When the term curb appeal is mentioned in the self-storage industry, we typically think about customer first impressions and what people can see from the street. But really, we need to take this concept to a deeper level—deeper into the property that is.
It’s true that if your facility looks dilapidated, it may drive potential renters right down the road to the competition. It takes only a few seconds for someone to make up their mind about whether to do business with you. But don’t fool yourself into thinking they stop looking around once they pass your gate. They don’t! What impression are you giving from all angles of the property? Following is some advice on how to evaluate your “curb” appeal and make it truly sensational, front to back.
Items to Evaluate
Start at the beginning: your street view. What do prospects see when they drive up to your self-storage property? Walk to the front of the facility and take a good look. Then approach the entry gate and office, following the path a customer would take. Finally, consider their experience as they move from the office to their unit. Scrutinize each of the following along the way.
Landscaping. Grounds that are well-maintained and look fresh will make a positive impression on current and future customers. When it comes to plants, flowers and trees, you want neither too much nor too little. Thankfully, you don’t need much for it to look good. Here are a few other tips:
- All your landscaping should look healthy. To this end, it’s important to know what works best for your region. Research the types of flora that grow well in your environment.
- Nothing looks more unkempt than a property full of weeds, so get rid of them as soon as they pop up. If you let them linger, it gives the impression that you don’t care about the details. If the property is large and you can’t keep up, hire a landscaper.
- Weave in some landscape lighting to boost nighttime appeal. These are inexpensive and look fabulous when done right.
- Pick up trash when you see it! It annoying to have to collect other people’s litter, but it’s necessary to keep a spotless site.
Asphalt and driveways. When you have potholes, cracks or asphalt that’s so worn you begin to see dirt, it affects a person’s perception of your property. Pay special attention to your parking lot to ensure all spaces are clearly marked and there are no potholes, dips or bumps. You don’t want customers to endure these things every time they visit.
Gates and fencing. These are vital components. If they’re damaged, it says you don’t care about curb appeal or security. Look for breaks, damage or faded paint. Most can be painted fairly easily, but it takes some elbow grease. Use rollers and the correct product (check with your supplier for the best kind). Spraying is often a bad idea, as the paint drips and you may generate a lot of overspray.
If you have a fortress-style property in which the buildings line the perimeter, check the block wall. Is it falling apart, or does it have holes where vehicles have run into it? I’ve seen both, and it looks very unappealing. Block-wall repairs will most likely need to be completed by a contractor, but it’s well worth the expense, especially if it can be seen by drive-by traffic.
Keypads. These can take a beating by sun, rain and snow. Add in exposure to dirt and finger oils, and these components can become grimy and malfunction. Give your keypads a good cleaning often. Check with your manufacturer on the best products to use. If the numbers are faded, the screen is cracked, the stand is tilted, or there’s any other problem that makes the keypad and its base unattractive, replace it.
Signage. Have you looked at every facility sign? Are any of them faded, handwritten, cracked, marked up or outdated? There’s nothing worse than walking up to a business and seeing its door signage changed with some pretty obnoxious fixes. Signs are one of the easiest things to replace but often go overlooked. A couple of quick notes:
- Keep your signage well-written, grammatically correct and courteous.
- Make sure your address numbers are clearly visible, so the facility is easy to find. They shouldn’t be blocked by tree branches or overgrown shrubs.
Banners and flags. Regularly examine these. They shouldn’t be torn or faded. They’re a great way to bring attention to your property, but make sure you’re giving the right impression by keeping them fresh and clean.
Door and window décor. Make sure it’s pleasing. Don’t clutter your glass with stickers or information that can be better displayed inside the office. On the front door, it’s enough to display the company logo, plus office and gate hours.
Office and retail store. Make sure your office is clean and well-organized. This area signifies how well you take care of the facility in general. Wash windows and doors, and keep all trash cans clean and empty. Your moving and packing supplies should be neat and clearly priced. If a customer comes into a tidy office, they’re more inclined to conduct business with you.
Lighting. Have you surveyed the property at night? This should be a regular practice. Immediately repair or replace any outages. Perhaps consider additional lighting. There are many different types. Solar, flood, pole and motion-sensor lights can always be added to your existing scheme. As long as you don’t violate local codes, you really can’t have too much, as lighting often equates to a feeling of safety for tenants.
Bollard covers. If you have bollards, you know that painting is a semi-annual task. Many self-storage operators skip this chore by purchasing plastic covers. They’ll stay vibrant for many years, and they make all the bollards look uniform.
Paint. This should never be overlooked. Whether it’s on the entire property or just the doors or office, peeling or faded paint isn’t attractive. Painting projects can be costly, but these improvements can be budgeted or paid through maintenance impounds with your lender.
Unit doors. These collect dust and grime, particularly on your drive-up units. They can become faded and chalky and dented. They can fall off their tracks or otherwise malfunction. The quicker you address any damage, the better your facility will look and the better your customer experience will be. Cleaning doors should be on your maintenance schedule. By doing a few every day, you can keep them looking great throughout the year.
Unit numbers. Have any of them fallen off or become cracked or faded? Older facilities tend to use decals. Over time, you see there’s a digit or letter missing, or they’re so old you can’t even read them. If that’s the case, it’s time to get new ones. Unit numbers are sometimes visible from the street frontage. Even if they aren’t, they’ll be seen as customers drive around the facility.
Extra touches. Welcome mats, flowers at the front door and seasonal or holiday décor are positive ways to increase curb appeal. Think of them as an extension of your facility marketing. Christmas lights, for example, draw attention to your building from the roadway. Just be sure to remove them in a timely manner. American flags always draw attention, but they must be clean and fresh! Be creative, have fun but stay classy.
Last but not least, remember that staff are part of facility appeal! If you come to work looking like you just got out of bed, you won’t give the best impression. Practice good hygiene and arrive in a clean company uniform every day. Greet every customer with a smile while making eye contact. Your appearance is just as or even more important than that of the property itself.
Understand your personal impact on the success of your self-storage business. Pay attention to how the site looks, front to back and in between. That’s the way to ensure all-encompassing facility appeal that goes well beyond the curb.
Diane Gibson is owner and president of Cox’s Armored Mini Storage Management Inc., which manages self-storage facilities in Arizona. Currently president of the Arizona Self Storage Association, she’s participated in roundtables and panels at the organization’s conferences. For more information, email [email protected].