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Articles from 2009 In June


Free Online Advertising for Self-Storage: Webinar on July 30

On July 30, the Inside Self-Storage World Expo will host a free webinar titled, “Finding and Maximizing Free Online Advertising Opportunities for Self-Storage,” presented by David Wolf, managing partner and owner of National Yellow Pages Media. The live online seminar will teach self-storage managers and owners to identify and take full advantage of free online listings and business profiles in search engines and Internet Yellow Pages portals such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com and Dexknows.com. Attendees will learn how to ensure these listings contain accurate information and how to use them to promote their self-storage facility’s location, information, products and services.

The one-hour event begins at 2 p.m. ET. For more information and to register for this free webinar, visit www.insideselfstorage.com/webinars.

National Yellow Pages Media/YellowWord Interactive is a marketing agency specializing in the design of comprehensive online and print Yellow Pages advertising campaigns for regional and national clients. Wolf oversees the company’s major clients, new business development, search marketing and pay-per-call campaigns. He and his team have designed a number of content-management, Internet-marketing and print YP solutions for self-storage operators.

Wolf will also present a Roundtable Discussion on the topic of online advertising at the ISS Expo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-8. Created for self-storage owners, managers, developers, investors and suppliers, the expo comprises four days of educational seminars, product and service exhibits, and networking opportunities. It will take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. For show details and to register, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.

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Police Search Storage Unit for Evidence of Child Rapist/Murderer

Police searched a self-storage unit in North Port, Fla., earlier this month for a video that may contain footage of the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl. A confidential informant directed police to a unit containing explicit videos, one of which may be of Coralrose Fullwood, whose body was found near her home on Sept. 17, 2006. Police are still going through the unit’s contents.
 
The searched unit, at North Port Self Storage, belonged to Edward Chinnici. In addition to numerous tapes, police found cameras, cell phones and computer discs. They are working with the informant, who said he watched Chinnici videotape criminal acts with children, one of whom he believed to be Coralrose.
 
Chinnici has not yet been charged. His wife, Cynthia, was charged in March the sale of cocaine. While in jail, she called the self-storage facility to ask whether the rent was up to date. The employee indicated it was paid until June 7. Police raided the unit on June 10.
 
Source: Charlotte Sun Herald, Informant says Coralrose murder may be on tape

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ISS Blog

Annoying a Self-Storage Manager

A few weeks ago I came across a funny article about ways to annoy a flight attendant. Animals and screaming kids, of course, made the list. I posted a thread that day on Self-Storage Talk asking forum users to rattle off some of their customer pet peeves.

Wow, did we get an amazing response. Among the top offensive tenant moves: leaving trash behind, paying the bill late, unruly kids and chronic cell phone users.

Forum members also shared some funny signs they’d post on their counters if they could. Signs like, “In cash we trust, checks not so much.” Texanadian even suggested creating a telephone directory of excuses: Press 1 for my grandma died again.

What are your pet peeves? Post them below or join the discussion at Self-Storage Talk.

LifeStorage Defends Against Terrorist-Type Threats

Self-storage operator LifeStorage has contracted homeland-security technology firm Defentect to provide its DM3 and Gammatect technologies at 10 LifeStorage facilities in Chicago. The $135,000 follow-up contract follows an initial $20,000 order from LifeStorage in March for Defentect's chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threat-detection technologies.
 
DM3 is a management, monitoring and messaging software platform that enables self-storage operators to add radiation detection and other threat-event sensors to their security systems. Gammatect sensors detect gamma radiation. They can be positioned adjacent to security cameras to provide visual identification of a threat, or hidden above ceilings or behind walls to prevent compromise by terrorists.
 
Defentect is a business unit of Splinternet Holdings Inc. The company develops and markets threat-awareness solutions and advanced technologies to fight the worldwide threat of terrorism.

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Lien Sales Get More Action at Upland Self-Storage

As the unemployment rate climbs, so does the occurrence of and interest in self-storage auctions, according to the Contra Costa Times. Julie Lewis, district manager of Upland (Calif.) Self Storage said the facility is losing renters she never thought it would lose. Two years ago, the company would auction three or four units quarterly; it now auctions at least six every month.

Interest in storage sales has escalated in recent months, according to Dan Dodson of American Auctioneers, who said a lot of people are out of work and attempting to make a living by buying and selling other people’s stuff. Dodson gets 20 percent of the proceeds for sales he runs. The balance pays off the debt on the unit. The former renter is entitled to any surplus.

Buyers are asked to return personal items such as funeral urns, personal documents, financial information and photos to facility management so they can be returned to the owners.
 
Source: Contra Costa Times, Unemployment rate leads to storage unit auctions

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Self-Storage Market Highlighted in Real Estate Investor Survey

PricewaterhouseCoopers has released the Korpacz Real Estate Investor Survey for the second quarter of 2009, containing an article about the domestic self-storage market titled "Stability in an Uncertain Time." Written by R. Christian Sonne, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield’s Self Storage Industry Group, the article provides a financial overview of the self-storage industry, including information on lending, and a summary of survey findings.
 
The Investor Survey is conducted primarily through phone interviews with self-storage investors, owners, developers, managers, brokers and bankers throughout the United States. Respondents represent more than 100 million square feet of self-storage property. The data collected highlights key information relating to general market conditions for self-storage including capitalization rates, financing, an optimism index and other current information for the asset class.
 
To read the article, visit www.selfstorageeconomics.com/pdf/SSIG%2020092Q%20Korpacz.pdf.

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All Storage Opens New Facility in Aubrey, Texas

All Storage Self Storage has opened a new facility in Aubrey, Texas, the company's 23rd location in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. All Storage Paloma Creek has four stories and offers features such as a drive-through storage area, climate control, 64 security cameras and more. Current promotions include 8 pounds of bagged ice for 39 cents, and a 50 percent off for three months rental special.
 
All Storage has self-storage locations throughout Oklahoma and Texas.

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ISS Blog

Good, Good, Good Vibrations!

Listening to the Beach Boys, frolicking in the surf, building sand castles, going on picnic lunches ... summer is here! Picking up on the “good vibes” request Teri made in her blog on Friday, I thought I’d share a little piece of what’s been happening around our self-storage facility over the past couple of days. With the dreariness of winter behind us and the flowers all in bloom, we’ve been working on some outdoor projects to spruce up the place a bit. And what has ensued has been more than fun!
 
As we’re pulling weeds, customers who normally never come into the office stop and commiserate, some even pulling a weed or two as they chat. (Customers notice that we take pride in the place, and they do too.) Today, we’ve pulled out the power washer to clean the fencing and sidewalks and prep the curbs for repainting, and even more customers are stopping to talk. We’ve had numerous offers to wash their vehicles, and several have gotten out of their cars just to jump in the spray as we point it skyward.
 
Yes, it’s true: Grown adults are here playing in the water on a hot, hot summer day.  I guess no matter what our problems are in the real world, there is something about water and sunshine that brings out the kid in all of us.

Business is serious, but serious doesn’t necessitate everything being all doom and gloom. Have fun with your tenants at every opportunity. Besides being stress-relievers and conversation-starters, toys, brainteasers or funny signs can ease tension and make the process of conducting business more pleasant for everyone involved.
 
Example: We recently purchased some smiley-face pens and put them in a pencil cup on our counter. Since we put them out last month, not one person has been able to resist smiling at the pile of joyful faces staring at them. Somehow, signing a contract with a big smiling pen instead of the standard 12 for $1 type makes for a more pleasant experience. Of course, they get to keep the pen when they’re done doing the paperwork. Even the men seem taken by them. “May I have one? Uh ... it’s for my wife, child, etc.” Uh-huh. Sure it is! 
 
We purchased 500 of the traditional yellow with the plain clip. We also bought 500 of the hot pink with the 70’s flower-power-style tie clip. Guess which color is flying out of here on a daily basis?

I'd love to hear about the summer fun you're having at your facility. Share a comment below!

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager for Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Hide-Away Offers Free Storage for Tenants in Foreclosure

Hide-Away Storage of Florida is offering free self-storage to help families caught up in a foreclosure and who need temporary storage for their belongings while relocating to another home. The facilities owners said they will provide two months of free storage and two months of storage at half price to families who are forced to relocate because of a foreclosure. The company has locations in Fort Myers and Naples, Fla.
 
Source: The News-Press, Foreclosures spark firm's free storage offer

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Now Is a Good Time to Build Self-Storage

Conventional wisdom has taught those in the self-storage business that while the business isn’t recession-proof, it’s certainly recession-resistant. That said, self-storage is experiencing the impact of the current downturn for two reasons:

  • Too many people seem to have a passive, “wait-and-see” attitude toward the economy, rather than the usual aggressive stance we saw even a year ago.
  • Forces outside the business are having an impact beyond the control of potential investors and existing owners.

However, even under these circumstances, self-storage is still a viable business. In spite of the naysayers, there are strategies you can employ during uncertain times to ensure success. In fact, the smart investor knows how to turn a negative situation into a positive one.
 
Act Now

During tough times, some people look for opportunities to actually make money, while others are losing it or trying to break even. For example, some investors buy up depressed stocks or commodities during a recession, hold onto them until the economy improves, and then sell them at a substantial profit. This is a sound strategy, if you have enough discretionary money to participate, and if you’re in no hurry to make revenue.

Then there are instances in which a recession creates circumstances that are beneficial to certain businesses, if they are poised to take advantage of them. This is precisely what’s happening in self-storage today. There are compelling reasons for those not in the business to take the plunge now and for those already in the business to expand.

Building materials and land costs. The uncertain economy has forced building prices lower than they’ve been in years. If you consider materials costs are one of the single largest expenses an owner will incur in building a facility, you can assume bargains simply don’t come along except in unusual times. And you can bet these are unusual times.

The same can be said for the cost of land, although it will vary depending on location. Land costs in some areas of the country continue to appreciate; some are holding steady, but most continue to fall. Therefore, on balance, there are bargains to be had.

Finding financing. Even though interest rates are low, banks are requiring higher down payments. This is a problem for some investors because they have to come up with more upfront money than in previous years. But there are ways to get around this through partnerships. In other words, there is strength in numbers.

If an investor can’t come up with 100 percent of the down payment necessary for a construction loan, there are others in similar circumstances who are perfectly willing to step up and participate in a limited-partnership arrangement. And there are those in the business—manufacturers, consultants and commercial real estate brokers—who are in a position to help locate suitable partners.

Design considerations. Before construction can proceed, buildings must be designed. During prosperous times, a good design team may be hard to find—and expensive. In contrast, tough times usually finds designers more available, which means they are probably less expensive and may require less time to turn plans around.

The same is true of manufacturers; a weak economy will likely present opportunities to save on manufacturing-production time because fewer jobs will be in the pipeline, which will translate to faster scheduling.

Permitting and zoning. Once plans are complete, they must be submitted to the proper city and county authorities to obtain the necessary permits. Once again, time and expense come into play in this process. When times are good and there is a lot of construction going on, self-storage projects can expect higher costs and increased time in obtaining zoning and permits. That’s because there are so many projects in progress that permitting, which may normally take a month or so, can be protracted into many months. It’s also because city and county officials are overworked, which could extend approvals even longer.

But in a difficult economy, the process is sped up. Why? Due to limited submittals, there are fewer competitors taking up city and county staff time. This could result in approval times being cut considerably. 
 
Construction During Economic Downturn

Poor economic times can actually create advantages for the construction process. During good times, if construction superintendents or contractors want quality, they should anticipate higher costs and increased production time because everyone is busy and can charge more for their services. The reverse is true in down times. If you want quality, you can realize lower costs (more qualified workers available) and shorter production time (better workers means faster building erections).

Finally, an owner or prospective owner should not be discouraged just because the economy goes south. Traditionally, the very nature of the self-storage business means owners take fewer risks than most real estate developers, so a declining economy is no reason to stand on the sidelines and wait to see what’s going to happen. There are plenty of reasons to be proactive and make things happen on your own terms.
 
Terry Campbell is the vice-president of sales and marketing for BETCO Inc., a single-source manufacturer of self-storage metal buildings. For more information, call 800.654.7813, visit www.betcoinc.com.

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