By Carrie Aubrey
Self-storage has become a hot topic in the commercial real estate industry. The process of buying and selling storage properties is detailed and complex, requiring hard work from all parties involved. A successful transaction requires several important steps, and items that must be closely and efficiently managed.
Investors and sellers need to keep the big picture in mind, understand the human side of the process and pay close attention to detail. They must understand the seller’s top priority, whether that be achieving the highest value or the quickest closing, or finding the most hassle-free buyer. They must monitor broader economic trends such as interest rates and keep track of closing documents. Finally, they must complete the following steps:
- Create the purchase and sale agreement.
- Develop a timeline.
- Put the buyer’s deposit into escrow.
- Engage in the due-diligence process.
- Gather the final documents.
- Close the transaction.
Advice for Sellers
Before even listing your property, take care of any deferred maintenance issues to ensure your property is positioned in the best light to attract buyers. You’ll also want to hire a good, deal-making real estate attorney. This will help the whole process run smoothly.
Look to hire a quality broker who has a proven track record in closing self-storage transactions. You want to work with someone who has your best interests in mind. An experienced broker will serve as an intermediary and trusted advisor during a potentially stressful process. He’ll make sure deadlines are met and everyone leaves the transaction achieving their goals. He’ll also assist in managing all the documentation required for the sale. This is a lengthy list that can amount to as many as 160 documents.
The transaction process is very detailed, and it’s important that you do everything possible to keep the train moving. During the creation of the purchase and sale agreement, for example, there could be up to five or six drafts going back and forth. It’s important to keep this exchange as short as possible, since every day that passes without a fully executed agreement can affect your ability to close due to changes in the economy.
The timeline should keep the process moving forward per the contract, ensuring everything runs efficiently. Maintain tight deadlines and make sure everyone is communicating clearly, particularly about dates for deliverables, to keep negotiations as quick as possible.
For your own security, make sure the buyer’s deposit goes hard as soon as possible. Remember, the buyer can back out of the deal with no loss incurred until the end of the due-diligence period. Though the process can be frustrating, act with a sense of urgency, put your best foot forward and assist the buyer with everything he needs.
At the close of due diligence, many sellers make the mistake of breathing a sigh of relief, thinking the hard part is over. In reality, there are nearly always last-minute issues that arise. Mentally prepare for these inevitabilities to help minimize stress.
Once due diligence expires and the closing period begins, there will still be a litany of items to accomplish that perhaps you haven’t accounted for, such as canceling or transferring your Internet-service provider, shoring up financial items, tackling security issues, training new managers, etc. This is when an experienced self-storage broker will come in handy.
Advice for Buyers
Buyers also have several items to consider to ensure a smooth transaction. For example, if you’re not paying cash for the property, begin working with a quality bank or mortgage broker before you even make an offer. This will ensure you aren’t wasting your own time or the seller’s. Bear in mind that self-storage is different from other commercial real estate sectors, and it behooves you to work with an individual or institution with a track record in storage transactions.
A site visit is an integral part of the due-diligence phase. While touring a site, pay attention to the condition of the roof, asphalt, unit doors, fire-sprinkler systems and air-conditioning/heating units. Any of these can be high-ticket repair items if replacement or maintenance is required.
You’ll also want to order a Phase I environmental report, a property-condition assessment, a site survey, a title report and an appraisal (if financing is involved).
A self-storage transaction can be difficult and stressful. The buyer’s and seller’s ability to effectively work through each stage depends on several factors. Following the steps outlined above should help you navigate the process; however, never be hesitant to leverage the expertise of an experienced broker who can help manage the small details and maintain a big-picture view to alleviate any worries you may have.
Carrie Aubrey is the transaction manager for SkyView Advisors. She works as the liaison for all parties in a transaction, ensuring everything stays on track. Her in-depth knowledge of self-storage real estate helps her efficiently manage the process and keep all parties moving quickly and seamlessly toward closing. For more information, call 813.579.6363; visit www.skyviewadvisors.com.