Keeping your self-storage facility well-maintained will allow you to enjoy the benefits of higher rental rates, faster leasing and a safer environment. Every site needs upkeep and repairs, but it’s important to know when you should handle tasks in-house or outsource. When you do hire a professional, you need to ensure the work is completed satisfactorily and at a reasonable price. Let’s talk about when it’s prudent to hire an outside vendor and how to choose the right one for the job.
In-House Pros and Cons
The more time you and your self-storage staff spend on facility maintenance, the less attention you’re able to give your customers. Then again, there are times when outsourcing simply isn’t practical. Here are some pros and cons to performing tasks internally:
Keeping smaller maintenance jobs in-house can help you save time and money. It can be cost-prohibitive to outsource things like cleaning, minor painting, changing light bulbs, and installing new door hasps and pull ropes. These tasks require little skill and can cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour to outsource in some markets.
You may even have a staff member who’s capable of performing more complicated maintenance. In this case, it may make sense to have other team members cover the office while your “handy” employee is busy completing a project. Even paying that person some overtime can be less expensive than hiring a handyman.
On the other hand, if you aren’t adequately staffed to handle maintenance in-house, you risk compromising your customer service and sales by diverting staff attention to these tasks. You also need to be realistic about the size of project you can handle. Can your team complete it in a timely manner? More importantly, do they have the skills to do the job safely?
Benefits to Outsourcing
Outsourcing your self-storage maintenance comes with many benefits, such as:
More time to serve customers. You don’t want your staff away from the office performing maintenance when customers need assistance. This is the perfect way to generate negative online reviews, which can damage business reputation.
Streamlined staff recruitment and training. It’s tough to find team members who are good at sales and customer service as well as site maintenance. By simplifying your hiring expectations and training, you have a better chance of producing excellence on duties that directly affect the bottom line.
Reduced complexity and increased confidence. When the person performing maintenance is an expert, it reduces your need to follow the step-by-step progress of the job because you have confidence it’ll be completed professionally.
Cost savings. There are fewer do-overs when projects are completed by professionals. Plus, if rework is necessary, it’s often covered by the vendor’s warranty.
Reliability. Staff members may come and go, but using outside vendors can ensure you have a reliable source of maintenance talent when you need it. The burden of recruiting and training technicians or tradespeople is left to the vendors you hire.
Lower risk. If you’re relying on your self-storage manager or other staff to do maintenance work, you’re also liable if they get injured. This can lead to other costs such as workers’ compensation, temporary leave, etc.
Yes, there are times when small maintenance tasks should be handled internally because of the hassle and cost to outsource. The important thing to remember is that facility managers and support staff are often much too busy to do more than pick up trash and clean the unit doors.
Assess and Decide
So, how do you know which way to go? Should you handle that maintenance job in-house or outsource to an expert? Here are four steps to help you make the best choice:
1. Define the project. Assess the situation and define the scope. Are you confident your team knows the best way to address the issue, or would it be better to bring in a specialist?
2. Determine your skillset. Review your company’s capabilities. Some jobs require a licensed professional or specialized skill to be completed safely. For example, work on fire-sprinkler systems or elevators must be done by a licensed technician. Another consideration is whether engineering will be required. Removing or moving interior walls, for example, can impact the structural integrity of a building.
3. Define the time commitment. How long will it take for you or someone on staff to do the job? Is it worth the time and labor cost to be away from the office, or would it be more efficient to find and coordinate with a vendor?
4. Do a cost analysis. Do the math. If you’re still deliberating, perform an analysis to determine if outsourcing the work is cost-effective and fits within your budget.
Choosing a Vendor
If you decide a self-storage project should be handled by an outside contractor, you’ll need to evaluate and choose the right vendor for the job. For small projects, choosing a partner may be as simple as comparing rates and availability. Costs vary by market. To get good price data, talk to professionals who serve your specific area. Most will be able to show you pictures and provide references for similar jobs they’ve completed.
Don’t be afraid to get referrals from other self-storage operators in your market. They deal with the same recurring issues as you, so they can often suggest help for unit doors, automatic gates, building and gutter repairs, general handyman work, and more.
The risk is higher for large projects, so vendor evaluation can be more involved. Ensuring you get a fair price and the right solution is key.
As you receive bids for a particular project, you may find that each vendor proposes a different solution and, therefore, a different scope of work. If you aren’t an expert, let each vendor educate you on why they’re proposing a certain approach over another. You may need to do some research to ensure you understand what each vendor is proposing.
For high-cost or complex maintenance projects, consider bringing in a consultant to advise. The benefit is you’re only paying for their time. They generally aren’t incentivized to persuade you toward one solution over another. If you can’t find a consultant, you may have luck bringing in a professional from the same industry but in a different market. To get their expert input, you’ll need to compensate them for their time and travel.
Once you’ve determined the best approach to your self-storage maintenance project, you can specify the scope of work with more precision. Ask the vendors who proposed alternative solutions to revise their bids to include your specifics. This’ll allow you to better compare costs, timelines and other terms on an apples-to-apples basis.
You’ll also want to have a signed contract on large projects. Vendors commonly have standard terms and exclusions attached to their proposal. Keep in mind that these are usually for their protection, not yours. You may want to involve an attorney to help you negotiate the contract terms.
Outsourcing self-storage maintenance or repairs can be cost-effective on the right job. Here are a few general guidelines, keeping in mind that every market will differ:
- Handyman: $50 to $130 per hour
- Plumber: $70 to $120 per hour
- Elevator maintenance: $190 to $470 on average
- Electrician: $50 to $100 per hour
Though these are the most used trades in the self-storage industry, there may be others you’ll need. Just remember that in addition to location, costs will vary based on scope of work, and these examples don’t include expenses for parts. One way to limit the cost of outsourcing is to procure your own materials for the job.
Though determining when to outsource your self-storage maintenance needs can be tricky, the tips above should help you simplify the process so you can make your choice with confidence.
Lindsey Ball is a content writer and Kenny Pratt is a principal for Crescendo Properties, which operates the Shield Storage portfolio throughout the western United States. The company also sources, underwrites and finances self-storage investments. Its management arm is Crescendo Self Storage Management. To reach Lindsey, call 480.206.4578 or email [email protected]. To reach Kenny, email [email protected].