Thirty-four items you don’t want to forget during the design process for a better and more profitable facility.
A colorful bright large retail office and showroom will increase your rentals. Remember the majority of the rentals are by the ladies. Believe it or not you are in the retail and fashion business and need to wow your customers.
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Marc Goodin, President of Storage Authority LLC,
Ed, you must be excited to have started construction on your self-storage facility?
Ed: Absolutely. We have put substantial time and research into this project and the team is excited to open Storage Authority Houston-Walters Rd.
Marc: First I want to congratulate you and your wife Jenny. It was not that long ago we met as strangers in a Houston hotel lobby and you shared your goals with GP & I. Now we are friends and you are well on your way to making your self-storage dreams come true.
Can you provide us a short background on yourself?
Ed: I do remember that meeting with you and GP and it has been a pleasure working with you all on this project. I have been in the transportation industry working in an executive role for many years and I have also been involved in a few technology startups, but I always have had a passion for real estate.
Marc: I know you are all ready to starting your marketing for your grand Opening. What is your projected construction time?
Ed: Approximately 6 months
Marc: How helpful was the Storage Authority preferred Houston Area real estate broker Richard Anderson?
Ed: Richard was both a resource and an advisor through the entire process. He has an extensive commercial real estate and development background, so his experience was invaluable.
Marc: How many acres did you buy? And How many square feet of self-storage did you get approved?
Ed: We bought four acres of land and will be building a 60,000 sq ft facility in two phases.
Marc: You and I did some conceptual early on and then once your offer was accepted we worked together with your architect & engineer to come up with the final layout for both the buildings and the individual units. It’s a tradition civil engineers (like myself) get a little tough on Architects but other that did you feel the Storage authority process helped you understand the options and choose the right layout for you?
Ed: Yes indeed. You were involved in all reviews of the design process and we made many updates to the plans that gave us a much better final layout that I am confident is positioning us for a strong opening.
Marc: You actually had a very smooth design and approval process but what surprised you the most about the design or approval process?
Ed: Although the internal side of the design/approval was manageable, like any real estate deal I believe staying creative and alert to the details of the transaction is critical. We encountered several hurdles finalizing the deal that brought us to the close.
Marc: What advice would you offer a new franchise owner starting the design process?
Ed: Tap into Storage Authority’s experience and knowledge, while being sure to be mindful of local storage development trends. Bounce ideas off of Marc and collaborate to develop the best solution.
Marc: Obviously getting a loan is one of the very important steps of self-storage development. How does it feel to have your first multimillion-dollar loan?
Ed: Exciting and challenging. I believe the due diligence that we performed, feasibility studies and local research were all keys to forming a solid working partnership with my lender.
Marc: Many people don’t realize there is a lot of work between the site plan design and having the final construction bid & permits the bank requires. Sometimes inexperienced developers wait until after final site plan approval to start, the building design by the Architect and getting complete bids. You had your Architect and Contractor on board during the site design process. Do you agree this was critical for your project?
Ed: It was essential. I believe the site design process is essential to understanding the full scope of a deal’s feasibility.
Marc: What did you find the most challenging so far and why.
Ed: Keeping a detailed checklist, timeline and prioritizing all of the items was a challenge as we neared the final stages of the project. Large companies have teams that manage this process, and, in our case, it was me and the Storage Authority team.
Marc: Did Storage Authority meet your expectations? And what can Storage Authority do better to assist the next Storage Authority Owner?
Ed: Storage Authority exceeded my expectations. As for what can be improved, you all are already doing it. From enhancing your web platform to providing new operating guidelines your team is innovating to help me the other Owners be successful.
Marc: Thanks for share your experience and thoughts. One last question for now. Are you excited to start your self-storage marketing and renting up your facility?
Ed: Marc, we are ready to get this one leased up, so we can get back to work with you and the team on our next project.
Think retail. Would you put retail on a back road or behind another development? No and the same goes for new self-storage developments.
Too many people tell me they are about to build self-storage on land they own or located because self storage is needed in the area. And they are right about half the time. Not a good enough percentage to move forward with a multimillion dollar investment. In the end, new developers are going to need help to make the final decision. But you can rule out some properties with a bit of effort and determine which property in an area would be the best one to choose for a feasibility study.
First you need to determine the existing population. The population can be provided by many realtors or is often provided with many property listings. There are also several on line programs that can provide the population.
The unknown is the demand of square foot of self-storage per person. And there is not one size fits all locations correct answer since demand can and does vary from state to state and even area to area within a state. Demand in the end is not a square foot per person but rather a square foot/person where facilities reach equilibrium (90% -+ full) at acceptable rates. In other words, demand cannot be determined in a vacuum and must be used in conjunction with a review of the existing market occupancy rates and prices. Be careful not to assume full means there is a need for more facilities. Full with a regular 10 x 10-unit renting for $70 is not a good sign while 10 x 10’ renting for $160 is a great sign.
For many urban areas where there are numerous self storage facilities to choose from the draw/competition area of 3-mile radius is commonly used. And the demand of 8+_ sf per person can be used as a temporary starting point.
So, if the 3-mile population is 30,000 the total self-storage demand would be:
30,000 people x 8 sf/person = 240,000 sf of self-storage needed.
Next you need to determine the location, number and size of the existing self-storage in the 3-mile radius. Most novices underestimate the number of nearby facilities. You can use google earth pro or “google nearby” to help you find the 3-mile facilities. On google earth pro you can draw a 3-mile radius and visual search for the self storages. For a given address on a google map you can enter self-storage in the nearby tab and it will show the nearby self storages. But it does not go over town lines, so it is tricky to get all the facilities. This is considerable work to make sure you get it right but can often give you a quick count. You may be able get the existing square footages from the land records or scale from google earth pro, again a lot of work. Or you could use a real rough estimate of 50,000 sf of self-storage for each facility with a square footage check as part two of your demand study.
So, if you had 3 existing self storages in the three-mile radius you could temporarily assume that: 3 facilities x 50,000 sf/each = 150,000 sf of the existing demand has been met.
The needed demand for this case would be:
The total demand of 240,000 sf – 150,000 sf existing = + 90,000 sf. demand needed.
You would also need to subtract the demand for any facilities under construction or in the approval process.
You can see a sample mini demand study at the Storage Authority News Room
The good news is there are programs that can quickly determine the population and the existing self storages and even the square footage of the facilities, so the existing and unmet self storage demand can be determined quickly as part of a preliminary study.
One developer who recently contacted me did his own demand calculations. When I emailed him back our check of his findings with an online demand review he said “ Wow what you did in 10 minutes took me over 2 day to do by hand.”
Below is a screen shot of the Radius program we use to determine the existing self-storage demand & population. It also does a ton more, from providing the existing self storage square footage, the names of your competition and the rates of your competition.
The program is available at : https://www.unionrealtime.com/radius.html
I suggest you set up a demo with James de Gorter the co founder of Union Real time. Here is a link to set up an appointment on his calendar https://calendly.com/radiusteam/radiusdemo
This location is a 3-mile radius review for one of the FL Kmart locations closing this year. While it shows the existing self-storage is 7.36 sf per capitol (see bottom left hand side) the key is the fact that there is only 0.69 sf/person of climate control. So, this is a great location to investigate further for a big box conversion to climate control self-storage. If you want to learn more about this program or even conversions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course, Storage Authority and our national brokers will help find and review your potential sites, saving you mega hours. Better yet we will even help you determine the best areas to look for land in your neighborhood.
The occupancy of the existing facilities (and their rates) can tell you a good deal about the local market demand. You should stop by a couple and call a couple to get their rates and see if they will tell you their occupancy even before you start looking for land.
In the end, there are many important factors in addition to demand so a feasibility study is highly recommended. For your planning purposes, each can cost $6,000 to $7,000. If you need preliminary assistance with your initial investigations or need a recommendation for a feasibility expert email me at marc@storageAuthority.com and I would be happy to help.
The shape of the land, topography, wetlands, drainage, flood limits, neighbors, building design, and zoning requirements can have a significant impact on the final building square footage. Some towns, for example, only permit 50% impervious lot coverage for the buildings and pavement, other towns do not permit a new self storage within 3 miles of an existing facility. Regulated wetlands setbacks or wetland buffers often vary from 50 feet to 150 feet from the wetlands in many locations. On site storm drainage detention, if required can require a half acre or more land. High parking requirements in some towns can also limit the amount of buildings. In other words, the regulations can significantly reduce the amount self storage permitted. Often self storage is not even permitted in residential zones and other zones.
If you don’t have city sewer you will need extra land for a septic system. If you do not have city water, you will need room for a well and significant building fire walls will be required that will add substantially to the project cost.
5 acres were used on this 9-acre site. The rest of the land was not usable.
Thirteen things you can to do this week to get off to a fast start.
You be amazed how quickly you start learning valuable information.
For the three self storage facilities that I built and presently own it took aprox. 1.5 years from when I initially decided (before I found the land) to finish building a facility. The longest period of time for me was making the decision to build. The rest went by quickly. After you make the concrete decision to build self storage you have to find a piece of land that fits your needs, and negotiate an option to buy. If you already have a piece of land under consideration you are already off to a fast start. Then, your engineer has to design the project and get approval from the local municipal boards. After the regulatory approvals you have to do more detailed designs. Next, you have to choose a contractor(s) and, of course, you than have to build the facility. The more realistic you are about your time schedule the better prepared you will be, and certainly it will be a lot less stressful.
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