or bushes can break up long fence lines, providing your site with added dimension. Large bushes and flowers on islands or around your gate operators will help hide these unsightly steel boxes. Finally, adding fragrant flowers along the path leading to the office will create an inviting atmosphere.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Signage is becoming a big issue in commercial development. Each municipality will have its own ordinances on what is allowable and some areas can be very strict. Its important to make sure you know exactly what the regulations are on signage in your region before you post anything.

If you already have a sign, make sure its in working order. A well-maintained sign gives renters a good impression of your business. Replace any lights that have burned out and repaint poles as needed.

Another tactic to draw attention to your facility is to install a time/ temperature sign or a message board, visible from the street. Message boards can draw attention to features of your business or upcoming events in your community. This shows potential clients you are involved in local events and committed to the area. However, as much as a message sign can create a positive impression of your business, if not kept updated, it can communicate that you are lazy or inattentive.

Flags and banners can also be used to draw attention to your site, but again, check with the appropriate agencies for any restrictions.

Office and Building Appearance

For established facilities, there are many enhancements available to easily transform and update buildings. For your office, simple things like awnings and window shutters can be added for impact. Or you would be surprised at how painting the entrance door a bright color can add a whole new look to your site.

If youre doing new construction, the possibilities are almost endless. Many municipalities now require painted 3:12 pitch roofs for increased architectural appeal. They can be complemented with dormers, hips and cupolas to achieve more of a country look.

Newer facilities are also using more windows than in the past. Some sites have windows in the storage buildings to highlight the climate-controlled units at night. For areas that have strict ordinances on exterior doors, use windows that allow potential customers to see through to the interior hallways.

Its also popular to use exterior facades to enhance offices and storage buildings. These can be brick, block or other synthetic materials. They can be applied to all or part of your buildings. Mansards can also be used as an architectural enhancement. Both options allow you to blend into your community and provide aesthetic appeal.

Keep the Light on

Lighting can also have a dramatic impact on curb appeal. If you havent driven by your facility at night, now is the time to do it. A well-lit site will draw attention. Some customers want to be able to access their units at night and feel safe and secure doing so.

There are many different types of fixtures you can use to fit the functional aspect and blend into the style/design of your facility. Be sure to enlist the help of local experts when determining which fixtures to use, as many cities have restrictions.

Renter Savants

Most important, remember you are operating a retail facility. Your street image and overall curb appeal can be the deciding factor in the minds of consumers in terms of whether they even stop at your site.

Todays self-storage renter is more demanding in what he expects from a facility. In this industry, the newer, fancier sites get more attention. Therefore, for first-generation owners, its important to keep your facility looking updated, clean and secure. In the increasingly competitive world of self-storage, you need every advantage you can get. By making sure that your facility looks the best it can, you will ensure the renters keep coming instead of going to your competition. 

Pat Terry is the regional sales manager for Trachte Building Systems southeast territory and an active member of the Alabama and Florida Self-Storage Associations. He has spent the last 10 years helping storage owners develop and run facilities throughout the country. He also writes articles for Trachte newsletters and participates in industry tradeshows. For more information, visit www.trachte.com

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