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Thirty-four items you don’t want to forget during the design process!



Thirty-four items you don’t want to forget during the design process!

Thirty-four items you don’t want to forget during the design process for a better and more profitable facility.

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  1. Early in the design process determine the parking requirements of the town for self-storage. They can vary from a half dozen to 30 for the same size facility. In some cases, where very high parking is required, parking in half of the 24 isles may be accepted as parking.  You want at least a half dozen customer parking spaces next to the office outside of the fenced in security area.
  1. Provide a secure drop box for after hour payments. It’s been our number two request from tenants. If you remember prior to construction you can put it in the office wall. Otherwise, you can add a free-standing drop box.
  1. For protection, provide steel bollards at all building corners, entrance gates, and entrance/exit key pads. I recommend 6”- 8” steel bollards filled with concrete. Over the years this will save big bucks and a lot of aggravation. Make sure these are in your original bid package because the change order price of $900 each will kill you budget.
  1. Determine if you should put the outside lights on two circuits with timers so you can turn half the lights off after hours or at a certain time. You may also want the front entrance driveway, sign and parking lot lights on a third separate circuit, so you can leave them on all night. LED lights will cost a little more to buy but they will more than pay you back with reduced electric bills.
  1. Make sure all utilities are designed to include future phases and are clearly included in your bid request. Make sure your electrical/camera underground conduit system for phase two is brought to the limits of phase one so you do not have to tear up phase one. Make sure the pull cords are in.
  1. Have your engineer provide the largest driveway radius permitted at the street intersection for easy site entrance. A 25 to 45-foot radius is recommended. No matter how large you make them some drivers will still drive over the curb.
  1. Make sure there is room at the end of the buildings for vehicles to safely turn. Thirty feet of pavement is recommended minimum with 40 feet preferred, and much larger if you need large RV’s or tractor trailers to make the turn.
  1. Determine what percentage of climate control units to construct. We have constructed 15 – 20 percent and that has worked well for us in the northeast, but many areas like Florida build significantly more. Check to see what your competition has done. Learn more about climate control/humidity systems. Also, make sure the designer has experience designing self-storage heating & air conditioning & humidity systems. Self-storage systems are designed significantly different from then residential or typical commercial systems.
  1. Your office will be a major showcase for your facility and a is a key factor in the success of your facility. It should be located outside the gated area. Visit several other self-storage offices to help determine your office size and layout. We have found that having a large product sale area and large windows helps increase the overall acceptance of our facilities and increase our unit rentals. The offices in our self-storage facilities are about 1,100 square feet, including a single bathroom and a small utility/furnace room.

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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.

  1. Typically an access gate has a security loop installed in the pavement that can detect a car, so the gate will not close on a car. Make sure it is clear who is responsible to provide and install the safety loop. Will it be installed under the pavement or will the pavement be saw cut and patched? It is a much nicer job if the safety loops are under the pavement and not saw cut into the pavement. The gate should also have a safety mechanism, so the gate cannot accidentally shut on a person that meet present building codes.
  1. It’s always a nice touch if the appropriate office doors are keyed alike.
  1. If you use propane, consider buying your propane tanks versus renting so when you buy propane you can get the best price on the open market.
  1. Put the fencing 30 feet or more off the pavement where snow will be plowed to leave room for snow.
  1. A 4-foot person gate in the security fence near the office comes in handy for many reasons.
  1. Typically the entrance/exit gate needs a clearance past the end of the gate of at least 1.5 times the gate opening. Be sure to check with your gate manufacturer and design accordingly. If you do not have the room you will need a lift gate.
  1. In Connecticut you are required to get a CT Department of Environmental Protection “General Permit for Storm Water Discharge Permit for Construction Activities”, if the development (all phases included) disturbs over 5 acres of land. This permit requires several best management practices be incorporated into the designs, including weekly inspections of the erosion control. Often, there are similar or other special regulations in many states. Make sure you have a complete list of all approvals required when you start your design, so you can plan accordingly.
  1. In many states, disturbance of wetlands may require a Federal Army Corps of Permit in addition to your local Wetlands Commission approval. Check with your soil scientist and engineer. An army Corps permit can add significant time and costs to your approval process.
  1. Don’t forget to have an electrical outlet installed at your sign for your holiday lights. Also, electrical outlets should be installed in the 1 or 2 units of the facility you will use. An outside water nozzle is recommended. Typically, no electricity or lights is provided in self-storage units. You may want to put electric plug in 2 or three 10 x 10 units, so you can rent to pharmaceutical reps who will need a fridge in their unit.
  1. If possible, place the larger units on the side of the building that do not have another building on the opposite side of the drive. This will make it easier for cars to access and be stored in these 10′ x 20′ or larger units. Nine-foot-wide doors are nice touch on 10’ x 20’ units for car storage.
  1. Include a bank of 5′ x 5′ x 4′ lockers in your climate control buildings. One is stacked above the other. They typically rent out and provide the highest rent per square foot. It is a good design practice to have several different sizes typically from 5’ x 5’ to 10 ‘x 30’.

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  1. Slat walls in the office are great to hang locks and other products. Built in shelving for certain products is a good idea as well. Make sure they are included in your construction specifications. Change orders are expensive.
  1. Review your landscaping plans. In addition to the various trees and bushes it is very beneficial to have a raised flowerbed or two for your clients to admire.
  1. Handicap access should be reviewed early on and included in your design. Self-storage units typically have a lip at the door to keep water out. A ramp design and special doors are required for handicap access. The good news is if the handicap units do not rent you can rent them out as regular units. Your Engineer, architect and building manufacture should able to help you out with the handicap requirements. You may also want to do an online search regarding the new HC regulations.
  1. Determine if there is any room for outside car storage or RV storage. Even a few spaces can help market the entire facility. Outside parking of vehicles should be clearly noted on the site plans and applications to the town. Typically, you will make more money with self-storage units than outside parking. Outside parking is provided if you have excess land.
  1. Some states require two bathrooms, male and female. You may be able to request a waiver from the state for just one bathroom. I got waivers for just one bathroom in my facilities and there are no problems. Access to the bathroom should not require a user to go behind the office rental counter and should be clearly marked.
  2. Most metal building manufacturers provide insulation in the non-climate control unit ceilings. This is a must because it helps prevent condensation and possible dripping onto the customer’s stuff. Double check to insure your building includes insulation in the non-climate control unit ceilings.
  1. Avoid sheetrock construction in storage units. Sheetrock attracts mold and is easily damaged.
  1. If you have a sidewalk directly abutting your office make sure the sidewalk elevation is coordinated with the building design. If the office is a metal building the sidewalk may need to be an inch lower than the office concrete floor to accommodate the metal lip that hangs over the concrete floor.  Even where the building is not metal it is a good idea for the sidewalk to be lower than the office floor by an inch.  Of course, the sidewalk should match the floor at the door for handicap access.
  1. Many building codes have recently changed or are about to change based upon what state you live in. Insulation requirements, fire walls, separation distances, climate control building design, multi-story design requirements, handicap requirements are just some of them. Make sure you enlist the help of a self-storage building code expert early on, so you are not surprised.
  1. Now is the time to determine your facility management software and gate control companies, website developer etc. Once construction starts you will be extremely busy.  Making sure they are compatible with each other is critical and a must.
  1. Provide a driveway entrance light at the street. It’s been our number one request from tenants.
  1. Make sure your camera/DVD system has enough capacity/ports for all phases. I recommend two large camera screens in your office. Safety/security is the second concern of most renters.  Meet with your security expert early on and show the camera locations on your site plan.
  1. There are significant differences between video camera systems. Purchase high definition systems. And confirm you can view the cameras from your home computer and cell phone. There should be 2 cameras in the office on the customer and on the manager.
  1. Several things can differ between building manufacturers. When you order a building, you should be aware of your door sizes and eve heights as both can have an impact on your facility.  I recommend minimum doors widths of 8’-8” feet wide and a minimum building eve height of 8’-4” and you should consider 9’ wide doors and 9’-4” eve heights.

If you want the whole scoop can buy the entire book at Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Marc-Goodin/e/B0098B0A20

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Interview with Storage Authority Franchise 0wner, March 2018

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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.

New Sign SA


Houston Rendering

 

Chapter 8 – 10 things to consider to find an A+ Site

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  1. Location, Location, Location. This is the single most crucial factor in the success of a self storage business. The majority of your rentals will come from drive-by traffic. Out of the way locations typically struggle to get customers compared to main street locations. The best properties are on a main road with an average daily traffic volume of at least 10,000 vehicles per day with a preferred average daily traffic volume of 20,000 plus vehicles per day or greater. These are often State roads. Of course, due consideration must be given to surrounding population and how much of the potential renters should be proportioned to existing or other planned self storage facilities nearby. Often you can get roadway traffic counts from The Department of Transportation.

Think retail. Would you put retail on a back road or behind another development? No and the same goes for new self-storage developments.

  1. Unmet Self-Storage Demand is just as important as location! For a quick first total demand review, you can use 8 square feet of self storage demand per person, in a 3-mile radius. To get the unmet demand the square footage of the existing and planned self storage facilities in the 3-mile radius will need to be deducted from the total demand. For rural areas with little competition you may draw from a larger area. For large metropolitan areas of high population, the demand area may be smaller. Higher population density is often better because it is easier to have better service and out market the competition and get more of your share of renters than find renters that do not exist.

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

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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 marc@storageauthority.com

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.

  1. Dry flat usable land with no restrictions can typically support 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of 1 story self storage buildings per acre. I recommend you use 10,000 sf per acre before you have done your due diligence. I have not found many parcels without restrictions of one kind or another, so it is prudent to do significant due diligence to determine if a parcel of land is suitable for your needs and to determine a fair purchase price of the land.

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.

  1. Typically, you will be looking for 4 to 5 acre or larger parcel of land with few constraints or unusual zoning restrictions for a 50,000 sf one story facility. Don’t overlook the importance of walking the entire property before you make an offer. Water, wetlands, watercourses, steep slopes, easements (overhead wires), abutting uses can sometimes be observed on a site walk.  If you have a civil engineer you are working with, ask him to walk the site with you. It will be well worth his fee, especially if you do not have experience with land development.
  1. Many self storage building manufacturers will provide a conceptual layout plan. This is a good preliminary start, but remember they often do not take into consideration all the land feature restrictions or zoning restrictions.
  1. Early on in the due diligence process you should have the wetlands delineated on the site. Of special concern are vernal pools, special breeding areas, that often require very large buffer areas. Endangered or threatened species should also be reviewed early on.
  1. Consider the limitations and cost of steep sloping land before making an offer. Because single story buildings are often long and because they are only 24 to 30 feet apart they require a relatively flat finish grade. Buildings can be stepped down, but only so much and this also adds to the cost. Filling or excavation on steep slopes can cost tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more.
  1. Once you find a parcel that appears to meets your qualifications, I highly recommend you have a local engineer do a conceptual plan for you. Ask them specifically about all the utilities, including water, sewer, drainage, and storm water detention. Make sure they tell you about any zoning regulations that may be of concern.  Easy access and street views are two important items to attract more renters.

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.

  1. Remember to review the local design and approval process in detail before determining the purchase option time frame. I recommend at least a 6 to 8-month option period to get your approvals, if possible. I also recommend that you include a 6-month extension clause, even if you have to pay to execute an extension.  To get the extension clause approved by the land owner you might have to agree to submit site plan application to the Town by a certain date to show you are moving swiftly forward with the project.
  1. The best sites do not always have a for sale sign on them. We are having great success finding off line parcels.  Fallen down signs, friend of a friend, word of mouth, or land record research have led to best parcels.  I knocked on doors. I called them and told them I was interested in buying their land and asked if we could meet.  If they ask the price you are willing to pay, ask if you can walk the property to help you determine the price.  It often takes two or three meetings of no’s to get to the yes. In all three cases, no one had to pay a realtor’s fee. And even better, they were purchased below market rates.

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5 acres were used on this 9-acre site.  The rest of the land was not usable.

Chapter 3 Start Today!

Chapter 3

Start Today!

Thirteen things you can to do this week to get off to a fast start.

  1. Do a personal review to make sure you have sufficient time, energy and money to get off to a great start. After you read this book you will have a much better idea of the time, money and work it takes to build a self storage.
  1. Join your local State Self Storage Association and attend meetings.
  1. Subscribe to one or two Self Storage trade magazines: www.insideselfstorage.com or www.ministoragemessenger.com.
  1. Read the Zoning and Wetland regulations from the Town(s) you may purchase land in. Often they can be found online for free. Meet with the Town Engineer and Planner to discuss the permitting process for a self storage facility, where in Town they are permitted and the zoning regulations on self storage development.

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  1. Find a commercial realtor to help you with your search for land.
  1. Meet with your banker and ask about self storage loans.
  1. Meet with a local civil engineer to get rough time frames and costs for site plan design and approvals.
  1. Stop at every self storage you pass by and talk to the owners. Let them know you are thinking about starting your own self storage. Some owners will be reluctant to say much but many will be happy to give you tons of useful information.
  1. Join our LinkedIn group “Marketing Self Storage” for great marketing ideas and a forum where you can ask any questions you may have. Feel free to ask any questions you have too.
  1. Order your free developers “getting started packet” from http://www.trachte.com a premier self storage building manufacturer.
  1. Start a business plan folder today. A lot of the information you accumulate over the next several weeks will be used to prepare your business plan.  Your business plan will help you understand the costs, planning, work and risks associated with your new project.  When you apply for your loan the submission of a well prepared business plan will let the bank know you understand the self storage business and are well prepared. This can often help the bank make a positive decision in less time and often with better terms.
  1. Check out the fastest and most profitable way to get started in self storage www.StorageAuthorityFranchise.com  Don’t forget to read the blog for tons of great info you will need to build & market your self storage.
  1. Email me at marc@storageauthority.com when you have 3 of the above items completed for a free 1/2-hour phone consultation for faster profits.

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.

Need help – send me an email marc@storageauthority.com