Oftentimes as I walk through self storage properties, I notice subtle things that could have been addressed to prevent major repair costs down the road. Small items like changing a $20 air filter can prevent your HVAC system from shutting down mid-summer. When you ignore the little things like that, your repairs could range from $500-$10,000+ depending on your system. We’re going to review some of the proactive things you can do now to extend the life of your self storage property through regular maintenance and necessary improvements; and prevent those costly (and often preventable) repairs.
Let’s talk maintenance of your self storage property. Maintenance will vary drastically from geographical location and type of building. If you have a single-story building with all exterior drive-up storage units in the Mid-Atlantic states, we know the maintenance is going to be very little. Maybe an exterior light needs a new bulb or replacing a door spring covers it. But in the southern states where you have mostly temperature control units, your HVAC system runs 11 out of 12 months to keep the buildings cool. In that case, we know we’ll be changing the air filters more often and probably have more frequent routine cleanings and service to keep your system in top operating shape.
I suggest breaking your maintenance goals down by property and then by frequency: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and annually. This will help you stay on schedule and not miss any of the small items (at all of your locations) that can save you big dollars later on. Let’s face it, there is no way you are going to remember all the dates of service or maintenance, or what was completed at what store.
Property managers and maintenance personal play a vital role in the appearance of your storage facility. They help ensure any trash is removed and damages are repaired. They also should be performing regular audits to keep the landscaping looking great and weed free, see that all lights are functioning properly, and take care of any other items that would deter a client away from your self storage property and address issues quickly. The end goal is to have your storage facility functioning properly and looking fantastic at all times, and if something arises that it’s corrected in a timely manner. The consumer has several places to choose from when looking for a storage unit. Do they take a storage unit at the run down property with burned out lights and weeds all over; or do they choose the storage unit at the nicely lit, manicured and trash free property down the block? Which one is yours? You want your self storage property to be the one they choose every time, and routine maintenance can certainly sway them to choose you over the competitor.
Capital improvements are very important to the value of your self storage property as well. They help build equity if done correctly. Notice that I said “done correctly”. I have seen many instances where an owner has taken shortcuts in the construction up front and along the way to save dollars, only to cost them a lot more money in the end when repairs become unavoidable. The cheapest price is not always the best value! If you’re a smaller ownership team or single owner who handles your capital improvements directly, it is important to first spell out exactly what you want to accomplish in the end state. This will make it easier when talking to contractors about the specifics of what you want to have done. You also need to shop around and get several quotes for the work, and try to find someone with experience in the self storage industry.
Once you’re ready to move forward on a capital improvement project, make sure you have properly vetted your contractors for what they are providing with their service. Get references, talk to some of their past clients and look for reviews online of their work. Many times you will see contractors who use exclusions in their quote. Double check to ensure none of the exclusions were items you thought would be included in the pricing. Ask questions and get clarification on the details so you fully understand what you will be paying for, and what can be additional costs.
Return on investment for your capital improvements is the key to whether you complete the project now or push it to another quarter or year. A thorough analysis of the ROI should be completed prior to the execution of any substantial capital improvement. It’s a good idea to plan your capital improvements around the rental season to maximize the value upon completion. If you plan to add a new building, schedule to have this project completed prior to your peak rental season. Having new storage units available when the season starts to spin up is paramount to quickly filling those units and improving the bottom line sooner.
To recap, keeping up with your property maintenance could save you thousands of dollars and prolong the life of your equipment, and your self storage property. Always ask yourself as an owner which type of property do I own – the run down eye sore or the clean and well maintained property. Make sure to complete a thorough analysis of your ROI prior to starting any substantial capital improvements. In this crazy self storage industry we love, you always have to make sure the juice was worth the squeeze. If you have more questions about maintaining your self storage property, you can contact us for more information.