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Dressing Your Site for Success: A Complete Guide to Self-Storage Curb Appeal

Like books, self-storage facilities are often judged by their covers. Curb appeal can mean the difference to success or failure because of customer perception. Here’s how maintenance creates an enticing “read” that makes a good impression and draws in renters.

Donna Edwards

January 29, 2021

7 Min Read

In self-storage, curb appeal sets the tone for the entire property. A facility that’s clean, well-kept and appealing is an invitation to potential tenants, while an unkempt site is a turn-off and can drive customers to competitors.

Curb appeal decides the first impression someone has about your facility and the people who work there. That impression is often made within 10 seconds! When people visit your site, what do they see? It’s really no different than when Mom told you to wash your hands, put on clean clothes, comb your hair and look people in the eye. Making a good first impression is as important for a business as it is for individuals.

Most people make assumptions about the house in the neighborhood that’s nicer than others or the business with beautiful storefront windows that stands out on Main Street. The same is true about restaurants with attractive outdoor dining and the aroma of great food. In each case, they’re maintained with consistently high standards. So, how can self-storage operators create a similar allure?

Be Observant and Detail-Oriented

Once a customer is on your self-storage property, it’s important to establish and reinforce his positive first impression by keeping the buildings and all the grounds in tip-top shape. If your facility is clean and well-maintained, it gives the impression that building contents will also be well-cared-for. A customer’s first impression brings him in the door, but the rest of the property will entice him to sign a lease.

When it comes to maximizing curb appeal, details matter. Walk the front of your property and try to see what the public sees. What angles and sight lines are visible from the road? What can you improve? You want to fix anything that speaks of neglect and might make a bad impression on the community and your customers. For example, pay attention to:

  • Make sure your roof is clean and free of leaves, tree limbs and other debris.

  • Check your buildings and fence line for weeds, trash and graffiti.

  • Make sure the gate, which is seen regularly by every tenant, is painted and free of rust.

  • Look for other flaws like broken lights, faded paint, overgrown bushes, dirty windows, broken pavement, etc.

Refresh Signs and Banners

Street signage is a common culprit when making a poor curbside impression, particularly if it’s faded, dirty or peeling, or needs repair. Secondary signage, such as self-storage building and door numbers, gate and parking-lot signs, speed-limit signs, and office signs, should also be clean and well-maintained.

If banners are allowed, position them so they can be seen easily, and keep them fresh. Post them for just a couple of weeks, then advertise something different. Banners or signs posted for extended periods lose their impact and tend to go unnoticed. While consistently using your logo and branding colors creates uniformity, pushing different messages creates interest to highlight the features and benefits of your facility.

Invest in Landscaping

Well-maintained landscaping can make a huge positive impact. Proper shrubs and flowers can create interest and please to the eye. Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map to help determine which plants, grass and flowers will work best for your property. A garden book specific to your zone can provide great ideas for improving site appeal.

Plantings don’t need to be expensive or fancy. When planting flowers, use perennials instead of annuals to create focal points. A variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year will create interest and draw attention throughout the year. Flowering shrubs or trees can also add color without adding daily maintenance. Periodic pruning will keep plants under control.

In desert and dry climates, xeriscaping can be used to create visual interest and reduce the need for irrigation. Cactus, sedum, pots, gravel and decorative stones should be neat and weed-free. Add further interest with large rocks, flags or decorative sculptures to create a location people can’t help but notice.

Don’t forget about your facility’s nighttime appearance. LED and solar lighting can add interest to planting beds along the roadway. Typically, decorative lighting can be added without much expense. While driveway and building lights are typically part of site security, landscape lighting can be an impactful part of curb appeal.

The Management Office

Curb appeal extends from the street to your management office. A neat and tidy lobby will reinforce the impression created by your well-maintained grounds. What does yours say about the business? What do the storefront window or retail displays look like? Make sure windows are clean and your moving-box display is inviting and orderly. Consider rearranging your packing and moving supplies to keep the area fresh and interesting.

Of course, office appeal is about more than interior design. Cleanliness is king. The office should be free from dusts, spiderwebs and dead bugs in the corners. Declutter so there aren’t piles of papers on the desk and sticky notes on the walls. Aromas also make an impression, so make sure the office has a pleasant smell (but nothing overwhelming).

More Curb-Appeal Tips

There are many aspects to outstanding curb appeal, and I’ve covered some of the more prominent ones above. Here are a few more tips to help your maximize facility allure:

Know your limitations. This includes your local zoning regulations. Your municipality may have requirements for lighting, signage, colors and landscaping. Knowing these specifications will help you steer clear of trouble with local authorities when improving your property.

Be colorful. Being mindful of those local requirements, consider the use of color to improve your curb appeal. It can be great way to draw attention to your property; just be careful with your choices! Primary colors (red, yellow and blue) pair well with secondary colors (orange, green and purple). Complementary colors can be used to create eye-catching focal areas. For example, if your signage is red and white, consider planting yellow and blue flowers beneath. If your colors are cool tones in blue and green, consider adding a pop of warm tones, such as red, orange or yellow. This will create a nice contrast.

Appeal to women. In many families, women are the decision-makers when it comes to choosing a self-storage facility. Keep this mind when designing and improving your property and ask yourself, “Would a woman feel comfortable renting here?”

Spark the community. As you improve your self-storage facility, it may encourage nearby properties to better their curb appeal, too. You can start a revitalization! Work with your neighbors to improve the look and feel of your community.

Keep it going. Curb appeal isn’t something you create at the outset of a new or renovated facility and then put on cruise control. It takes continued effort. Burned-out lightbulbs, trash on the ground, torn flags and faded banners tell people you don’t care about your property. To customers, it implies you also don’t care about their belongings.

Passersby should see a property that’s appealing and inviting. All this takes planning and ongoing determination. Show the community every day that your property is the best option available when the need for self-storage arises.

Reaping the Rewards

If neighboring properties are cleaner than yours, the first impression you make won’t be favorable. If adjacent properties are less attractive than your self-storage facility, then you have the opportunity to stand out. When customers see you have a high standard, they’re more likely to remember you when they need storage.

Curb appeal includes so much more than your self-storage roadway frontage or main entrance. It comprises your hallways, fence line, night lighting and office. It’s about presenting a consistently appealing environment for customers. Putting in the effort to continually make a good first impression will be rewarded with new move-ins and happy tenants.

Donna Edwards started in the self-storage industry in 2013. Her performance as a site manager led to an expansion of her responsibilities to include roles as a traveling trainer, site auditor and inspector for new acquisitions across the Southeast. She regularly creates content on manager training and improvement. She’s currently an office manager and freelancer helping small business owners manage and market their businesses. To reach her, e-mail [email protected].

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