Occupancy rates and rents at self storage facilities are at record highs, drawing investors and entrepreneurs looking for growth opportunities. However, owning and operating a self storage facility comes with risks, so it’s always a good idea to bring a self storage consultant on board. While hiring a self storage consultant will cost you, it’s money well-spent. Afterall, it’s better to spend a little money at the beginning of a project and find out that your assumptions may be wrong than spending millions of dollars in development and find out when it’s too late.
Whether you’re building from the ground up, buying an existing facility, or even selling your current facility, self storage consultancy helps ensure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Consultants have done this before – many times – and they know all the mistakes that can be made and the secrets you can take advantage of. You’ll also have someone on your side who is knowledgeable about running a facility, such as staff training, operating procedures, finances and taxes, legal considerations, and sales and marketing strategies.
5 Steps in Self Storage Consulting
- Feasibility (New Builds & Conversions)
Most banks and Small Business Association lenders require a self storage feasibility study – a consultant’s expert opinion on the financial viability of your project. The study estimates construction costs and determines viability based on size, location, local research (demand, competition), industry standards and trends. It may also include an estimate of the facility’s future value.
Whether you’re building or converting, your consultant will meet with you and your architects before construction begins, reviewing initial plans and making suggestions. As revisions occur, you should continue working their involvement. Don’t make the mistake of ditching the consultant after obtaining the feasibility study and bank approval; it’s extremely important to have a consultant on board during planning to catch mistakes that novice owners may be prone to (and that architects and contractors may not consider). This will save you expensive rework after the fact to correct problems. Your consultant will look at:
- Unit mix
- Loading areas
- Curb appeal
- Customer parking
- Office size, design
- Climate control
- Security systems
- Proper lighting
When you sign off on the plans, it’s time to submit to the city for approval and permitting. As hiccups occur, the consultant will work with you to make adjustments to get approval.
- Construction and Conversion
During this phase, you’ll want to meet with your consultant regularly and have them attend any construction or conversion meetings with architects, builders, suppliers, and others. They offer valuable suggestions and may be able to troubleshoot problems and anticipate challenges not initially foreseeable in the planning stage.
Following construction or conversion, a good self storage consultant will help you transition to operations, offering suggestions for office setup, staffing, marketing, customer relationships, keeping delinquency low, and so on.
The Dangers of Not Using a Self Storage Consultant
Wondering how someone could forget about lighting, an elevator, or other potential errors? It happens more often than you might think! Inside Self-Storage highlighted some mistakes new self storage owners made when constructing their facility, which led to expensive rework and/or unhappy clients.
- Owner didn’t consider unit mix, and built a stick and stucco facility with only 10×10 units (“the most popular”). A consultant would have recommended a better unit mix and/or movable wall panels.
- Owner was told not to install electricity so people wouldn’t live in the units, so renters stumble in the dark. A consultant would have suggested lighting and motion sensors.
- Owner built a two-story facility without an elevator; hence, no one rented upstairs, leaving a lot of vacant units. A consultant would have recommended an elevator and suggested ancillary streams of revenue to eventually cover the investment.
- Owner assumed his office only needed a desk and built it as a 10×15 unit. A consultant would have advised him to build a larger office to accommodate merchandise sales, as well as a break room and restroom.
Don’t be like these owners and forget what, in hindsight, might seem truly obvious. Be sure to hire a self storage consultant and keep one on the project until the transition to operations is complete.
Storelocal Self Storage Consulting
Wondering how to conduct a self storage consultant search? You’ll find plenty available online with reviews to help you make your decision. Of course, joining the Storelocal® Storage Co-op provides an even better option.
For more on how self storage consultants help you with due diligence, operations, training, legal considerations, auditing, and asset management, request our eBook: