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StorageVault Canada Signs Term Sheet for Joint Venture

StorageVault Canada Inc. has signed a term sheet with CanStore Self Storage LP and CSS Holdings LP to enter a joint venture. The companies will acquire self-storage facilities in Canada, operating traditional self-storage and incorporating the Canadian PUPS portable-storage concept at each. The full execution of the agreement is still subject to various factors and is not yet definite.
 
StorageVault owns and operates Canadian PUPS portable storage in Saskatoon, Trans Can Mini-Stor in Regina, and Kenaston Self Storage in Winnipeg. The Regina and Winnipeg sites are traditional self-storage facilities operating in conjunction with portable-storage franchises.

Source: FOXBusiness, StorageVault Announces the Signing of a Term Sheet to Acquire Self Storage

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Mr. Big's Self Storage Opens Food Pantry in NJ

Mr. Big’s Self Storage in Burlington, N.J., with the help of volunteers and church members, is opening a food pantry at its facility on Cadillac Road. Once all the necessary approvals are in place, the pantry will distribute food to needy families once per week. The self-storage facility owner, Ron Urban, has donated a 10-by-30 unit in which to store nonperishable items for disbursement. 
 
To get the township’s blessing for the food pantry, Urban solicited assistance from the Grace Alliance Chapel. The chapel has taken the lead in setting up the pantry with help from Burlington Center Mall Ministry. Thus far, nearly a dozen volunteers have signed on to help.
 
The pantry’s directory, local resident Domenic Zulla, said they hope to distribute food every Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m.

Mr. Big’s has supported other charitable causes over the years, including Marine Toys For Tots and the Red Cross. 

Source: phillyBurbs.com, Filling a need in the community

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ISS Blog

More on Solar Energy in Self-Storage

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of press about solar energy. In the USA Weekend newspaper, there was an article featuring Ed Begley Jr., a huge green activist. The article briefly highlighted his new book, Ed Begley Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living, and offered tips for homeowners looking to live “off the grid.”

MSNBC.com also had a feature on solar power: 7 Ways to Generate and Save Energy at Home. The article states between 80 and 85 percent of at-home renewable energy generation systems installed today are solar panels. Solar water heaters are also becoming popular. That’s great news!

While both of these articles focused on homeowners, the commercial sector is also jumping on the solar bandwagon. This year, ISS has posted several news pieces about self-storage facilities and companies installing solar panels. Here’s a sampling of recent news posts:
 
New Jersey's Premier Self Storage Adds Solar Panels 
Access Self Storage Opens N.J. Facility 
Eco-Minded Thornwood Self Storage Celebrates Opening
 
Baja Construction Introduces Solar Support System 
 
If you’re interested in adding solar power to your facility, plan on attending the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 1-3. We’ll have a special two-part seminar led by Baja Construction and iParkSolar outlining the process, tax incentives and financing opportunities. The presenters will even break down expenses, and show the potential revenue stream. 

Read more about this seminar and others related to green practices on the Inside Self-Storage World Expo website.
 
Finally, if you're planning to install solar—or have already—share your story with our readers. Why solar? What kind of incentives did you find? Any drawbacks or things others should be aware of? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below or head over to Self-Storage Talk and join a discussion. 

Aussie Self-Storage: Changes in the Australian Market

While the Australian self-storage industry has been affected by the global financial crisis, it has been mostly regional. Towns where unemployment has risen seem to be affected more than others, and there are sites that have defied the trend altogether.

After a peak in occupancy levels in 2007 and 2008, there has been a gradual, modest decline. Inquiry from new renters has dropped 10 percent to 20 percent, but seemed to have returned to just under the industry’s long-term averages.

The competitive climate has changed, though. Operators have dropped their prices, and consumers are certainly more cautious. The majority of properties have lower street rents than they did 12 months ago. However, price wars bottomed in March 2009. Now, we can just hope for stability. We don’t expect growth this year, and next year will also be a grind.

Lease-up for new facilities has continued roughly in line with expectations despite the softening economy. If anything, the properties serving more affluent neighborhoods seemed to have slowed more, while less affluent and middle-class areas are faring better. 

New Development

The global financial crisis has also impeded some proposed new-development sites. Lower valuations and loan-to-value ratios have necessitated additional equity from investors who may not have the capacity or appetite to put in more. This will inhibit growth in supply, and will help to ensure the industry doesn’t suffer painful imbalances. As always, there is some localized market over supply.

Industry suppliers have settled into a much slower pace than that of a year ago. Some report business is down by as much as 75 percent. There’s not the frenetic building activity seen in the past. Owners are cautious about new development, and some have found that financing has evaporated.

The major factor affecting self-storage suppliers in Australia has been difficulty in obtaining financing for capital works. Some banks now view self-storage as a riskier business than it was just a year ago. Capitalization rates have slipped, and potential investors are finding it increasingly difficult to make the numbers work. There are few sites changing hands.

On the positive side, for those who are able to obtain funds and wish to expand or renovate, there has never been a better time than now. Suppliers are more than willing to look at reduced margins to keep construction crews together and ride out the difficult times.

Material suppliers, particularly steel, are finding the general downturn in the construction industry is causing massive shortfalls in sales figures. They’re now reducing their prices as fast as they increased them during the shortages from just a few years ago. If owners are thinking about using this slow period in their business as a time to lift the appearance and performance of their facilities, now is the time to do it. Deals are everywhere. 

Finances

Australia has yet to enter a “recession,” technically, and there is some conjecture that the country will. Unemployment is still low (less than 6 percent), and the full force of unemployment increases are to be felt. Some operators report collections are becoming more difficult and, given the tight market, that’s to be expected.

The finance market has become concentrated, with the big banks taking over smaller rivals. This has led to some additional tightening of lending criteria, more than the pricing and risk pressure resulting from the financial crisis. Financial covenants are tighter, which invariably means any self-storage funding requires greater equity from investors. However, the Australian banks are not closed and are continuing to lend to existing customers.

The last 12 months have also given some operators the chance to review operations with cost-reduction in mind, and some have implemented key changes and staff reductions.

The federal government has pumped $40 billion into the local economy in an effort to underpin current business. It remains to be seen if it flows to the self-storage industry, although a number of operators have reported their debt reduced after their customers received stimulus checks.

Overall, the industry has an optimistic view with the current period being seen as one of consolidation and review. 

Dallas Dogger is the CEO of Brisbane, Australia-based Centreforce IT, an installer of self-storage access-control, CCTV and door-alarm systems throughout Australasia. Sam Kennard is the managing director of Kennards Self Storage. For more information, visit www.centreforceit.com.au and www.kss.com.au.

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Moove In Self Storage Opens in Manheim, PA

A Moove In Self Storage facility has opened in Manheim, Pa., the company’s seventh self-storage facility in Lancaster County. Showcasing the unique dairy-barn design for which the brand is known, the facility sits on more than 10 acres and includes 1,200 square feet of management and retail space. Phase one of the 79,200-square-foot, single-story building contains 319 units, including 10,200 square feet of climate-controlled space.
 
Investment Real Estate Construction built the project. Investment Real Estate Management (IREM) will oversee management and marketing. IREM manages more than 45 self-storage properties in six states.

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Zoning Request for Self-Storage Conversion in PA Rescheduled

A zoning hearing scheduled Nov. 19 regarding the conversion of a former bakery in Summit Hill, Pa., to a self-storage facility has been postponed until Dec. 9.

The hearing was requested by Todd Mason of Mason Realty. Attorney Michael Garfield, a solicitor for the zoning board, said plans to amend his application and seek relief under another section of the zoning ordinance, instead of the section he initially cited.

It was stipulated Mason will pay for advertising the new zoning hearing date.

Source:  Times News Inc.,Summit Hill Zoning Board Postpones Hearing on Self-Storage Facility Until Dec. 9

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ISS Blog

Self-Storage Real Estate and Job Listings

The most popular use for the Inside Self-Storage classifieds section has always been to promote self-storage properties for sale or to seek managers and management teams to operate a self-storage facility. When we launched the Self-Storage Talk online community in January 2008, we immediately had inquiries from industry owners, brokers and management companies who wanted to know if it was OK to post these kinds of "wanted" items to the forum.

Within certain perameters, we have allowed this type of posting on SST, but in the case of real estate, it had to occur in a very generalized marketplace forum. Position-related queries were relegated to our Staffing, Education & Training forum, which is really intended for information exchange about human-resources issues. After careful consideration, we've decided to provide dedicated market space to address these specific needs of self-storage buyers, sellers, owners and managers.

We're pleased to introduce two new forums on the SST website: Real Estate Listings and Investment Opportunities and Job Fair. Anyone can use them, and they are absolutely free. There are only two fundamental conditions:

1. You must be a registered Self-Storage Talk member to view or create posts in these sections. Forum membership is absolutely free. (If you're not already registered, you can do so HERE.)

2. Brokers and management companies may post about facilities for sale or positions to be filled, but they may not engage in self-promotion of their companies. We want to provide users with helpful information about things they might need, not bombard them with advertising.

So ... If you're an owner with a facility for sale or an owner/investor looking to buy, even in a specific geographic area, make use of the new real estate forum. If you're a manager looking for job or an owner or management company looking to fill a position, get on board with our job fair. We hope SST can help you make critical connections for the success of your businesses and careers.

On a final note, if you're focused on selling or buying a self-storage property, consider joining us in Las Vegas for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, March 1-3. The show features a Buyers & Sellers Meeting, an open networking event that allows you to shop or promote facilities based on geographic region. You can even post property listings or queries on our community bulletin board. Read more about this and other events on our expo "Special Events" page.

For expo details, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com

Getting Your Self-Storage Website Noticed: SEO, SEM and Third-Party Referrals

Over the last 15 years, the Internet has changed the way we do just about everything, and what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning. Self-storage operators are catching on to the importance of the Internet, and most have some kind of Web presence. Some declare that as many as 50 percent of their new tenants find them online.

Five years ago, that number was likely closer to 10 percent. That’s a pretty fast rate of change, and it’s not slowing down.  In fact, not only do consumers search for self-storage online, many prefer to complete all move-in tasks via the Web.

To ensure potential customers find your facility, there are several steps you can take to leverage your online presence, including search-engine optimization (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM) and third-party referral sites. Let’s talk about each.
 
Understanding SEO

Although there are a few search engines on the Web, Google by far dominates, grabbing more than 64 percent of the search market. Naturally, the Google search engine should be your main concern for SEO and SEM. Its proprietary search technology is one of the greatest “black boxes” in the world.

Despite what anyone tells you, the factors that help your website rank higher on Google are the secrets of none other than Google itself. People will claim to be experts and “guarantee” placement for your site in organic search results, but the truth is, unless they work for Google and spend every day deep inside the company’s search algorithms, they don’t really know how it works. 

Additionally, Google is constantly tweaking its ranking algorithm (PageRank), so it’s impossible to know exactly how to achieve top rank at any given time. Google’s goal is to display truly relevant search results rather than results manipulated by self-promoting individuals or companies. 

The most important thing you can do to make Google notice you is to get links from other websites! Even better, get links from other contextually relevant websites—other storage sites, for example. Get all your friends in the storage business to link to you, and offer to link back to them in exchange. Call your local chamber of commerce and get a link.

Do something that gets your facility press coverage, which can often lead to a link. For example, offer free storage to victims of a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Not only is this a great thing to do for those in need, but there’s a chance a link to your facility’s website could appear in local or national news outlets. The story will quickly fall off the front page, but your link stays archived on the press outlet’s website forever—and Google could find it. The act of obtaining links to your website is called “link-building,” and it’s something every self-storage company with a website should be doing on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, Google cares about quality content. Try writing a few articles on hot storage topics for your website, providing a legitimate resource for potential customers to learn about self-storage and why they might need it. If you add new articles and new inbound links to your website every week, your Google ranking will grow over time.
 
Setting Up SEM

A good SEM campaign includes Google, Bing and Yahoo. It’s very easy to set up an account on any of these services from their homepage. Google’s ad program, AdWords, allows you to bid on certain keywords and target geographically. Google makes it very easy and intuitive to set up, but you also need to have conversion tracking in place to ensure a positive return on investment.

Storage keywords can be extremely expensive. In New York and Los Angeles, each click can cost upward of $14! Google has free tools to help you track conversions built in to its AdWords program. All you need to do is install a snippet of code from Google on your confirmation page, or whichever page shows up when someone has completed the desired action on your website.  You can also use another program called Google Analytics to track how people are interacting with your website.
 
Third-Party Referral Sites

Capturing organic search traffic from Google is part science and part art. It takes time and hard work to rise to the top. But there are other ways to boost your online presence and get more tenants in the door today, such as getting listed on third-party referral sites. For example, sites that primarily offer moving, relocation and real estate services also host self-storage listings. For a fee, these sites will list your facility and drive traffic to your site.

In addition to sites in adjacent verticals, a number of third-party referral websites have popped up in the self-storage industry itself. These range from basic online directories to fully integrated marketplaces with online booking capabilities. 

When people think about renting self-storage, some will still thumb through the Yellow Pages, but others will turn to Internet searches. Look for sites that offer the best user experience for your potential consumers, and make sure your company is listed on all of them.
 
Chuck Gordon is the CEO and cofounder of SpareFoot.com, an online self-storage marketplace. SpareFoot is 100 percent performance-based with no setup or monthly fees. For more information, call 202.257.2111; visit http://www.sparefoot.com/.

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Square Foot Cos. Buys Ohio U-Store-It

Cleveland-based Square Foot Cos., LLC acquired a U-Store-It location in Brecksville, Ohio through an affiliate. The property will operate under the All Stor Self Storage brand.

The facility includes more than 58,000 square feet and 440 self-storage units, including climate control and outside parking. “We are very excited to have added this professionally run facility to our portfolio in a dynamic market like Brecksville,” says CEO Steven Osgood.

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Parkersburg Self-Storage Fire Believed Suspicious, Fire Chief Says

Firefighters from seven departments spent most of Thursday afternoon battling a fire at Southside Self Storage in Parkersburg, W.V. Lubeck Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Stewart said the fire is believed suspicious, and the state fire marshal is investigating, according to a story by WTAP 5.
 
Firefighters were able to confine the damage to a single building, and there were no injuries. Eleven units of 50 units were condemned, however, and many of the facility’s tenants lost personal items.
 
Facility owner Don Hohman of California also owns the mobile-home court next door. He has been in discussions with Wood County about the future of the mobile-home property.
 
Source: WTAP 5, Fox Parkersburg, More Than a Building Lost

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