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StorAmerica Gets Green Light for Third Floor in Fort Wayne

StorAmerica LLC has been given the green light to add a third floor to its new self-storage facility being built northeast of Fort Wayne, Ind. Allen County Plan Commission members on Thursday approved the request to add additional square footage to the $1 million storage complex. The buildings will cover approximately 50,000 square feet.
 
The city’s northeast side has attracted several self-storage projects. Three other developers plan to build complexes west of Stor-America’s site.
 
Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, County OKs 3rd level for storage complex

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ISS Blog

Storage Customer Gets Fired

Wouldn't it be great if you could just "fire" your problematic tenants? Sadly, while you can reserve the right to refuse rental to a customer, it's difficult to get someone out once they're already in, especially your gripe has nothing to do with the payment of rent. But a self-storage manager in Fremont, Calif., was recently able to use a facility promotion to oust a troublemaker. The story is great for a Friday-afternoon chuckle, which I'm sure many of us could use.

Earlier this week, I learned about a website called Not Always Right, dedicated to "funny and stupid customer quotes." The site is an outlet for employees of retail and service-oriented businesses to share their stories about dealing with the public. Someone posted a link to the site on Twitter because of a submission titled, "The Fine Art of Firing a Customer." It describes a conversation between a self-storage manager and one of his customers:

Customer: “Hi, I saw on your website that you have storage for $100, but I’m paying $130.”

Manager: “Yeah, that’s a promotional rate.”

Customer: “Well, can I get that rate?”

Manager: “I can’t just change people’s rates. It’s only for new customers to that space.”

Customer: “Well, can I just move into that storage?”

Manager: “You can’t just move it from one storage to the other and get the new rate. You would have to have everything out because I can’t vacate it until it’s empty.”

Customer: “That’s fine. I’ll move this Saturday.”

(The customer moves out the following Saturday, gets everything loaded into their truck then stops by the office.)

Customer: “Alright, I moved everything out of my storage.”

Manager: “That’s great. Now, get out.”

Customer: “What? Can I get that other storage?”

Manager: “Well, I looked at your past history with the company and you’ve been consistently late and rude to other customers. I’m afraid we’re going to deny the new rental. My manager wouldn’t let me evict you but you moved out yourself, so everything’s good.”

Customer: “But I have all my things taken off the property! Where am I going to put them?”

Manager: “Anywhere but here.”

To be fair, I should point out that the conversation was reported by a friend, not the facility manager himself. But to me, the manager comes across just as poorly as the tenant. I doubt if many of you would speak to your customers—even the bad ones—this way. Even still, it's a great story/fantasy. If only.

Who would you love to fire at your facility? Share your tenant horror stories in this blog, or better yet, add a thread to this section at Self-Storage Talk: Tales From the Trenches.

Hope your weekend is hassle-free.

Public Storage to Release 1Q 2009 Earnings

Public Storage Inc. will release its first-quarter 2009 earnings on May 7. A webcast and conference call to discuss the results is scheduled for May 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern. Interested parties can participate in the live event by calling 866.406.5408 (U.S.) or 973.582.2770 (international) and entering ID number 94885827. To access the webcast, visit www.publicstorage.com and click on “Corporate Information, Investor Relations” or “Company Info, Investor Relations.”
 
A recording will be available through May 23. The conference ID and webcast information remain the same. The phone numbers are 800.642.1687 for U.S. callers and 706.645.9291 for international callers.
 
Glendale, Calif.-based Public Storage is real estate investment trust that acquires, develops, owns and operates self-storage facilities. As of Dec. 31, the company had interests in 2,012 self-storage facilities in 38 states and another 181 facilities in Europe.

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Avoid These 10 Mistakes When Purchasing Self-Storage Management Software

After investing time and money into the development and construction of a new self-storage facility, owners are then faced with choosing the right management software to run their business. But all too often, they rush into the purchase without taking into account whether the software fits their needs.

Because the self-storage model is unique, with tasks and reporting unlike other businesses, its management software must be designed to meet a facility's specific needs. Determining which program will best suit your requirements today and tomorrow can be a challenge. Here are 10 mistakes owners should avoid when purchasing management software.
 
Mistake No. 1: Buying Software too Late

You should purchase management software at least six months before you open a new self-storage property. When establishing your business phone number, Yellow Pages listing and ad, company website and business bank/merchant account, you should already be gearing up to accept inquiries on rentals, take customer contact information and reserve units.

Also, research and determine your business rules, including the terms of your rental agreement, whether you’re required to charge tax on rent or merchandise, or when you’ll expect rent to be due.
 
Mistake No. 2: Confusion About Software Terms

If you don’t understand the terms PC-based, Web-enabled and Web-based, you’ll have a difficult time making an informed decision about which management software program is best for your business.

PC-based software (also called Web-enabled or desktop) installs directly on a computer and does not need to be connected to other computers unless you wish to share the information. With this software, all company information belongs to the owner of the software license and resides at his business’ location. A user does not have to log onto the Internet to access the software. There are no purchases other than the software license with this software except occasional updates or service programs. 

Web-based software (also called subscription-based, software on demand, software as a service or online software) requires an ongoing fee rather than a software license purchase. The business owner pays a monthly subscription fee to access company information via the Internet. The self-storage property information resides on the Web, not on a computer at the facility. If the user can’t connect to the Internet for whatever reason, he can’t operate the software.

PC-based/Web-enabled and Web-based software all run in Microsoft Windows operating system environments. 
 
Mistake No. 3: Purchasing Software From a Hardware Company

The primary product of hardware companies is access-control hardware. They do not devote time and resources to management software like they do to their hardware products. They tend to have more limited and rigid software products as a result. Although these companies typically advertise themselves as a “one-stop solution,” in reality, they package their management software with their hardware to feed the hardware business.
 
Mistake No. 4: Allowing Software to Dictate Business Operations

You should always purchase a flexible management program that allows you to define and support your business rules and procedures according to your preferences. Many people purchase management software only to find they can’t operate the business the way they want. As a result, they end up adapting the business to the limitations of the software.
 
Mistake No. 5:  Skimping on Features

Many self-storage owners skimp on important integrated add-on software, such as automatic credit-card payment processing and electronic check/ACH payment processing. As a result, the owner or manager must still run some aspects of the business manually, spending time, money and labor on tasks the software is designed to do.
 
Mistake No. 6: Buying Software That Doesn’t Interface With Your Other Systems

Many people select software without realizing it will not interface with their other business systems, including access control and gates, online payment options, kiosks, connectivity options for remote access and backup, electronic payment processing, photo identification and a host of other features that enable the owner to grow the software with the business.
 
Mistake No. 7: Restricted Payment Options

You need to provide convenient payment options that will result in timely payments and positive customer relationships. The software should allow tenants to make payments on your facility’s website 24/7, or through automatic credit card and ACH/electronic check processing. The more options you provide, the fewer excuses your tenants will have for missing a payment.
 
Mistake No. 8: Giving Managers too Much Access

Why not give your managers the keys and the checkbook? If your employees know you review the books on a regular basis, it serves as a deterrent to employee theft. Your level of familiarity with the management software should include knowing how to perform daily functions.

Your managers may not need to access all the reports your software can provide. Set up appropriate user profiles and passwords so employees can only access the features appropriate to their tasks and all transactions are tracked with their user identification.
 
Mistake No. 9: Limiting Knowledge to Software Fundamentals

Fifteen years ago, self-storage owners and managers only used management software to rent units and post payments. Now they use it for more than basic accounts-receivable tasks. Property managers can enter customer information into the software via driver’s license scanner hardware; track tenant types such as military, student, commercial/condo/apartment, commercial contractor, commercial law or medical, etc.; and communicate specifically to those individual customer types through targeted services and correspondences. 

Language-specific correspondence, where a customer receives e-mails and letters in the language preferred, e-mail-based invoices and letters and rate-management systems increase the effectiveness of marketing a self-storage business and help maximize its revenue. The self-storage industry is far more mature and sophisticated now, and management software has added many features to support the varied demands of the industry. 
 
Mistake No. 10: Partnering With the Wrong Software Provider

The total investment you make in hardware, software, people and training for your business is much larger than your investment in management software, but the quality of the relationship you build with your software provider is essential to the successful operation of your business. A good software tool along with a responsive, knowledgeable, honest and helpful provider will ensure your long-term success.
 
Tom Garden is president and Alison Kiesa is the marketing director for Syrasoft Management Software, a provider of Web-enabled software and technical support to the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.817.7706; visit www.syrasoft.com 

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Getting to Know Self-Storage Owners Larry and Carolyn Summer, Cherryville (N.C.) Self Storage

Inside Self-Storage is pleased to introduce Larry and Carolyn Summer, owners of Cherryville Self Storage in North Carolina. We spoke with them at a recent self-storage conference. Let's get to know them!

How long have you been in the industry?
Twenty-four years.

What did you do before self-storage?
General construction and domestic engineer.
 
If you could own a second home, where would it be?
"I like the beach, he likes the mountains," Carolyn says.
 
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you most like to have?
Fresh water, food and booze.
 
On a scale from one to 10, how happy are you in self-storage?
An eight. "It’s still work."

Hobbies: Golf, travel, football games
 
Favorite meal: Mexican food (but they also love a good steak)
 
Favorite Movie: Mamma Mia!
 
Favorite Music: Country

Insuring Your Green Self-Storage Facility

Going green through the use of environmentally friendly practices, materials and technologies is the theme of business today. Paul Nutcher, a director for the Central Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, wrote in the July issue of Inside Self-Storage about change in Florida from voluntary to mandatory enactment of green or sustainable building. Recently, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law strict green building codes for new construction and renovations of existing buildings.

Unfortunately, these law or code changes could result in the most significant gap in property insurance for owners of existing self-storage facilities. They may lack proper insurance coverage for the enforcement of building ordinances or laws affecting repair or reconstruction of property. These gaps in coverage cause most people to see red rather than green.

Adopting New Standards

Building codes regulate construction standards and specifications primarily to protect people from dangers of fire and building collapse. Adoption of green or sustainable building standards affect construction costs through building material specifications and mandating the efficiency of systems that draw on the use of water and energy resources. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 also added standards for new construction and alterations of existing buildings to accommodate people with disabilities.

Although the self-storage industry is rather young, a substantial part of its infrastructure dates back more than 30 years when construction standards were much different than current building codes. While many older facilities have been renovated over time, most remodeling focuses on maintaining the marketability of a facility. These improvements may not include building-code upgrades often required in the event of substantial building repair.

Evaluate Your Existing Policy

As a self-storage facility owner, you likely purchased property insurance to cover any substantial repairs or to replace your buildings in the event of a fire, wind storm or other similarly devastating causes of loss.

Most insurance agents and companies estimate the proper dollar amount to repair or replace the existing structures with like kind and quality based on good information about your facility, including size, construction type and special features. This process should also include loss of income during the time required to repair, rebuild or restore your business to your previous income- producing level. Loss of income coverage is often written in conjunction with the building insurance.

Insuring for Code Changes

Proper evaluation of the cost to rebuild your existing property is particularly important if your policy includes a co-insurance clause. This clause reduces the amount of payment for repair or replacement of a partial loss unless your insurance limit is equal to at least 80 percent of the replacement cost of the insured property at the time of the loss.

Without conscious endorsement or modification, the typical property insurance policy will either exclude or substantially limit the amount of coverage for any financial loss created by the operation of building codes or laws. These code changes may increase the cost or time to repair or replace the property. Any delay in repairing the structure will increase the loss of income.

A property insurance policy can be modified or endorsed to compensate you for costs associated with building laws. Most coverage works well when you are allowed to repair or replace your property to its prior condition. However, the additional costs associated with building improvements and changes required by new building codes may not be included in your insurance evaluation.

Can You Afford to Rebuild?

Most municipalities require that if 50 percent or more of a building is damaged the entire structure be rebuilt to building codes. To bring your building into compliance with current building codes, you may be required to raze the entire structure.

Without proper building-ordinance coverage in your insurance policy, the cost to demolish and rebuild the undamaged portion of the structure, loss of rents, and the additional cost of reconstruction of the entire building due to code enforcement could come out of your pocket. Under these conditions, the additional amount of the loss due to building-code enforcement might easily exceed the cost to restore the building to its original condition and to pay for the loss of rents normally associated only with the direct damage.

Building Ordinance Coverage

There are four major coverages associated with building ordinances that should be addressed when assessing and insuring the building-ordinance exposure.

Demolition coverage: This coverage pays for the cost to demolish the undamaged portion of an insured structure that must be razed to rebuild according to current building codes.

Loss of value: This coverage pays for the loss of value to the undamaged portion of an insured structure that must be demolished due to current building codes.

Increased cost of construction: This coverage pays for the increased expense of repair or replacement of the insured building up to applicable code standards.

Increased loss of income: This coverage pays for the additional rental loss on units in the undamaged portion of the building and loss of rents resulting from any increased period of restoration.

Recognizing you may be required to make substantial alterations and upgrades to your property to meet current building codes is the first step in transferring the financial risk of this exposure to your insurance company. The second and more difficult step is in determining what building-code enforcement might require of you following a property loss.

While your insurance agent may be helpful in estimating the cost to reconstruct your existing property as is, he generally does not have information or resources to properly evaluate the building-ordinance exposure. Your best source for this information is a knowledgeable general contractor familiar with your area’s building codes and enforcement.

Scott Lancaster is the regulatory compliance officer for Deans & Homer, a provider of insurance products designed to respond to the unique risks of the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.847.9999; visit www.self-storage-insurance.com.

Today's Challenges Become Tomorrow's Profit: Inside Self-Storage World Expo Preview

In a year of vast political and financial change, businesses are focused on creative strategies for diversification and success. In the self-storage industry, owners and managers seek ways to increase market share while retaining existing customers. Investors consider ways to maximize return, and developers pursue the next untapped opportunity. They will all find invaluable resources at the next Inside Self-Storage World Expo.

This October, the ISS Expo is headed to the nation’s capital with a fresh, hard-hitting program that delivers education, community, exhibits and more. Intent on providing the information self-storage professionals need in a challenging business landscape, the fall event delves into the industry’s most relevant issues: online and traditional marketing, green building practices, exit strategies, legislative changes and much more.

The Seat of Our Government

The gorgeous Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center will serve as the venue for this dynamic event, offering the best in accommodation and sight-seeing to bolster attendees’ first-rate educational experience. In addition to being a readily accessible city and a hub for the East Coast, Washington, D.C., has become a renewed symbol of hope and transformation since the presidential election. This made it the optimal location for the ISS Expo, the theme for which is “Today’s Challenges Are Tomorrow’s Profit.”

Just eight miles south of the capital, the hotel offers convenient city access via an hourly shuttle service. It also provides a water taxi to Old Town Alexandria and a shuttle to Ronald Reagan National Airport. Guests will enjoy a wide selection of fine-dining and casual restaurants, unique shopping experiences, an indoor pool, and a 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. A two-story rooftop lounge, Pose Ultra, provides onsite nightlife.

Focus on Education

The show’s three-pronged educational approach is designed to address the unique needs of facility managers, owners, builders and investors. Participants who purchase an Education Package can attend seminars in the following tracks:

1. Facility Marketing and Promotion: Online and traditional methods, including websites, tracking, search-engine optimization, e-mail campaigns and more
 
2. Day-to-Day Operation and Management: Sales, customer service, legal issues, collections, lien sales, facility maintenance, rental agreements and more
 
3. Construction, Development, Real Estate and Finance: Building components, green building, site selection, valuation, zoning, lending options and more 

Add-on intensive workshops will include popular favorites, such as the Management Workshop with Joe Niemczyk and Legal Learning Live with Jeffrey Greenberger, as well as exciting new offerings. Numerous networking events will provide intimate settings for meaningful dialogue with peers and experts. Finally, the exhibit hall will showcase a wide range of products and services from the most reputable self-storage suppliers.

The ISS Expo has assembled the industry’s greatest minds to provide the guidance and resources operators and investors will need for a successful 2010. With the right tactics, professionals from all facets of the self-storage business can create profit from this year’s impediments. For more information, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com

Expo At-a-Glance

What: Inside Self-Storage World Expo
When: Oct. 5-8, 2009
Where: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, Washington, D.C.
Who: Self-storage owners, managers, developers, investors and suppliers
Why: Today’s challenges are tomorrow’s profit!
More Info:www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com

 

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Door To Door Storage Offers Summer Storage Package for College Students

Door To Door Storage Inc., a national provider of portable-storage containers and moving services, launched its Summer Storage Package, a special offer available to students at more than 119 colleges and universities nationwide. With this offer, students can get summer storage for their dorm items at a one-time flat charge that covers delivery of the storage container, five medium boxes, a lock, up to 120 days of storage, and redelivery in the fall. Door to Door tailors container delivery to each school's particular schedule.
 
Founded in 1996, Door to Door has operations in more than 20 U.S. metropolitan markets. For details about the summer program, visit www.doortodoor.com/collegepromo.

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Automated Self-Storage Facility Opens in Coconut Creek, FL

Automated Self Storage Systems LLC will unveil the first fully automated self-storage facility in Coconut Creek, Fla., on April 23. The 145,654-square-foot facility uses Westfalia Technologies' Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Previously used in industrial warehouse and manufacturing plants, the technology marks a new era in the self-storage industry.
 
Operating under the name Safe & Secure Automated Self Storage, the new facility provides direct access to their individual units using a patented retrieval machine. When he first arrives at the facility, a customer enters a PIN to access a secure loading area, where he drives up to one of several loading doors. There, he re-enters his PIN, and his storage unit is delivered to him.
 
The building will accommodate approximately 539 storage pallets containing about 1,000 self-storage units. Each pallet will have standard dimensions of 10-by-20-by-8 feet and a weight capacity of 16,000 pounds. Designated units will be available for cars and RVs.
 
With the new system, facility owners can increase their net rentable area up to 25 percent and lower operating costs by as much as 50 percent, according to Paul Talley, vice president of Automated Self Storage Systems. The average rental price is approximately $2.10 per square foot.
 
The facility is built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) specifications and includes numerous energy-efficient features. For example, the building requires no interior lighting. It also incorporates pressurization to reduce dust and pollutants, and a unique design to minimize energy consumption and reduce its carbon footprint.
 
In the event of a hurricane or power failure, the facility is equipped with a back-up generator that will prevent shut-down. Technical and maintenance support is available 24 hour a day.
 
A grand opening of the facility will take place on April 23 at 11 a.m., with a ribbon cutting at 11:30 a.m. Guests will get the opportunity to tour the facility and see the technology firsthand.
 
Automated Self Storage Systems and Safe & Secure Automated Self Storage are subsidiaries of The Pugliese Co., a real estate acquisition, sales and development company. The company’s portfolio includes other "green" businesses including Green Sky Recycling and Destiny, Fla., soon to be America's first eco-sustainable city.
 
Safe & Secure Self Storage, headquartered in Delray Beach, Fla., has developed, constructed, managed and operated self-storage facilities throughout South Florida and New Jersey for more than 15 years. Safe & Secure Automated Self Storage will serve as a prototype for facilities. RoboVault of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., expected to open in June, will feature the same technology and specialize in storing high-value possessions.
 
Westfalia provides logistics software and materials-handling equipment for plants, warehouses and distribution centers.

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Lok'n Store Receives Hint of Ownership Interest

The board of directors of Lok'n Store Group plc, a U.K.-based self-storage operator, today announced that it has received an early-stage expression of interest from a third party that may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company. “These discussions are at a very preliminary stage, and shareholders should be aware that there is no certainty that an offer will be forthcoming,” the company issued in a statement. Lok’n Store advised shareholders to take no action at this stage, and said additional announcements will be made in time.

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