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Self-storage investing can be filled with challenges, particularly if you’re new to the industry; but as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” The key is to create and maintain momentum. The author, who amassed his own $40M portfolio in just three years, shares three secrets to success.

Cameron Barsanti

December 7, 2023

6 Min Read
Self-Storage-Investing-Keys

If you’re a self-storage investor, regardless of which stage you’re in along the journey, you’ll eventually face challenges. Distraction and doubt are two of the most common.

When I started investing in real estate four years ago, I had no money in the bank. In fact, I was an out-of-work actor collecting unemployment and writing screenplays. With baby No. 2 on the way, I’d just lost my wife’s life savings on a feature film I made. Talk about rock bottom.

Three years later, we’ve acquired 12 self-storage facilities across six states, nine of which I sourced myself. The estimated market value of our portfolio is more than $40 million. The natural question to ask at this point is how somebody like me can go from where I was to being a successful operator and entrepreneur in relatively short order. The answer is momentum.

Whether you’re just getting started in the industry or are a seasoned investor/operator, my essential piece of advice is to focus on building and sustaining momentum. This can comprise many things, but let’s drill down on the three primary elements that have propelled me to my current position. I hope they’ll help you expedite your own self-storage goals.

1. Focus on Consistent Deal Flow

Good deals are the keys to the kingdom. When you find one, the rest of the process will fall into place. You’ll find the capital, lender or partner(s) you need and be able execute. Why? Because everyone wants in on a money-maker. Finding and taking down a good self-storage transaction is no small feat, but the hardest part is finding one.

Todd Kruger, my primary storage partner, has been a real estate investor for 30 years. He owns his own brokerage and title company, is a hard-money lender, and runs several other lucrative businesses. Why would a seasoned investor like Todd want to partner with a guy like me?

The simple answer is deal flow. Our first foray together was an 11-unit apartment building we purchased four years ago. I brought that deal to him, and he guided me through the rest. I continue to bring him solid transactions. I’m the hunter; he’s the executor. Today, we both wear several hats as our team grows, and we continue to buy and operate self-storage nationwide.

Another of my partners is AJ Osborne, who’s been a self-storage investor for more than 20 years. He’s been an incredible resource. The reason a storage pro like him partnered with me is because I found a smart deal.

From my perspective, maintaining positive deal flow is dependent on a strong mindset. Success is 80% mental. Continually pursuing deals means you’re constantly creating opportunities, which fuels a stronger outlook and approach. I’ve found that the majority of self-storage investors know they want to participate, but they’re stuck because they have no deal flow. Self-doubt takes over, and they quickly become discouraged. You can’t afford to be paralyzed by uncertainty and discouragement.

Deal flow creates opportunities and action. Once you build and sustain it, you won’t have time or room for doubt to creep in since you’ll be too occupied by analyzing and pursuing transactions. Achieving this flow won’t only help you learn and grow, it’ll keep you inspired and fuel your commitment.

Deal flow begins with finding someone who can teach you how to find and identify what a good self-storage investing opportunity looks like. Aligning yourself with the right people is a critical part of your journey. You might find them via a podcast, book, your network, or any version of a teacher who meets your needs. For me, it was about mentorship, which is our second key element.

2. Find a Mentor

If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest, would you try to do it by yourself? Not if you’re smart. Preferably, you’d find someone who’s already done it, knows the best route and is willing to be your guide. So, if you want to learn how to make money, hang out with millionaires. If you want to succeed in self-storage, surround yourself with those who are successful in the industry. It’s a simple point, yet it scares many people away.

The idea of investing time and money into a mentor or mentorship program is often one of the biggest challenges for investors, especially newbies. I’ve been there myself. However, one of the most pivotal choices I made was having a mentor from day one, first for multi-family and then for self-storage. It was a challenging but clear decision my wife and I made early in our investing journey, before we could even afford it.

The return you receive from a great mentorship is infinite. This path hasn’t only shaved years of trial and error off of my self-storage career, it’s massively propelled my journey forward. Mentors help prevent distraction. They keep your eye on the target. A mentor is your accountability partner who’ll keep you focused on your goals. I used to get shiny-object syndrome (and still do from time to time), but preventing distraction helped me stay laser-focused.

Of course, not all mentorship programs are equal, so it’s important to conduct research. Do your due diligence to find a person or group who suits you well. The payoff is huge. A great mentorship often leads to organic relationships with like-minded investors. These folks can become a substantial part of your network. As the saying goes, “Your network is your net worth.” In my experience, this group will become influential in your education and growth, and some peers may likely become your partners.

3. Build Strong Partnerships

There’s an African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’d argue that if you want to go fast and far, go together always.

If you’re able to use your self-storage deal flow to attract extraordinary partners, you’ll expedite your growth exponentially. Good partners will make you great. They’ll help you crush your goals and achieve your dreams. No one does it alone, at least no one I’ve met thus far.

The most valuable partner I have in my life and business is my wife, Cristina. She’s the only reason I’m in commercial real estate. She chose this path for me and works with me side by side as we continue to reach for the stars. We’re complete opposites. She’s educated, organized and extremely skilled, while I’m the neanderthal that hunts deals, finds partners and obediently listens to mentors. Together, we make an incredible team.

Stay the Course

As you start or continue along your self-storage investing journey, focus on the three key elements of momentum: deal flow, mentorship and partnerships. Don’t let distraction or doubt derail your focus.

I wish you the best of luck as you proceed forward in this wonderful industry. We’re extremely fortunate to be on this path. Having an opportunity to invest in this asset class is truly a blessing!

Cameron Barsanti is founder and CEO of StorageLife, an investment company that specializes in self-storage investments and mentorships. As an investor and operator, he’s acquired 12 facilities across six states in the last three years. He’s pursued new construction and conversion projects as well as stabilized underperforming properties with value-add potential. With a passion for inspiring people, he thrives on helping others succeed in the industry.

About the Author(s)

Cameron Barsanti

Founder and CEO, StorageLife

Cameron Barsanti is founder and CEO of StorageLife, an investment company that specializes in self-storage investments and mentorships. As an investor and operator, he’s acquired 12 facilities across six states in the last three years. He’s pursued new construction and conversion projects as well as stabilized underperforming properties with value-add potential. With a passion for inspiring people, he thrives on helping others succeed in the industry.

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