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Ken Nitzberg
April 2024
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M Inside
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Cover Story
Dynamic Alliance
Inland And Devon Self Storage Join Forces
By Erica Shatzer
Page 58
America’s Self-Storage Sector And Multifamily Housing
By Nick Luettke and Dan Quan
Page 66
  • Embracing Technological Transformation
    By Jesse Harmon
    Page 14
  • Five Steps To Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Actions
    By Jessica Rector
    Page 18
  • Refining Your Operational Strategy
    By Mark Poole
    Page 20
  • The Right To Increase Rental Rates In Self-Storage
    By Scott I. Zucker, Esq.
    Page 22
  • The Next Generation Facility Depends On Video
    By Kassidi Swecker
    Page 24
  • How To Outrank Your Competition
    By Giselle Aguiar
    Page 26

Page 40
Newmark’s Q4 2023 REIT Report
By Aaron Swerdlin
Page 42
What Do Millennials Want In A Facility?
By Anne Mari DeCoster
Page 48
Strategies For Winning The Battle
By Ahmet Kuyumcu
Page 52
To submit story ideas, go to or click the button below:

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Chief Executive Opinion
Travis Morrow as popular internet meme with the sign if you have less than 100 units you have a hobby not a facility

hat is a storage facility? This is always a tricky definition when trying to count stores. I’d say you’re still in the industry with 100 units, maybe just getting your feet wet, but anything less than 200 units (maybe 250?) and you don’t have a commercial-grade storage facility.

Click here to add your two cents
Travis Morrow is the CEO of Modern Storage Media and Storelocal Corporation.
He’s also the president of National Self Storage.
Messenger (ISSN 0273-5822) is published monthly for $99.95 per year by Modern Storage Media – 12071 N. Thornydale Road, Marana, AZ 85658-4766. $129.95 for one year in Canada and Mexico; $199.95 for one year (air only) in other countries. ALL SUBSCRIPTIONS PAYABLE IN U.S. FUNDS. PERIODICALS POSTAGE PAID AT marana, Az. AND ADDITIONAL OFFICES. POSTMASTER: Send address change to Mini-Storage Messenger, PO Box 608, Wittmann, AZ 85361-9997. Allow six weeks for address change. Phone (800) 352-4636.
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Vol. 1 No. 8 • April 2024

    Poppy Behrens

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    Jim Nissen

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Publisher’s Letter
You Asked!
We Listened!

or more than 43 years, Messenger magazine has been the leading authority in the self-storage industry, providing the most comprehensive data, analysis, and expert insights in its monthly issues. Over the years we have had numerous requests for archived articles from our issue library. Finally! The archived editions are here!

We are proud to announce that MSM has unlocked our vault of archives! We now offer more than 43 years’ worth of self-storage articles for FREE! By visiting our website at, readers now have access to more than 40,000 pages of storage-specific content reaching all the way back to 1979. Searchable by keyword, you will find all our past content, which can be downloaded as high-resolution PDF files.

We invite you to visit our website and explore the past trends and issues of the self-storage industry in a format that simplifies the search process. Explore everything from trends, news of the past, and industry data right from your desktop, tablet, or phone.

You asked! We listened! Now it’s time to enjoy a walk down memory lane to find the information you need! For more details about how you can browse our archives, see here.

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Poppy Behrens
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We now offer over 43 years’ worth of self-storage articles—more than 40,000 pages—on our website! Enjoy having free access to MSM’s archives!
You Asked!
We Listened!

or more than 43 years, Messenger magazine has been the leading authority in the self-storage industry, providing the most comprehensive data, analysis, and expert insights in its monthly issues. Over the years we have had numerous requests for archived articles from our issue library. Finally! The archived editions are here!

We are proud to announce that MSM has unlocked our vault of archives! We now offer more than 43 years’ worth of self-storage articles for FREE! By visiting our website at, readers now have access to more than 40,000 pages of storage-specific content reaching all the way back to 1979. Searchable by keyword, you will find all our past content, which can be downloaded as high-resolution PDF files.

Poppy Behrens headshot
We now offer over 43 years’ worth of self-storage articles—more than 40,000 pages—on our website! Enjoy having free access to MSM’s archives!
We invite you to visit our website and explore the past trends and issues of the self-storage industry in a format that simplifies the search process. Explore everything from trends, news of the past, and industry data right from your desktop, tablet, or phone.

You asked! We listened! Now it’s time to enjoy a walk down memory lane to find the information you need! For more details about how you can browse our archives, see here.

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Poppy Behrens
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MSM Magazine Archive
The MSM Vault Is Open
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Step Back In Time With 43 Years Of Self-Storage History
We have unlocked our vault of archives! Beginning in 1979, Mini-Storage Messenger published hundreds of monthly magazines covering everything self-storage related.

We have put every issue through 2022 on our website, giving you free access to this wealth of knowledge.

View or download any issue as a PDF, or search the entire archive by:

  • Year or Topic
  • Person or Facility
  • Market or Company

This free archive is a powerful tool you can use to see how far the industry has come and to discover how the past helped shape our future.

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Meet The Team
Who is Modern Storage Media (MSM)?
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Travis M. Morrow
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Poppy Behrens
Lauri Longstrom-Henderson headshot
Lauri Longstrom-Henderson
Director Of Sales & Marketing
Jeffrey Pettingill headshot
Jeffry Pettingill
Creative Director
Modern Storage Media
Erica Shatzer headshot
Erica Shatzer
Carlos Padilla headshot
Carlos “Los” Padilla
Circulation & Online Sales Coordinator
Jim Nissen headshot
Jim Nissen
Creative Director
Brad Hadfield headshot
Brad Hadfield
Web Manager / News Writer
We are a forward-thinking team of knowledgeable professionals with more than 20 years of experience in self-storage. Through modern technology, we reliably deliver high-quality content and cutting-edge advertising opportunities. We strive to provide clarity in a rapidly changing industry by informing others with expert insights, accurate data, and authentic products. We are Modern Storage Media.
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Time To Evolve
Embracing Technological Transformation
By Jesse Harmon
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eople have always feared change. This fear is deeply ingrained in us, even though we are often taught from a young age that change is the only constant in life. Many sectors feel this fear. They have long had traditional practices. One such sector where this fear is notably prominent is the self-storage industry.

Traditionally, for a vast majority of self-storage operators, the incorporation of technology was limited to the bare essentials. These typically included an electric gate for security, a digital sign for marketing, and a basic personal computer in the office. This computer often ran rudimentary property management software, in many cases, simply a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel. Historically, the self-storage industry did not heavily rely on advanced technology as a means to enhance various aspects of business operations. There was little focus on using technology to increase revenue. It also wasn’t used to improve the efficiency of lead acquisition and rental processes or streamline operations during move-out or transfer.

However, the landscape began to shift dramatically in the post-COVID era. Today, the reliance on technology has become not just a matter of convenience but a necessity for the continual improvement of revenue generation and occupancy rates in self-storage facilities. Contemporary property management systems now play a pivotal role. These systems have the capability to identify and highlight best-selling units. This information is crucial and can be strategically utilized to adjust pricing and promote these units on various acquisition channels. Modern technologies empower self-storage operators to influence consumer decisions through sophisticated website design and online marketing strategies. They enable customers the convenience of renting a unit online at any time, say at 9 p.m., while in their pajamas, and moving in before the office opens the next day. This process is facilitated by advanced electronic doors and gates that interact with software to provide tenants with necessary access codes upon completion of the online rental process.

The challenge then becomes: How do we, as an industry, overcome our ingrained fear of change? The answer lies in recognizing and embracing the advantages that technology brings. Operators see how technology makes their businesses efficient and effective. It allows seamless 24/7 operations, so they start to integrate these new systems and processes into their operations. This infusion of technology, while beneficial, is not without its challenges. It brings a mix of positive and negative outcomes, and it demands a prudent, logical approach when beginning the journey of technological integration.

Technology has had a big positive impact in our industry. It has made data, solutions, and oversight widely available for our facilities and businesses. Data gives us power. It lets us understand and use market trends, seasonal changes, economic impacts, and competition. We can do this in a new and dynamic way. The idea of reverting to old methods becomes unimaginable once we experience the benefits of these advanced systems. Another notable advancement is the possibility of extending operational hours. The concept of a self-storage facility operating 24/7 was unheard of several years ago, but it’s now a feasible reality thanks to technological advancements.

However, the adoption of technology is not without potential pitfalls. Firstly, the cost of implementing cutting-edge technology can be significant. Additionally, not all technological systems are designed to integrate seamlessly with one another. Operators must find systems that align well. These systems ensure that investments yield benefits. They should not complicate or hinder the operation. Another risk is becoming too reliant on technology. This can make us neglect the need for ongoing personal and professional growth. Understanding and interpreting data trends is helpful, but it’s equally important to keep making business decisions based on experience and industry expertise. This is especially true when data may not provide clear guidance.

In terms of operational efficiency, technology has the potential to revolutionize every facet of daily operations in a storage facility.
So, how can we effectively utilize technology to enhance the operations of self-storage facilities? The answer lies in focusing on three main areas. They are operational efficiency, improving customer experience, and gaining a competitive advantage.

In terms of operational efficiency, technology has the potential to revolutionize every facet of daily operations in a storage facility. Cloud-based property management software, for instance, has improved various operational aspects. We now follow up with new tenants in real time. We tailor follow-ups to their needs and timing. We also see right away which inventory is vacant and ready for move-in. The move-in and move-out processes were managed by an on-site manager. They used extensive paperwork, printers, and filing, but the processes have been streamlined. Modern technology enables prospective tenants to check unit availability and pricing online. Coupled with electronic gates and doors, tenants can now move in without the need for direct interaction with a manager. Similarly, the move-out process has been simplified. Tenants can indicate their intention to vacate online, upload photos of the now-empty unit, and have these documents automatically appended to their tenant profiles. This makes the process smoother. It also helps customers. It makes them more likely to come back for storage.

Security is another critical aspect that has been enhanced through technology. Modern surveillance cameras now have artificial intelligence. They can recognize individuals and read license plates. This tech advance adds security. It speeds reviews during incidents. It aids in assessing and preventing damage.

These features make life easier for customers. They also allow self-storage operators to charge higher rates and build longer customer relationships.
Another key benefit is that tech is improving the customer experience in self-storage. Today’s tech stack includes features such as mobile app access to facilities and units, online payment and auto-pay systems, and climate-controlled units. These features make life easier for customers. They also allow self-storage operators to charge higher rates and build longer customer relationships.

In the realm of competitive advantage, technology is leading the way. These systems offer insights into competitor pricing. They recommend pricing strategies based on market analytics. They also provide valuable demand indicators for various unit types. These systems also inform rent raise strategies. They bring data-driven insights that enable better decisions about fee changes.

Time To Evolve
I outlined the reasons why tech is reshaping self-storage. Now, let’s delve into strategies to conquer fear and embrace these advances. The first step is to prioritize the importance of technology through staff training and education. Effective communication about the benefits and necessity of new technology is essential. It helps to initiate discussions about the reasons behind the adoption of new tech and improvements to current systems. Creating a team environment is key. In this environment, staff continually seek and value feedback. This can help them adapt to change in a positive way.

The second strategy involves careful and measured implementation. Rather than trying to overhaul all systems at once, a phased approach is better. It starts with non-critical areas and allows for a smoother transition. This method allows for adjustments and feedback. It ensures that the changes are indeed helping the facilities.

The third strategy involves collaborating with tech companies. They specialize in self-storage. Customizing technology solutions to fit specific needs is crucial. These companies can offer expert guidance. They will instill confidence. The changes will help operations, customers, and our market.

Change can be daunting, especially in technology, but embracing it is vital for the growth and future success of the self-storage industry. As tenants continue to integrate technology into their personal lives, it is imperative for the industry to evolve in parallel. This approach ensures competition. It also fosters innovation and long-term success. The world is increasingly driven by technology.

Jesse Harmon is the vice president of marketing and commercial strategy, self-storage admin at Cedar Creek Capital.
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Reducing Turnover
Five Steps To Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Actions
By Jessica Rector

o you have a Negative Nancy or Toxic Tim whom you’re keeping longer than you should? Would you let them go if you weren’t so short staffed? One Negative Nancy or Toxic Tim infiltrates the whole company and it spreads throughout, affecting everyone.

Think of it like this: You attend a meeting that Negative Nancy was in. When you leave, you approach Positive Polly and share with her, “It’s so frustrating dealing with Negative Nancy. Why is she still here? All we do is constantly listen to her babble about her unhappiness.”

Before you know it, you become a Negative Nancy, and Positive Polly sees the impact the original Negative Nancy has made on you and the team. It only takes one person thinking negatively to bring the whole environment, culture, and team down. In order to help you, Positive Polly shares the following:

You have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 80 percent of them are negative. These come in the form of doubt, worry, and stress and are linked to poor attitudes, declining engagement, and poor performance.

Most people think they are positive and optimistic, yet negativity shows and they don’t recognize it. In fact, 95 percent of your thoughts are repetitive. So, all of the negative thoughts keep getting repeated, impacting how you show up, speak out, lead, and live.

Your thoughts are the fundamental foundation of everything you do and everything you don’t do, yet oftentimes you don’t think about them. When was the last time you thought about what you thought about?

If you’re like most people, you think the same way you’ve always thought, resulting in the same behaviors, actions, and results. If you want to change relationships, communication, interactions, your confidence, you must first change how you think. Once you change that, then everything else will change as well.

Here is a five-step process to help you change your thoughts to invoke different actions, behaviors, and results and develop a positive work environment.

1 Identify
Recognize your thoughts. There’s an exercise to help you very specifically identify your negative thoughts. It’s called the Stand up/Sit down exercise. This is a great exercise to do as a team. Have someone read a set of statements. For every statement you agree with, you will move your body. Everyone starts in a standing position. For example, if the first statement is “If you’re ever thought you’re not smart enough,” and you agree, you’ll sit down. If you disagree with the statement, you’ll remain as you were. If the next statement is, “If you’ve ever thought you don’t have enough time,” and you agree, you’ll move (either stand up or sit down depending on what you did for the first statement). This repeats for every statement read (there should be about 15 statements read). During this activity, you can expect to hear laughter evoke from your group, as they are moving for most of them, which shows that negative thinking arises without you consciously knowing. And you have a lot more of them than you believe.
2 Write it
Once you’ve identified your negative thoughts, it’s important to write them down. Something happens in your brain when you write things down. They tend to become real, and you remember them more. So, when you write down your negative thoughts, you become more mindful when they arise. Follow the rest of the process with just one of your negative thoughts. Once you have mastered one, work on another (you don’t want to overwhelm yourself or burn yourself out doing too many at once).
3 Triggers
What are your triggers for your negative thinking? Triggers can be a place, situation, mood, experience, or thing. If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and walked away saying to yourself, “Why do I even bother?” then you know that a trigger can be a person too. And many times, it is a person. Write down all of your triggers. When you’re aware of your triggers, you can be on the lookout for them. When they come up, as they will, you are armed to not allow the negative thoughts to follow.
4 Reframe
List all the ways to reframe the negative thought. There are two ways to do this reframing. First, you can say the opposite of the negative statement. Instead of saying “I’m not a good enough leader,” you can say, “I’m an awesome leader.” The second way is to ask questions such as: What courses do I need to take to become a better leader? What leadership book should I read to improve my leadership skills? Who can mentor me into being a better leader? Your brain is constantly talking too. If you say you’re not a good enough leader, your brain will validate it with all the ways that it’s true. If you say you’re an awesome leader, your brain will validate it with all the ways that it’s true. So, listening to the positive part of your brain will make all the difference in your work and life.
5 Action
Once you have your reframing options, pick one to take action on. Nothing changes until you take action on it. Small action makes a huge difference. If you want to know the best leadership book to read, you may initially think you do not know any; however, your brain can solve that dilemma. It’ll reply with ideas to look up leadership books on Google, put a post on Facebook asking your friends for their recommendations, or look up Amazon book reviews. Then it’s time to decide which action you will take (which book to order and order it). Small consistent action is key to eradicating negative thinking.

The more you work through this process, the more positive thoughts you have. You’ll soon recognize negative thoughts in others and can help them master their own mindset. You’ll become the Positive Polly and help develop a positive work environment that no one wants to leave.

Jessica Rector, MBA, author of the No. 1 best-selling Blaze Your Brain to Extinguish Burnout and nine other books, helps organizations, leaders, and teams say “yes” to eradicate burnout and enhance mental health. As a burnout trailblazer, her research is used in her consulting and speaking and often shared on her podcast, “The Say Yes Experience.” To see how she can help your organization and team, visit
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The PPF Method
Refining Your Operational Strategy
By Mark Poole

ar too often, there is a lot of hope in operating self-storage sites. Hoping that the lease-up will go well. Hoping that the rates will be strong; and of course, hoping that you have the right team in place. You can get mad, anxious, or even pray through this process, but simply hoping for good won’t take you far.

After running and operating storage sites for over a decade, I’ve learned that operations require more planning and adaptation than most people realize. The best thought-out plan will change. The people or staff can change, and even market conditions will change. The real separator is your resourcefulness to adapt to these changes.

The advantage we have as small operators is the ability to focus on the things we can change or adjust, but we can also act quickly. Unlike giant organizations, our companies and teams are like a sports car weaving through the mountains rather than a tractor-trailer at a steady and certain pace. So, your resourcefulness as an owner, operator, or even a manager can be the most significant difference in the success of your operations.

As Jeff Bezos from Amazon has famously said, “Be stubborn about the vision but flexible about the details.”

This principle should be the cornerstone of our strategy, guiding us to embrace change with confidence and agility.

Zoom Out
I’m often asked, what are you looking for when you’re evaluating storage sites? My answer is I zoom out.

As a multi-site operator, it’s essential to manage the big picture and assess the whole portfolio first and then each individual site as it substantially impacts the collective group. If a basketball team is the collection of the players, then our sites are the collection of our portfolio. However, unlike a basketball team with some players on the bench and on some on the court, all our players are active all the time, and their contributions can either pull us up or down.

There are many ways to look at this, but like your GPA in school, adding As to your scores will most definitely make an impact. So, once you’ve zoomed out to see the big picture, it’s time to zoom back in on each and every store. To do this, we’ll start with the past of the PPF (past, present, future) method.

Growing up, I hated learning about history. I was young and naïve, and I just didn’t get it. It didn’t matter to me. The past was simply what happened last weekend or years ago and not much more. I solely focused on the future and wasn’t too concerned about the past, especially if it was well before my time.

Today, my view is vastly different. The past is an incredible teacher, and learning from it can protect and propel you into a better future. So, when it comes to evaluating storage sites, I start here.

To do this, I take the time to really study the site. How have things been going? What has happened with the key stats of the site over the last few months or even years? How has the management team performed? Have we hit any goals, or were they even set in the past?

Understanding the past is the first step and will set you up for the next step: the present.

As they say, there’s no time like the present. And, of course, it’s true.

To learn from the present, ask questions like: How is the site doing today? What is working well? What needs to be fixed? Are there areas of concern or goals that need to be established?

Critical questions like these help determine your site’s current state and prepare you for what’s to come. This also is the opportune time to create goals, add structure, and redefine your current strategies.

Evaluating the current situation is critical and worth the investment, so don’t dismiss the value of help.

Whether you bring in an experienced consultant or even simply friends and family to check out your sites, it’s ideal to bring fresh eyes to your business. Let others experience your site, and ask them to share the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Embrace the feedback, and don’t feel it as criticism but as an opportunity to improve.

From here, it’s time to accept where you are, understand your new goals, and plan for what’s ahead: the future.

Now for the fun part: the future.

In self-storage operations, I’ve determined that the only way to look at the future of our storage sites is with optimism. Some won’t agree, but the mission of bringing a positive and engaging strategy to your operations will take you extremely far.

The truth is, there is always something to improve, and you must find it. If you don’t, keep looking, hold your head up, and keep going until you see the opportunities. Progress is greater than perfection; even small steps can build momentum to improve your success.

To ensure you’re not just dreaming about a brighter future but actively moving towards it, set tangible, measurable goals and follow a roadmap into the future. Whether boosting occupancy rates or improving customer satisfaction scores, having real targets provides direction and motivation for the team. Without these, you’ll be left to the rhythms of life and back to just hoping for good.

The Big Five
Now that we have identified the benefits of the PPF method, let’s quickly review five key areas to evaluate within your storage operations. We like to call it the Big Five: sales, marketing, team, quality assurance, and customer service.

For each of the above, follow the pattern of the PPF method and ask key questions.


  • Past: How have sales trends evolved in the past? What strategies yielded the best results?
  • Present: What is the current performance like? Are we meeting our targets? Are they set?
  • Future: What new sales strategies or opportunities can we explore? How can we innovate our sales approach to stay ahead?


  • Past: Which marketing campaigns were most effective? What can we learn from the feedback?
  • Present: How are our current marketing efforts performing? Are we engaging our target audience effectively?
  • Future: What emerging marketing trends should we adopt? How can we better align our marketing with customer needs?


  • Past: What strengths and weaknesses have we identified in our team dynamics?
  • Present: How is the team performing? Are there any immediate areas for improvement or training needs?
  • Future: How can we foster a culture of continuous improvement and professional development?

Quality Assurance

  • Past: What have been our significant quality challenges, and how have we addressed them?
  • Present: What is the current state of our quality assurance practices? Are we on a routine?
  • Future: How can we raise the bar for quality and customer satisfaction? What would excellence look like?

Customer Service

  • Past: What feedback have customers provided about their service experience?
  • Present: How are we currently measuring up to customer expectations? Does our customer base think highly of us?
  • Future: What innovative customer service strategies can we implement to enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction? What does winning in customer service look like?

In weaving these considerations throughout our operations, the PPF method becomes a strategy and a mindset guiding us toward excellence in a simple and accessible format.

Ultimately, hope is not a winning strategy. The diligent application of the PPF method will lead you to operational excellence and success. By learning from yesterday, taking action today, and planning for tomorrow, we will empower ourselves to achieve our goals and fulfill our vision for the future.

Mark Poole, director of operations at Liberty Investment Properties, brings over a decade of expertise in development, acquisitions, operations, and consulting within the self-storage sector. A recognized leader, he has served as president of the Florida Self Storage Association three times and held various influential roles in the industry. Liberty Investment Properties, under his guidance, excels in offering comprehensive consulting services alongside its development and operational ventures. Learn more at or contact him directly at
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Changes Clause
The Right To Increase Rental Rates In Self-Storage
By Scott I. Zucker, Esq.

elf-storage rental agreements, as written, are month-to-month leases, subject to renewal. But built into these short-term occupancy agreements is the contractual right of the owner or landlord to increase the rental rate by giving the customer or occupant advance notice of the change. Pursuant to that change notice, the occupant is given the right to vacate prior to the effective date of the new rental rate, thereby avoiding the rental rate increase. If the occupant elects to stay on the premises, they consent to accepting the published higher rate. At least until the next rate increase comes down the pike.

This risk of rate increases is highlighted by the “CHANGES” clause of a month-to-month rental agreement which contains a clear notice to the occupant that their rental rate is subject to change after thirty (30) days’ notice. Remember again, these leases are month to month, not just for the benefit of the owner, but primarily for the occupant, who may consider their storage needs as only short term. A year-long lease, albeit one that would secure their rate for a longer period, limits a user’s flexibility to vacate when their short-term storage use is no longer needed. But that month-to-month flexibility creates a business opportunity for self-storage owners. Oftentimes, occupants end up needing their storage units for longer than they anticipated, which, by agreement, allows the owner to change the rental rates. Occupants who accept the advantages of a short-term occupancy subject themselves to the risk of periodic rate increases.

A typical “Changes” provision reads as follows:

CHANGES: All items of this Agreement, including but without limitation, the monthly rental rate, conditions of occupancy and other fees and charges, are subject to change at the option of the Operator upon thirty (30) days’ prior written notice to the Occupant. If so changed the Occupant may terminate this Agreement on the effective date of such change by giving the Operator ten (10) days’ prior written notice of termination after receiving notice of the change. If the Occupant does not give such notice of termination, the change shall become effective on the date stated in the Operator’s notice and shall thereafter apply to the occupancy hereunder, whether or not Occupant has agreed to the change in writing.

These rent adjustments are more likely to occur when an occupant initially leases their storage unit subject to a discounted rate, or under a “concession” agreement, where the owner accepts a move-in at a discounted rate for a finite time, after which the rental rate will revert to the standard “street rate” for the rental unit.

If facilities are offering discounted or concession deals to increase rentals, it is important that the prospective customer be provided with the clear terms for that deal, most notably the time period when the discount ends and the revised rental rate begins, as well as the fact that the revised rental rate itself is subject to change over time. In the case of short-term rentals, a customer must be prepared to accept that, in exchange for the ability to terminate and vacate whenever they want, should they choose to stay on the premises, they must pay the rate as offered by the owner.

All this talk of increasing rental rates and fluctuating prices has legislatures around the country considering the possible need for rent control in self-storage. Proposed legislation in Texas and New York all failed to move forward, likely due to the reality that self-storage pricing is simply a matter of choice and contract. Every prospective and current tenant is free to leave if they don’t like the price of their rental unit. The market dictates the price. It’s as simple as that. If the tenant chooses to stay and use the premises, they are obligated to pay the rent that is being charged. Self-storage is not a necessity. It is a discretionary purchase. Storing personal property in a rented space is a voluntary decision by a customer. Again, if they don’t like the price offered by their landlord, they can vacate and move to another location.

While there is certainly no illegality in offering discounted rates to incentivize customers to rent, these concession agreements, often phrased as “dollar move-in” specials, are often fraught with complications for businesses that do not clearly communicate the terms and conditions of these deals to their customers. The general recommendation is that a customer sign a rent discount addendum with explicit terms and conditions concerning the discounted prices and their eventual change. This type of transparency is an effective solution to resolve all the angst and noise about rent concessions and resulting rent adjustments.

Scott Zucker is a partner at Weissmann Zucker Euster & Katz, P.C., a law firm based out of Atlanta, Georgia, and is a partner in the Self Storage Legal Network, a legal information service available through the national Self Storage Association. He can be reached at
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The Next Generation Facility
Depends On Video
By Kassidi Swecker

ver the past few decades, self-storage has grown into a resilient asset class that has provided a way to diversify commercial real estate portfolios and has proven to perform well through market cycles. In 2021, the global self-storage market was valued at $54 billion and projected to grow annually by 7.53 percent1 between 2022 and 2027 to reach $83.6 billion at the end of 2027. The North American market is projected to contribute the most significant chunk of this figure.

As self-storage owners grow their footprints, more and more are looking for the best ways to run unattended facilities. Many are turning to new tools like live two-way video and the use of video recordings to do so. They aim to reduce operating costs and consistently rent more units while maintaining or growing customer satisfaction.

Here are six things that two-way and recorded video technology can support for facility owners and operators in 2024:

1. Lead capture
Video technology can help storage facility owners capture new leads in two ways: through their websites and on site. Today, new tenants are most commonly researching storage facilities online, so your website must provide a way for them to contact you quickly. Many websites rely on “contact us” forms, meaning potential customers are left waiting for the company to call them back. Meanwhile, the prospect may select a competitor before they receive a reply. Instead of relying on website forms or calls alone, you can incorporate live video into your website as a sales tool. Like standard chatbots, you can add an icon in the corner of your website that allows a website visitor to start a conversation. However, unlike a standard chatbot, a live video tool like LiveSwitch allows you to connect instantly for a live, two-way video conversation. That means a representative can speak to a prospect face to face the moment they’d like more information from the website.

In addition to searching for a facility online, potential new tenants visit facilities when looking for an option locally. Some owners struggle with missing a potential customer due to the main office being busy or team members not being available. You can also use live video as a simple and effective way to capture in-person leads. By posting a QR code in the main office that, upon scanning, starts a live video call with a representative, potential tenants can get in touch with a team member immediately. The same QR code can be placed around the facility on the side of the building, in the main office, and on gates to capture leads actively.

2. Easy setup for tenants
If you offer a simple process for securing a unit, you will differentiate your facility and win more business. Tenants want to select a unit, sign paperwork, set up payment, and gain access to the rented unit quickly and remotely if possible. There are several platforms that support contract delivery and payment processing, and smart lock systems can provide easy unit access. In addition to those platforms, you can use live video technology to give tours of the facility and show tenants the specific unit they’re interested in. You can also address any questions and concerns during the video session as you go.
3. Virtual unit turns
Staff at most storage facilities conduct in-person unit walkthroughs when tenants move out, but they are demanding on time. Unit turns are a great example of a step that can be drastically shortened and improved using recorded video when streamlining facility operations. For example, using LiveSwitch, tenants are provided with a QR code that, upon scanning, requests a video recording of the unit. The tenant self-records the unit, and the recording is automatically sent to the facility operator for approval and organization under that tenant’s name in the personalized LiveSwitch video library. This process allows operators to approve move-outs quickly or have video documentation of why a move-out was not completed correctly according to the contract.
4. Remote maintenance requests
Even the newest and most sophisticated facilities require regular maintenance due to weather, equipment problems, and foot traffic. Instead of collecting requests through email or an office dropbox, live video recordings can collect video evidence of the required maintenance. Using a web link, tenants can personally record the area of the facility needing attention and submit the request to the operator. In the same way, the responding team member can create a video record of the completed maintenance. With a video tool like LiveSwitch, video recordings are automatically recorded, uploaded, and organized by tenant, project, or team member.
5. Simplified auctions
Auctions are held when tenants fail to pay rent on their unit for an extended period of time and the belongings need to be removed. Many owners know how difficult it can be to recoup the unpaid rent and quickly open the unit up for a new tenant. Automating auctions can help owners streamline the process and receive compensation. Before conducting the auction, it’s essential to keep good visual records of the items for sale and store the records for access in the future. Video recordings are a perfect solution for unit record keeping and featuring auction items. The same video recording can help automate the internal documentation process and provide a video of the items for auction.
6. Capture customer reviews
A Google business profile and company website with positive customer reviews are essential for storage facilities. When operating an unattended facility, gathering customer reviews outside of standard communication channels is difficult. Placing QR codes on unit doors or sending codes via text requesting a testimonial is another method to gather quality reviews. The QR code can drive to a website landing page with information on how to leave a Google review, or the landing page can ask for a recorded video testimonial directly through the website, as is the case with LiveSwitch.

As consumers expect faster response times and touchless ways to rent a unit, unattended storage facilities are growing in popularity. Ideally, they help lead to compounded growth and the opportunity to remove owners and operators from regular operations, open additional facilities, or both. New technology is accelerating the adoption of the unattended facility model and the ease of introducing it to owners and customers.

Kassidi Swecker is a blog writer for LiveSwitch.
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illustration of cloud with different objects floating inside it and a girl holding a magnifying glass to a phone with the text 'top' on it
Top Search Results
How To Outrank Your Competition
By Giselle Aguiar

ike it or not, when it comes to marketing, you are always competing with someone for your target market’s business. You may be blessed to have little or no direct competition, but what else are you competing against? Alternatively, you may be in a highly competitive area with your main competitor right across the street. At any rate, you still need to stand out above the crowd. There are various ways to do that in today’s digital marketing age, so I’ll highlight some examples of clients of mine with low, medium, and high competition.

Continuous Scrolling On Google
Before I get into it, you may have noticed that when you search on Google on your phone, tablet, or desktop you have the search results in a continuous scroll. Google removed the “more results” button or link at the bottom. The question for you is: How far does a potential customer need to scroll to see your name when searching for self-storage space? Ideally, you want to be in the 10th spot or better depending on the level of competition.

If your website has been up for a while, where do you come up when someone searches for your main keywords or phrases? Your goal is to improve that position by bumping your competition down and putting yourself above them in the search results. Keep in mind that Google brings up the freshest, most relevant, and most useful content that matches the searcher’s query. If your website is brand new, you have some work to do.

Little Or No Competition
You may be lucky enough to not have much competition in your town, especially if you’re in a rural area, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any competition—at least until the next storage facility opens across town.

First, I’ll tell you about one of my clients who opened the very first Rage Room in Tempe (and the whole state of Arizona). Being the original, he had no competition. He enjoyed being on the first page of Google search for “rage room Phoenix” and “anger room Tempe,” among other phrases. Even if the searcher didn’t know the name of the company, he was found by searching for what it is. That’s one of the first things to remember when it comes to search engine optimization: What is your target market going to enter into the search box to find what you are offering if they don’t know your name?

For almost two years my client enjoyed being the only one in the Phoenix Valley until another rage room opened nearby. At a networking event, I met someone who opened one in the North Valley. My client can’t afford to become complacent; he has to continue his marketing efforts or he’s going to lose the coveted top spot on Google.

One Formidable Competitor
Another client of mine has only one competitor for one aspect of his business, however, they are a formidable one. They publish an article at least five times a week. So, the challenge here was not to bump them off but to at least come up on the same page. In this case, the strategy was to blog about recent news items related to their business and how his service could solve their problems.
Medium Competition
One of my clients was my chiropractor. Specifically, he’s a Gonstead Chiropractor (that’s a particular method of chiropractic medicine). Some people search for that and there are only a few in the Phoenix Valley. On top of that, he also practices holistic and functional medicine, which tries to find the source of the pain or issue rather than treating the symptoms. He offers several weight-loss programs as well. Now, in that field, he has a lot of competition.

He told me he liked working with older people, helping them with “healthy aging.” That gave me the idea for him to offer a “healthy aging screening” that would get folks into the office. Then, depending on their medical problem, he could offer various treatments. That helped him stand out and reach a specific target. We focused on sharing articles on healthy aging, and we built a following with that strategy.

High Competition
In doing research for a client who has a faith-based clothing line in an e-commerce store, I discovered he had more competition than we both thought. His competition is national, if not global. I knew it was a competitive field going in, but I didn’t realize how competitive till I started doing searches online. All of a sudden, I started seeing ads for faith-based clothing stores on my personal Instagram. Every day a new one would pop up. Yikes! I first listed the top eight that came up on Google search, and then I found three more significant ones from the Instagram ads. If he wants to be successful, he’s going to have to budget some dollars for paid ads.
Keep Tabs On The Competition
Yes, you can spy on your competition in a few ways:

  • Find out how often they blog. With the free e-news reader, you can subscribe to their blogs without them knowing or having to receive their emails.
  • Create a “private list” on X (formerly Twitter) and pin it to the top of your X app to monitor it. You can see how often they post and what they are posting. Copy (or improve upon) some of their ideas!
  • From your LinkedIn Business Page, you can follow your competitors’ business pages. Go to Analytics in the left menu, then to the Competitors tab. Go to “Edit competitors” and search for your competition. If they don’t have a LinkedIn Business Page, then you’re ahead of them right there!
Gaining Your Target’s Attention
Back in the day of three TV networks and a morning newspaper, the bolder headline, the catchier tune, and the snazzier commercial got your attention. A business tested ads with coupons to see if they were effective. They looked for ROI (return on investment).

Now, you’re not just competing against your business competition. You’re up against everyone else that your target follows online and on social media, which includes but is not limited to:

  • family
  • friends
  • celebrities
  • entertainment
  • major brands
  • politics
  • the latest news or trends

So, what’s an independent self-storage owner supposed to do?

  1. First and foremost, clearly define your target market personas. You can have more than one. The free workbook at is a good starting point.
  2. Determine what sets you apart from the rest. What makes you different? What makes you unique? What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)?
  3. Research the target(s). Get to know them. Which social media networks do they frequent the most? Do generations factor in? What are their pain points? What are their other interests? (That’s what you’ll be competing with for their attention online.)
  4. What keywords are they going to enter into the search engine to find you? Use Google’s free keyword tool ( The keyword list will tell you which phrases are most searched for each month. It will also give you variations of keywords and phrases. You can get a list by location and try several different phrases. This list will help you write the copy for your website and social media network profile pages and give you ideas for blog articles.
  5. Who’s your direct competitor? Using an incognito window, do a Google search for your major keyword phrases and questions. Who comes up on the first page? Start with the top organic (non-paid) listings. Visit their websites.
    • If they have a blog, how often are they blogging?
    • Are they on social media? (which networks?)
    • How many followers do they have?
    • How often are they posting?
    • What are they posting?
    • If they’re not blogging weekly, then you need to blog weekly, if not daily, to bump them down and you up. Obviously, if they’re not active on the social networks, then you need to be. The more active you are, the faster you’ll grab their spot in the search results.
  6. Set up your website and social media networks optimized for local search. Branding must be consistent throughout.
  7. Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals. Based on your competitor research, choose metrics that make sense for you.
  8. Plan your strategic efforts to get your target market’s attention and meet your goals. If competition is low to medium, then organic (non-paid) marketing should be sufficient until more competitors show up (and they will). Since location is a factor, you may also get away with just doing organic marketing. Local businesses with high competition will have to budget for paid advertising or get very creative and clever.
  9. Then comes the tactical plan to implement the strategy. How many blog articles or videos will you do a week? How many posts to X, Facebook, Instagram, and/or LinkedIn per day?
  10. Then, just do it. Yes, it takes time to build a following on social media and even to start getting traffic to your website. Clearly, you must put in more time upfront. Figure it will take at least two to three months (depending on how competitive your market is) to start seeing results.
  11. Monitor and measure at the end of each month to see what worked and what didn’t work. Plan accordingly for the next month. Check your website analytics as well as your social media insights. Compare the results month to month. Do you see improvements? If you put in the effort, you should.
An Involved Process
It’s more involved than you likely thought. Take a lesson from Master Chef, “Do your best. Just hope that your competition does a lesser job or makes a mistake.”

As you can see, it’s not as simple as putting up a website and doing a few posts or ads on Facebook. It’s complex, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take it one step at a time.

Giselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz in 2011, is a social media content and digital marketing consultant and trainer. She’s been involved in internet marketing since 1995. Today, she specializes in strategic and tactical planning, social media setups, 1:1 digital marketing training and coaching, SEO copywriting, and WordPress websites. She is a trainer and mentor for the Arizona Commerce Authority as a founding mentor of its Digital Academy. She is also an avid blogger. Visit her website,, for more information.
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women in self-storage
Sue Haviland headshot
Sue Haviland
Owner of Haviland Storage Services
By Erica Shatzer

ccording to McKinsey & Co’s “Women in the Workplace 2023” report, the number of women in C-suite positions has increased from 17 to 28 percent since 2015. The report also states that the representation of women at the vice president and senior vice president levels has improved, with both levels experiencing a five-year increase of four percentage points. While these upticks are positive, the fact that a gender imbalance at the executive level remains in 2024 is disheartening, even for the women who’ve managed to reach those ranks.

Sue Haviland, owner of Haviland Storage Services, a San Diego, Calif.-based company that specializes in offering clients solutions that fit their operational needs, whether its auditing, manager training, market studies, short-term consulting, or full third-party management, knows firsthand that women have “come a long way,” especially in the 35 years since she entered the self-storage industry. Unfortunately, like many female professionals, she endured a fair share of gender biases throughout her career and paid her dues before forging her own path. Despite having to overcome some obstacles, Haviland loves this industry and says she’s a stronger leader and mentor because of the people and experiences she has met during her career.

Sue Haviland family photo
The Havilands
The Corporate Ladder

Besides working as customer service representative at Enterprise Rent-A-Car after attending Northern Michigan University, Haviland has only been employed in the self-storage industry. She left the car rental company in 1989 to manage a self-storage facility in Chicago, and she’s been a self-described “storage nerd” ever since.

“This has been a lot of hard work but a good ride. I’m glad I went from renting cars to renting storage!”

– Sue Haviland
Six months into her employment, Haviland was shopped by Richard Tanner, one of the original owners of Extra Space Storage, which would not become a publicly traded REIT until about 15 years later. Tanner recognized her potential and offered her a job as the site manager of a Chicago facility managed by the company.

“I cut my teeth at Extra Space,” says Haviland, who spent 10 years climbing the company’s corporate ladder one rung at a time. Through hard work and dedication, she first received managerial promotions, from site manager to area manager to regional manager, prior to attaining middle management status as the Western regional vice president. Her final title at Extra Space Storage, before leaving the company in 1999, was vice president of operations.

Sue giving a thumbs up next to a news reporter while standing in front of a toy for tots truck filled with supplies and toys
Sue Haviland at Toys for Tots drive.
Following her time at Extra Space, Haviland returned to the role of area manager for five years when she joined Storage West, which brought her back to California. Then, a large, San Diego, Calif.-based operator hired her as its vice president of operations; she stayed there until she found herself “at a crossroads.”
On Her Own
Haviland was nearly two decades into her self-storage career when she began questioning her future in the industry. Realizing that she “would rather be in the trenches than a suit,” Haviland made the decision to stop working for others as an employee. For a brief moment, she thought about leaving the industry, but she did not want to abandon the knowledge she had acquired or walk away from the operations side of the business that she thoroughly enjoyed. Instead, Haviland elected to put her faith in herself and her proficiencies by becoming her own boss.

She also saw a need at that time for smaller operators who could benefit from her skill set without needing to have someone in her position on staff full time. She founded Haviland Storage Services in 2009 with the intention of auditing self-storage facilities for fraud on behalf of the properties’ owners and operators. Haviland says starting her own business was “stressful and scary,” but it was also the best move she ever made in her career.

Uncovering theft during facility audits led to new business opportunities. Haviland “fell into management contracts” when several owner-operators, pleased with her audit findings, asked her to manage their properties. Referrals and word-of-mouth marketing generated more business and enabled her company to grow. Haviland, who loves speaking at various industry-related conferences and all the storage friends she has made over the years, has also acquired clients from speaking at conferences.

“For years I never did my own website,” says Haviland, who finds it difficult to tout her strengths. “I always made sure all my clients were covered, but I didn’t promote myself.”

Haviland Storage Services currently has 28 employees and manages 10 facilities—many of which are long-time clients. “I still visit the sites regularly,” says Haviland, “even though I’m no longer a daily ‘road warrior.’ I have team members to do that now. It was hard for me to give that up, but I’m proud of my team and know it’s time to have help and not try to be a one-woman show. It is such a fantastic feeling to know I can trust my teams to help us grow.”

Although the company is mostly regional, primarily serving the Southern California area, it also has a couple sites in Northern California and manages several remote locations in New Jersey, New York, Arizona, and Texas. “They have boots on the ground folks,” she says, adding that Haviland Storage Services received those remote management contracts via referrals from a software company. “If we can make it work,” Haviland and her team are open to remotely managing locations anywhere in the U.S. “We determine if remote is possible on a site-by-site basis.” If the geographic location isn’t a good fit for the company, “I pass potential clients onto peers,” she says. Haviland loves the fact that they have been able to customize their consulting and management plans to fit their clients needs vs. fitting the client into a “mold.”

Moreover, Haviland has handled a wide array of unfortunate and unusual situations for her clients over the years. From fires, floods, corpses, drugs, and burglaries to a boa constrictor, there is one that still stands out for her. “I never knew there was such a thing as a cat catcher until I had to hire one to get 18 cats out of a resident manager’s apartment walls,” she says. “That apartment scene is one you don’t forget.”

In addition to the 10 facilities with on-site management, Haviland Storage Services will be adding two new builds to its portfolio as soon as they are fully constructed. Haviland enjoys the challenge of a new lease-up property or taking an older, mismanaged site and making it shine for her client. She also loves taking on short-term clients and helping those new owners learn how to run their new sites within three to six months.

“Many of the properties in the portfolio are large, thus helping Haviland Storage Services make the Top 100 Operators list for several years,” she adds. “We may only have a few sites, but we have a lot of square footage.”

Trials To Triumphs
Haviland has enjoyed many successes, but her journey from site manager to owner of Haviland Storage Services was not an easy trek. As a young woman and a minority in a male-dominated business world, she frequently felt like she wasn’t heard, taken seriously, or respected. “It made you fearful to hold your ground or use your voice,” she says. “Women have a stronger voice now.”

And Haviland has been using her voice to benefit other women. Last year she was one of the six panelists on the WISE (women in storage education) discussion at ISS’s spring conference—an event attended by more than 140 women who were eager to share their experiences with inequality in the workforce and how they overcame gender discrimination. Haviland will serve as moderator for WISE’s follow-up conference this year.

Speaking of inequalities, Haviland acknowledges that she had been passed over for pay increases and promotions. “You don’t always get credit for the work you do,” she says about being a female professional, adding that being berated, bullied, and treated unfairly was not uncommon. “But challenges make you stronger,” and Haviland is grateful for how her experiences shaped her both personally and professionally.

One unnerving challenge that made her stronger was getting beat up by an angry female tenant. Haviland was in her early 20s when a tenant wrongfully accused her of having an affair with her husband because he had removed all his property from the unit they were renting. Obviously, she reported the incident, but she also requested that her supervisor be present the day the tenant arranged to return for her stored items. When he didn’t show up to protect her from possible harm, she got a German Shepard to accompany her throughout the property. “That experience made me aware of the world,” says Haviland, who eventually replaced her supervisor. “I liked to joke that I was promoted because I got beat up.”

What’s more, in her early years, Haviland says, “I was often one of few women at trade shows.” And most of the other women attending those events at the time were area managers or assistants who were working up the ladder. One woman Haviland admired and learned from was Nancy Gunning, president of Chesapeake Resources, Inc. “She always had time for me,” Haviland says, adding that Gunning’s success encouraged her to keep climbing.

Even though Haviland was active in the industry’s various groups and had plenty to contribute, she was “often invited to be the secretary and keep notes.” Haviland says, “I’d look around and be the only lady in the room!” Despite being discouraged by being pigeonholed into that subservient role, she took it in stride and “did it for a while to observe, learn, and network.” Ultimately, it became an experience of professional growth for Haviland. “It shaped who I wanted to be,” she says. “I always wanted to help others, but it was hard to say no.”

The Next Generation
Nowadays, Haviland is setting the company up for continued success after she retires. She’s mentoring her daughter, Kylie, a former ICU nurse, and two other employees to take over the helm when she joins her husband Kraig, who previously served as director of operations and then as the director of property management for San Diego Self Storage, in retirement.

“I’m training others to do every aspect of management,” Haviland says, pointing out that the training will also enable the company to grow and take on new clients and projects.

However, she’s not quite ready to retire. A new granddaughter, Cleo, keeps her working in California, even though she recently built a second home in South Carolina. Until then, and after that time comes, she’ll continue appreciating the work/life balance she created for herself and her family by playing tennis, attending music cruises, and managing operations in the industry she has long loved.

“This has been a lot of hard work but a good ride,” says Haviland. “I’m glad I went from renting cars to renting storage!”

Service And Awards

Sue Haviland with awards

Throughout her career, Haviland has remained an active participant in the industry’s associations and charities as a means for gaining knowledge and giving back. She has served on the California Self Storage Association’s board of directors. Moreover, Haviland was a member of the Self-Storage Association’s Education Committee for nine years and taught its Certified Self Storage Manager (CSSM) courses.

She also serves on Charity Storage’s board of directors as vice chair. “I’m passionate about giving back,” says Haviland. Each site managed by Haviland Storage Services participates in Charity Storage Auctions and the Round Up for Charity program. She’ll even be at the April ISS Conference Charity Storage Booth to challenge people to a round of Hoops for a Cause.

Thankfully, Haviland and her company’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Haviland Storage Services has received best-of-business awards for “Best Operational Consultant” and “Best Manager Training.”

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.

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who’s who in self-storage
R. Christian Sonne headshot
R. Christian Sonne
CRE, MAI, FRICS, Executive Vice President, Specialty Practice Co-Leader – Self-Storage of Newmark
By Erica Shatzer

s an avid boater, and a former self-storage facility owner, R. Christian Sonne, CRE, MAI, FRICS, executive vice president and specialty practice co-leader – Self-Storage of Irvine, Calif.-based Newmark, likes to call self-storage a “safe harbor investment.”

Relative to real estate, safe harbor investments are considered low-risk investments because they are generally protected from significant declines in value, which makes them an ideal option for investors who are looking to preserve capital. Based solely on that definition, Sonne’s claim that self-storage is a safe harbor investment is substantiated. However, he points to the sector’s performance history to provide supporting evidence.

multiple boats in the water
Boom And Bust
For starters, like the lighthouse of real estate, self-storage continues to shine, even during turbulent economic waters. “Self-storage has a long history of strong performance in both boom and bust,” says Sonne, who’s been an appraiser for 40 years, focused on self-storage since 1998, and has witnessed its ability to stay afloat no matter the tide level.
“While there have been some corrections, demand fundamentally increased as household use changed with so many work-at-home jobs.”

-R. Christian Sonne

Indeed, its recession-resistant nature has attracted many investors to the asset class. And the COVID-19 pandemic only reinforced what The Great Recession revealed to outside investors: Both economic downturns and upturns generate demand for self-storage. During recessions, businesses may need to close or downsize, while individuals may face upheavals with their employment and/or living arrangements. Alternatively, economic growth can prompt people and companies to expand or upgrade. Either way, self-storage is often needed and used temporarily or long term to accommodate their space limitations.

“What a surprise during the pandemic, self-storage demand fundamentally increased as dining rooms became home offices or classrooms,” says Sonne. “While there have been some corrections, demand fundamentally increased as household use changed with so many work-at-home jobs.”

For this reason, self-storage has become one of the most attractive commercial real estate investments. It has also evolved into a core asset class for institutional investors thanks to its unmatched performance and potential for standardization.

boat floating on water next to dock

As far as returns go, self-storage has been the top performing property type in the Nareit index for three decades with average annual returns of 18.83 percent from 1994 to 2021. What’s more, self-storage’s total returns surpassed 21 percent in 2023, according to Nareit data published in the 2024 Self-Storage Almanac’s Investment Performance by Property Sector and Subsector Table.

To be clear, self-storage has outperformed the office, industrial, retail, residential, diversified, health care, lodging/resorts, mortgage REIT, timber, infrastructure, data centers, and specialty sectors for 30 years. In and of itself, that’s an impressive accomplishment and long reign.

Although some may question whether the industry’s lead will last due to softening rental rates and declining occupancies in 2023 and the beginning of 2024, Sonne buoys his sentiment about the industry with his belief that “2023 was an economic correction, a reversion to the mean.” He also thinks 2024 will be more in line with pre-COVID norms, saying that the industry will be “returning to normal this year and next year.”

Real Rates

Speaking of gathering data from the internet, Sonne discourages investors and operators from looking at websites for rates. The “teaser” rates that are advertised online are “asking rates” not “actual rates,” which means they do not reflect what existing tenants pay for those unit sizes. “What they’re getting is more important than what they are asking,” he says.

For instance, some recent negative press about the REITs’ rock-bottom asking rates failed to take their actual rates into account. According to Sonne, although the REITs had “double-digit declines” in the asking rates they advertised on the internet, their actual rates were “above the rate of inflation.”

To obtain actual rates when conducting feasibility studies and appraisals, setting competitive rates, or determining valuations, Sonne says it’s still necessary to “shop” self-storage properties in person or over the phone. Scraping the internet for rates would only skew your results. Moreover, examing rental rate trends through historical data (in addition to the current rates) is crucial for an accurate depiction of a market’s vitality and profitability.

“To look at it at a specific time is not enough,” he says.

Economics 101
While he calls economics a “dismal science,” Sonne doesn’t ignore its basic principles. “The supply and demand metric still matters,” he says. “It always has. It’s Economics 101.”

There has been speculation that higher interest rates and the ongoing shortage of affordable housing across the country are responsible for a dip in demand, but he doesn’t think “it’s that linear,” as there are plenty of other variables to consider in addition to whether people are moving. In other words, dislocation or downsizing are only two of the numerous demand drivers (and they don’t all begin with the letter D).

“There are lots of determinants,” says Sonne. A few examples include length of stay, household budgets, popularity of unit size/type, and location. Here are his insights on each of those.

  • Length of stay: “Length of stay has increased since COVID,” Sonne says, which is positive for occupancy rates.
  • Household budgets: Even though inflation has eroded Americans’ purchasing power, the monthly self-storage rent tends to be a mere 2.5 percent of a customer’s household budget. On this subject, Sonne remarks that most people spend more money on coffee or bar tabs than storage. Nevertheless, operators must be wary of what people are willing to spend each month to rent a unit. “There’s a ceiling,” he adds about increasing rates. “If it’s too much money, they pay attention.”
  • Popularity of unit size/type: Your customer base and location should determine the unit mix. For instance, facilities located near apartment buildings may rent more smaller units to apartment dwellers without ample closet space, whereas a facility situated among businesses may rent more larger units to commercial clients that need to store surplus inventory and/or files. “Another example is climate control,” says Sonne. “It has terrific demand in some markets but not all markets.”
  • Location: Obviously, demand and other details vary by market. Continuing with the boating comparison, Sonne, who has homes in both California and Florida, states that the Pacific Ocean is rough and cold, but the water of the Gulf Coast is warm and calm. Though often asked which home he prefers, he points out the pros and cons of each instead of choosing. Similarly, one must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the market in question before making a self-storage investment.
“It’s important to look at a lot of data to make good decisions for the future. Look at multiple data points for patterns.”

-R. Christian Sonne
“It’s not just the moving/housing market that impacts demand,” he says. “How important is it?”

Instead of taking a general or national perspective on demand, Sonne reminds investors to focus on the local trade areas where they are considering developing self-storage. “Two-thirds of customers come from a three-miles radius of the facility,” he says. Therefore, it is imperative to evaluate the supply and demand of a market on a micro level to determine whether the area is undersupplied, oversupplied, or at equilibrium.

Data Analysis
When it comes to determining demand and feasibility, thorough data analysis is of utmost importance. “Self-storage is more complex than people believe,” Sonne says. “Over the last 10 years there have been more institutional investors, so transparency is particularly important. It’s important to look at a lot of data to make good decisions for the future. Look at multiple data points for patterns.”

Not all data is good data, however, and one must consider the source as well as the sample size, data collection methods, and margin for error before relying on the results. Free sources are readily available on the internet, but Sonne says that the data they present is “not gospel.” Within the self-storage industry, there are several reputable, established data providers that have been employed for countless successful investments.

To get a comprehensive assessment, Sonne looks at “as many [data points] as I can.” Just like watching multiple news channels to take in various angles and assemble a more complete account, he advises investors to do the same before making (or rejecting) an investment. “Before I go on my boat, I check the weather, the condition of my boat, the temperature, if it has been a historically good time to take a vacation, etc., to determine whether it’s safe to take the trip,” he says. Investing in self-storage requires that same level of preparatory diligence. Otherwise, you could end up sailing in rough seas.

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.
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Storage Stats
The Industry Is Getting Smarter 276,000 Noke Units Installed
New Construction Strong In 2023; 2023 New Construction Up 22.1 percent; New Construction Up In Q4 14.3 percent
Are You Ready to Refinance? chart
Top 10 Management Companies chart
Source: 2023 Top Operators Survey results
Self-Storage REIT Historical Stock Price graph
Sources: 1 – Janus Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript 2 – CRED iQ 3 – Newmark
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Improvement Expected In 2024
Newmark’s Q4 2023 REIT Report
By Aaron Swerdlin

he self-storage sector’s Q4 2023 results and full-year 2024 guidance were in line with expectations. Despite a competitive environment for new customers, the four publicly traded REITs reported positive same-store revenue growth of 0.50 percent (non-weighted) year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Occupancy levels remain strong but have moderated from 2022 to a quarter-end occupancy of 90.2 percent (non-weighted), as the sector returns to a more cyclical operating environment. NOI decreased by 0.25 percent (non-weighted) on a year-over-year basis due to continued upward pressure on non-controllable expenses, including property taxes and property insurance, as well as an increase in marketing spend.

chart showing the market index with bar charts of Storage REITs and Indexes
graph depicting the historical quarterly end occupancy from quarter 1 of 2018 to quarter 4 of 2023
The REITs 2024 guidance and commentary implies that the operating environment will improve as we move through the year, but with a wide range of potential outcomes due to the uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment. Q&A during the REITs earnings calls was dominated by the topic of move-in rents. All four REITs have strong conviction in their respective revenue management strategies. This confidence is illustrated by their -2.06 percent to 0.69 percent range (non-weighted) same-store revenue guidance in 2024, despite expectations that rental demand will remain stable, but move-in rents will persist significantly below current in-place rents. The REIT management teams were consistent with their assertion that existing customers remain healthy, and they are not seeing a change in the acceptance of ECRIs, even though they are experiencing price sensitivity for new customers; and the move-in/in-place rate dichotomy has improved in the first two months of 2024 when compared to the back half of 2023. New customer move-in rents are expected to improve throughout the year on both a nominal dollar amount and a percentage basis.
graph showing historical core/adjusted FFO per share from quarter 1 of 2014 to quarter 4 of 2023
bar chart showing adjusted funds from operations per diluted share
bar chart showing dividends per share
New supply levels remain a tailwind for the sector, as development continues to be extremely difficult due to the high cost and lack of available funding, lengthy and uncertain entitlement processes, and lower move-in rents. The decline in the percentage of facilities that are affected by new development in 2024, relative to pre-pandemic, combined with the steadily increasing utilization rate of storage, bodes well for revenue growth, move-in rates, and occupancy levels in the near and medium term.
bar chart showing same store rental revenue per store
table showing same store rental revenue per store
The REIT transaction market saw an uptick in volume in the fourth quarter with acquisitions totaling over $300 million and dispositions totaling $540 million from NSA’s 71-property divestment ($263.2 million closed in Q4 2023). However, balance sheet acquisitions remain several hundred million dollars below historically normal quarterly volume. There remains an abundance of capital prepared to deploy into the sector, both on the public and private sides, and from both debt and equity. However, the limited transaction volume provides little clarity into market pricing, making it difficult for capital to form consensus around return targets, and sellers to get comfortable with cap rate expectations. The fourth quarter transaction and management commentary are indicative of a going-in 6 percent cap rate for stabilized assets; although, as the trajectory of interest rates becomes clearer throughout the next couple of months and capital markets stabilize, the spread between buyer and seller expectations should narrow, resulting in a more robust transaction market in the back half of 2024.

In addition to this quarterly REIT summary, a weekly email from Newmark Group, Inc.’s Self Storage Practice delineates key benchmark rates for the capital markets, near-term expectations for transactions, and interpretive opinions of broader market questions.

The pages of this article summarize the information for the fourth quarter of 2023, reported by the four publicly traded self-storage REITs, along with comparisons between the industry and macro-market benchmarks.

bar chart showing REIT acquisition volume
graph showing self-storage REIT historical stock price from January 2019 to January 2024
Aaron Swerdlin serves as a vice chairman of Newmark in the Houston office.
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Attracting Younger Renters
What Do Millennials Want In A Facility?
By Anne Mari DeCoster

nowing who is renting and what they want is critical to your success as a self-storage operator. Today, millennials rent more self-storage units than any other generation. Born between 1981 and 1996, currently about 28 to 43 years old, millennials comprise 38 percent of renters, according to the SSA’s 2023 Self Storage Demand Study.

A short 10 years ago, self-storage professionals were wondering if millennials would ever rent storage. They seemed to be a generation of vagabonds, who were not getting married or buying homes the way their baby boomer parents did at similar ages.

It seems that millennials are finally becoming their parents. They have steady employment while also starting their own businesses, are making more money, amassing wealth, buying homes, and having babies, like previous generations, even if they took a little longer.

Of course, today’s higher interest rates and sharp appreciation of home prices put a damper on home purchases by millennials and all generations, which is creating pent-up homebuying demand. When interest rates ease, home purchases are likely to rebound, especially among first-time homebuyers in the millennial generation.

Jeff Adler, vice president at Yardi Matrix, started pointing out over five years ago that millennials are a “positive force” for self-storage demand.

What Data Tells Us
Millennials are a diverse group, and their preferences can’t be generalized as easily as older generations. On one hand, their No. 1 concern when renting space is price (as it is for all generations). On the other, millennials are willing to spend more for the convenience of state-of-the-art technology and goods and services they believe are more sustainable. But they don’t want to drive far to a storage unit. This combination makes millennial buying habits a bit confusing: They want the cheapest space, very close by, and they up-sell themselves on tech and green features.

Confusing or not, it does chart a course for your response. First and foremost, focus on that age-old adage: location, location, location! Buy or build facilities where the demographics are favorable. Offer the features today’s young consumers want: convenience, technology, and value. If your local market has a significant segment of millennials, be sure to lead with technology and sustainability in your marketing.

Using Self-Storage
Younger renters, like millennials and Gen Z (born 1997 to 2004 and currently 20 to 27 years old), tend to use self-storage as an extension of their homes, as opposed to older renters who tend to store memories. According to the SSA’s 2023 Self Storage Demand Study and StorageCafé’s 2023 Annual Report (, several factors fuel this trend:

  • Millennials are more likely to live in apartments than older generations.
  • They are more likely to live in urban areas.
  • Apartments are getting smaller, especially in urban areas.
  • Self-storage costs up to 30 percent less than apartments by square feet.

Millennials store their kayaks and snowboarding equipment, which they use often. This means they go to their units more often than baby boomers, who don’t tend to visit their stored memories.

Using storage units more like an extra closet, millennials visit more frequently to swap out clothing, furniture, holiday decorations, and other “season of life” items, such as baby furniture, car seats, and toys. All of this generates more traffic at self-storage facilities from millennials than older generations.

Generational Differences
Generally speaking, millennial self-storage renters are more likely to be female, and they are more ethnically and racially diverse than older renters.

Younger renters tend to rent less costly, smaller units (10-by-10 or smaller), and they expect to be there for shorter periods of time. While these tendencies may generate less rental revenue for the facility, younger renters generate more ancillary revenue through purchases of items they need for storage, like boxes, tape, and packing supplies. They are also more likely to rent trucks than older renters.

They also want more flexibility in contract terms, pricing, and means of payment, including a wide variety of payment options, from autopay via debit or credit card, to Apple Pay and Google Pay. They want to be able to get in and out of contracts easily, and they want to be able to lock in pricing.

Millennials also place greater value on temperature and humidity control, as well as in-unit fire sprinklers and security features.

Finally, especially in dense urban areas, younger renters are more likely to walk, bike, or take public transit to their storage units. Not many boomers do that!

Finding A Facility
You already know that younger renters spend more time on their phones. That’s where they do research and make their decisions, based on online reviews.

They want to be able to do every step of the rental process from their beds, on their phones, at any time. That means comparing facilities, reading reviews, selecting a facility, selecting their space, signing the lease, obtaining access to their space, buying merchandise, and renting a truck.

Even if they don’t do all those steps every time, they want to be able to do it all 24/7. Excellent digital presence and functionality, including online rentals, are critical for younger renters.

Where Younger Renters Move
Millennials and Gen Zers are on the move, as are many Americans. According to This Old House (, reporting on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, about 8.2 million people moved to a different state in 2022, up 4 percent from 2021. This continues a decade-long trend of increasing state-to-state migration. While California experienced the biggest population decrease in 2022, the following sunny states grew in population: Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia.

In terms of cities, regardless of generation, the biggest winners were Seattle, Wash.; Nashville, Tenn.; and San Antonio, Texas. Generally, the biggest losers were New York, N.Y.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. Of all U.S. cities, more people moved out of New York City than any other.

According to the data, cities people are moving to and from vary greatly by generation. For instance, Seattle returned to the top spot in 2022 for millennials, after falling to No. 115 in 2021, but not for Gen Z. Seattle wasn’t even in their top 10 cities.

Gen Z is the only generation that seems to be flocking to more well-known big cities, especially Washington, D.C. This leaves people wondering if DC is the new NYC for Gen Z. Also in Gen Z’s top 10: Chicago, Ill.; Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Eugene, Ore.; and Columbia, S.C.

Tracking with older generations, millennials left major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. In fact, while New York was the top spot for millennials to move to in 2012, it was the top spot for millennials to move out of a mere 10 years later in 2022, for the second year in a row.

Overall, in 2022 millennials tended to move to tech-hub cities with thriving arts communities. Seattle in the top spot, followed by Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Denver, Colo.

Summarizing migration data, younger renters are moving into Seattle, Austin, Nashville, Charlotte, and Denver (millennials), as well as D.C., Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Tucson, Eugene, and Columbia (Gen Z). That covers a lot of territory!

Facilities in these locations will find it especially important to remember that younger renters are more likely to be:

  • Female
  • Racially diverse, particularly Hispanic
  • Living in rental properties
  • Living in urban areas

These younger renters tend to:

  • Use self-storage as an extension of their homes
  • Rent smaller units that cost less
  • Buy more merchandise and rent trucks more frequently
  • Pay a premium for tech and sustainability
  • Visit their units more frequently

Both millennials and Gen Z expect convenience, including short driving distances. They are willing to pay for technology and sustainability, and they are more demanding about the features and amenities they want.

In general, everything they want is likely to be in greater demand in the future, so making your facility attractive to younger renters positions you well for generations of the future. This way you can meet the market where it is going, as future renters will all increasingly rely on high-tech solutions for every aspect of daily life.

Anne Mari DeCoster is a self-storage professional with over two decades experience in all aspects of development and operations, from concept to exit. She excels in strategic planning and specializes in the design, development, and delivery of new products, services, programs, and companies.
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two people in a boxing ring where the base is a stack of dollar bills
Pricing War
Strategies For Winning The Battle
By Ahmet Kuyumcu

he self-storage industry experienced a surge in demand during the pandemic, but that robust growth has ended. Operators are now grappling with fewer move-ins, declining rental rents, and rising vacancies. The intensified competition triggered a pricing battle among the major players, with each rate cut frequently causing a full-fledged price war across numerous markets.

While the temptation to slash prices to capture customers is understandable, price competition is usually a “negative sum” game that erodes long-term profitability. Cutting prices is easy to implement, but assessing their long-term effects is challenging. Furthermore, reversing the negative revenue consequences of substantial price cuts can be slow and arduous.

Being market-aware and knowing when and where to respond to competitive price changes is crucial. This involves understanding how competitive pricing influences customer demand for your products and responding selectively. Sometimes, the most prudent course of action is ignoring competitors’ price cuts. However, in other cases, offering lower prices or matching competitors’ pricing is necessary.

This article explores proven strategies self-storage operators can adopt to navigate the competitive landscape without resorting to destructive price wars. Operators can achieve sustained growth and success by focusing on non-price actions, implementing pricing segments with differentiated offerings, and optimally responding to competitive rate modifications.

Factors Influencing Price Reductions
Self-storage rental rates are experiencing a significant downturn, primarily due to the low prices initiated by prominent real estate investment trusts (REITs). While numerous factors contribute to this decline, the primary narrative revolves around a few key points:

  • Occupancy Concerns – Occupancy drops when move-outs outpace move-ins. Anxious about their stock prices, publicly traded REITs reduce street rents and increase marketing expenditures to safeguard occupancy levels.
  • Revenue Juggling – To mitigate the revenue loss, REITs often implement aggressive rate hikes for their existing tenants shortly after move-ins. Although this approach may generate customer backlash and affect brand perception, REITs estimate positive net revenue as the number of tenants vacating due to rate hikes may not be substantially higher than the number of tenants leaving naturally.
  • Hedging – Large operators do not uniformly reduce rates across their entire portfolio. Instead, they keep higher rates in select locations and products while implementing more substantial rate reductions in others. This strategic approach allows them to hedge against market fluctuations and protect overall rates and revenue.
  • Slow Response From Smaller Operators – Many independent operators lack sophisticated revenue management systems and cannot promptly and optimally react to rate changes. This delay grants REITs a competitive advantage and allows them to gain a foothold in the market.
Time-Tested Tactics To Outcompete Rivals
Consider Nonprice Actions
Actions unrelated to pricing include honing digital and other marketing tactics, enhancing brand presence, raising value awareness of your offerings, improving customer service, and modernizing technology-based capabilities such as websites and AI-based revenue management. While these endeavors typically build long-term capabilities, you could potentially achieve improvements in these domains in the short term. These initiatives represent “positive sum” forms of competition and should always be on the radar.

Continuously Assess The Impact Of Competitive Price Changes
The alternative strategy is to reduce prices. While cutting prices can be straightforward, the challenge lies in assessing the consequences of price reductions. It is vital to analyze whether such rate moves boost occupancy and whether the increased move-ins compensate for the reduced yield. Furthermore, the strategy requires monitoring the impact of lower prices, especially if competitors respond with further rate cuts.

Neglecting competitors’ pricing actions can be risky, but copycatting is as risky since it often entails delegating the price-setting responsibility to competitors. Instead, we recommend a surgical approach to price adjustments, carefully evaluating the impact of competitive price changes on your demand.

We utilized AI-based revenue management models, analyzed extensive market data involving thousands of stores across diverse self-storage markets, and found varying impacts of competitive price changes on customer demand. In half of the products, competitive price changes have little or no effect on demand, and 30 percent of the products have high degrees of impact.

AI-based revenue management provides these kinds of granular analyses to gain insights into each competitor at both store and individual unit type levels, enabling surgical responses to competitive price cuts, ensuring command over your pricing tactics, and optimizing your financial performance.

Harness The Power Of Price Segmentation
In the event of competitive rate reductions, we strongly encourage avoiding the across-the-board rent cuts. Instead, we recommend a selective pricing response based on the following pricing segmentation strategies, which can be employed individually or in combination.

  • Store Types – Emulate hotel chains by creating distinct name brands for your self-storage facilities based on quality, demographics, and other store attributes (E.g., Class A and Class B). You can, for example, aggressively compete for Class-B facilities while safeguarding your rates for your Class-A facilities.
  • Unit Types – Differentiate your unit types based on size and features such as climate control, drive-up access, floor levels, and convenience. We employ sophisticated value-based pricing by defining sufficiently differentiated unit types and offering highly competitive prices for lower-tiered, harder-to-sell units while maintaining higher rates for premium units.
  • Promotions – Leverage extensive upfront offers or discounts while protecting your street rates. Customers tend to overestimate the value of upfront discounts since they stay longer than they initially anticipated. This approach incorporates the length-of-stay distribution of the customers in each store, unit type, and customer type.
  • Sales Channels – Implement distinct pricing strategies through sales channels like in-person, online, and third-party partners. We recommend being aggressive with your pricing online or with third-party partners while maintaining higher rates for in-store sales. You can optimize street rates and use them as strike-through prices to anchor online sales and utilize them for in-store sales or your existing customer increases.
  • LOS Pricing – Offer aggressive pricing for customers who commit to a minimum length of stay. While it is not widely utilized, some operators have employed this approach in certain countries and markets.
Continue Raising Existing Tenant Rents
We strongly encourage continuing to increase existing tenant rents to mitigate potential revenue shortfalls. This process can optimize the timing and magnitude of rent increases based on the discrepancy between street rent and occupied rent and how a given tenant’s occupied rent aligns with other tenants renting comparable units. The procedure can establish eligible and baseline customer segments and compare their retentions. It can also consider various customer characteristics, including payment methods, whether they are commercial or residential tenants, their length of stay, and number of units they are renting. In addition, we recommend that operators carefully weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of rent increases and strive to balance maximizing revenue and maintaining a positive tenant experience.
Be Strategic
Operators can employ various techniques in a competitive self-storage market to outmaneuver their rivals and gain more revenue. Among these tactics, the price is often the weapon of choice, with price wars constantly erupting as companies compete to gain market share.

While all-out price wars may attract customers in the short term, they are “negative sum” games that destroy profitability and often prove unsustainable in the long term. The relentless focus on price can lead to a race to the bottom. This downward spiral can damage brand reputation and hinder long-term growth.

To avoid the pitfalls of price wars, we recommend that operators adopt a more strategic approach to pricing and first consider “positive sum” forms of competition in marketing, branding, operations, customer service, and technology opportunities.

However, it is sometimes impossible to ignore the competitive rate cuts and necessary to compete on price. In such situations, it is best to avoid blanket rent reductions across their entire portfolio. Instead, we recommend offering complex pricing options by sales channels such as walk-ins, online, and third-party partners. Operators can also employ localized pricing actions based on store, unit type, and customer type to strategically lower prices and offer enticing introductory promotions for specific segments or products facing competitive pressure. Furthermore, it is critical to continue optimizing existing tenant rent increases. Remember, while occupancy matters, the ultimate goal is to maximize long-term revenue and profits.

Ahmet Kuyumcu is the founder and CEO of Prorize, a leading provider of AI-based revenue management solutions that currently empowers over 60 major self-storage operators operating in 24 countries across six continents. The firm’s proprietary software and pricing consultants help clients capture maximum revenue from their assets. He has pioneered RM solutions across diverse industries, including self-storage, apartments, senior housing, gaming, online retailing, and airlines. For more information, call (678) 819-8875 or email
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Dynamic Alliance
Inland And Devon Self Storage Join Forces
By Erica Shatzer

veryone in the industry is aware that divorce is one of the many demand drivers for self-storage. Divorce generates demand while couples resituate themselves into new residences and sort through their belongings. Temporary (and oftentimes smaller) living arrangements may require individuals to place their excess belongings into storage for a few months or longer. Although divorce is typically associated with loss, sometimes one man’s misfortune is another man’s (or company’s) gain. As a matter of fact, it was divorce that altered the course of business for Emeryville, Calif.-based Devon Self Storage Holdings LLC (formerly known as Devon Capital Management LLC).

Devon, which Kenneth E. Nitzberg, chairman and CEO, founded in 1988, was originally focused on office, retail, and multifamily commercial real estate. It’s first foray into self-storage, however, was “by accident.”

As Nitzberg recalls, the year was 1993, and one of Devon’s real estate acquisition officers was in the throes of a divorce. He was “kicked out” of his former home and needed to store his possessions, but he couldn’t find a single storage unit to rent in the then small community of The Woodlands, Texas.

Kenneth “Ken” Nitzberg, Chairman and CEO of Devon Self Storage
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Kenneth Nitzberg headshot
Kenneth “Ken” Nitzberg, Chairman and CEO of Devon Self Storage
Dynamic Alliance
Inland And Devon Self Storage Join Forces
By Erica Shatzer

veryone in the industry is aware that divorce is one of the many demand drivers for self-storage. Divorce generates demand while couples resituate themselves into new residences and sort through their belongings. Temporary (and oftentimes smaller) living arrangements may require individuals to place their excess belongings into storage for a few months or longer. Although divorce is typically associated with loss, sometimes one man’s misfortune is another man’s (or company’s) gain. As a matter of fact, it was divorce that altered the course of business for Emeryville, Calif.-based Devon Self Storage Holdings LLC (formerly known as Devon Capital Management LLC).

Devon, which Kenneth E. Nitzberg, chairman and CEO, founded in 1988, was originally focused on office, retail, and multifamily commercial real estate. It’s first foray into self-storage, however, was “by accident.”

As Nitzberg recalls, the year was 1993, and one of Devon’s real estate acquisition officers was in the throes of a divorce. He was “kicked out” of his former home and needed to store his possessions, but he couldn’t find a single storage unit to rent in the then small community of The Woodlands, Texas.

Keith Lampi headshot
Keith Lampi, CEO and President of Inland Private Capital Corporation
Matthew Tice headshot
Matthew Tice, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Acquisitions Inc.
“He had nowhere to put his stuff,” Nitzberg says, adding that the estranged husband’s proposed solution to the area’s storage shortage seemed “crazy” to Devon’s executives at the time.

An unfinished strip shopping center on a five-acre lot was on the market for $600,000 through the Resolution Trust Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency formed to relieve the mutual savings banks of their failed real estate loan. The center had 50,000 square feet of space and only four month-to-month retail tenants, including a nail salon, a hair salon, a light bulb store, and a cookie shop, but instead of going the retail route, the divorcé was instrumental in pushing Devon towards transforming it into a self-storage facility. Devon decided to take a risk. They purchased the building for $600,000, borrowed $1 million from Wells Fargo Bank to fund the conversion of the building into self-storage, and then flipped it 40 months later to what is today CubeSmart (formerly U-Store-It Trust) for $4 million.

“We did nothing but storage after that,” says Nitzberg. “We thought we had found the ‘holy grail’ of self-storage by discovering that we could purchase a vacant building at a very favorable price from a distressed owner as the building had failed in its financial objectives and then convert it into a state-of-the-art self-storage asset. Essentially, we were buying storage assets on a wholesale basis versus a retail cost basis.”

Concentration On Conversions
With one successful conversion under their belt, Devon was eager to take on other conversion projects but needed capital. Discussions with the Employees Retirement System of Michigan were productive, and in 1996 Devon was granted $20 million to cover the cost of three conversions: one in Houston, one in Nashville, and one in West Palm Beach. A year later, Devon then went back to the Retirement System and was awarded another $20 million that was used to fund conversion projects in Bradenton, Fla.; New Orleans; and Albuquerque.
Devon Self Storage HQ
Eau Claire, Wis.
old building before renovation
Orlando, Fla., location before conversion
building after renovation
Orlando, Fla., location after conversion
Devon’s portfolio was growing, but Nitzberg and the company’s other executives were just getting warmed up. They secured approximately $37 million in investment capital from the General Mills Pension Trust in 1997 and went international with seven conversions in The Netherlands, Germany, and France. Another seven conversions were completed with an investment from Harvard Private Realty Capital in 1997; they invested a total of $39 million over a two-year span.

Then, in 1998, Goldman Sachs stepped up and acquired a 90 percent interest in Devon Self Storage. At the time of the sale, the company was operating 20 properties for three institutional investors and several smaller private investors. Through Goldman Sachs’ Whitehall Fund XI, $83 million was used to acquire 16 facilities over a three-year period, six of which were in Holland, France, and Germany; the other 10 assets were in the U.S.

Devon’s presence in those countries prompted Nitzberg to assist with the development of the Federation of European Self Storage Associations (FEDESSA), which presently represents 2,000 facilities or more than 70 percent of Europe’s self-storage sites. Various Devon employees were very instrumental in the formation of the FEDESSA, particularly in its formative years. He also served as chair of the Self Storage Association (SSA) in 2006 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2015. Moreover, in 2023 Nitzberg was the third person to receive the Michael T. Scanlon award for his contributions to the SSA.

“For over 30 years Devon has been doing what we do best: acquiring, redeveloping, and operating high-quality self-storage properties.”

-Ken Nitzberg
But in 2002, the companies “went our separate ways,” says Nitzberg about Goldman Sachs and Devon Self Storage. Devon reacquired its company’s shares and Devon remained an independent self-storage management company until January of this year. During the period from 2002 to 2024, the company grew to operating over 50 stores nationally.

Although conversions had been Devon’s “main business,” Nitzberg mentions that the company did execute “some scrape and rebuilds,” as well as the acquisition of a number of existing self-storage facilities. Devon also managed more than $1 billion of real estate assets, including a portfolio with 20 self-storage properties from 2009 to 2011, on behalf of several CMBS special servicers. (A CMBS special servicer assumes servicing responsibility for defaulted CMBS loan or loans that are at risk of default.) Devon Self Storage ended up buying several of those properties and subsequently sold them a few years later, after filling them and bringing the respective NOIs to market levels, thus generating significant profits.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s (TCJA) creation of Qualified Opportunity Zones in 2017 further fueled Devon Self Storage’s preference for conversions. “The tax benefits are substantial,” Nitzberg says about investing in real estate within low-income communities that have been designated as distressed based on the 2010 Census data. Many of those communities have undergone significant economic improvements since the census was finalized. Investments in Opportunity Zones also spur economic growth and job creation. Plus, there’s an abundance of possibilities with 8,764 Opportunity Zones in the United States.

Throughout its 31-year history, Devon has owned, managed, or developed more than 350 self-storage facilities in 27 states and three European countries. What’s more, Devon Self Storage has been present on Messenger’s annual Top Operators list numerous times.

Interest From Inland
About a year or two before Devon Self Storage began exploring Opportunity Zones, Oak Brook, Ill.-based The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc. (Inland), one of the nation’s largest privately held commercial real estate and finance groups with a $16.5 billion real estate portfolio, expressed interest in self-storage and started doing equity replacement to diversify its investment portfolios.

Inland Private Capital Corporation President and CEO Keith Lampi was hopeful that Devon might have interest in partnering on Inland’s strategic entry into the sector, but “I told him no,” says Nitzberg. “We had just bought a 22-property portfolio from CubeSmart and didn’t have the bandwidth. Inland then did about 84 deals with others.”

According to Matthew Tice, senior vice president at Inland Real Estate Acquisitions, LLC and co-CEO and president of Devon, the two firms eventually reconnected through Inland’s acquisition of the very same 22-propertry portfolio that led Nitzberg to turn Inland down in the first place.

In 2020, the two companies formed a development strategic relationship aimed singularly at acquiring conversion candidates in Opportunity Zones. Inland raised $100 million through a private fund and charged Devon with sourcing, acquiring, and converting those assets into self-storage assets. When that fund’s capital was fully raised, Inland exercised its “green shoe” to increase the offering to $150 million, which was completed September 2021. Inland still had an appetite for additional Opportunity Zone assets, so a new fund was formed, and it raised an additional $100 million around the same storage re-development strategy.

With the $250 million of new capital, Inland, through its relationship with Devon, acquired 15 assets. Eight have been converted and opened for leasing; seven are still under construction, but all of them should be completed in 2024 and open for leasing. These two programs provided a significant boost in Inland’s growth trajectory in the self-storage sector.

Since entering the self-storage sector in 2016, Inland has amassed a $1.7 billion self-storage portfolio of both stabilized assets and development projects across 30 states. As of February, they had a total of 98 operating facilities and 13 under construction with Devon and 87 assets with other property management companies.

old building before renovation
York, Pa., location before conversion
building after renovation
York, Pa., location after conversion
A New Chapter
After several years of a mutually profitable relationship, the dynamics of their relationship changed. On Jan. 8, 2024, Inland announced that it would be purchasing a majority interest (80 percent) in Devon Self Storage. The executive team of Devon and the hundreds of people in the field are remaining in their respective positions. Inland intends to move the 87 sites not presently managed by Devon under the Devon umbrella, thus bringing the total number of properties managed by Devon to slightly over 200—nearly double the 118 reported in Messenger’s 2023 Top Operators survey that earned the company the No. 18 spot on the annual list. This also does not include any additional acquisitions of either existing facilities or conversions of new facilities that might occur in 2024.

“For over 30 years Devon has been doing what we do best: acquiring, redeveloping, and operating high-quality self-storage properties,” Nitzberg said in the press release that heralded the news. “I am thrilled to continue that work with Tony [Chereso, Inland’s Chief Executive Officer], Matt [Tice], Keith [Lampi], and the entire Inland team as well as Devon’s more than 270 employees dedicated to delivering best-in-class self-storage properties and services.”

According to Tice, the acquisition allows Inland to leverage Devon’s existing senior management team, which has been together for more than two decades, while at the same time providing additional capital and infrastructure necessary to further drive the going-forward platform’s innovation and expansion plans including growth of Devon’s third-party management and development platform.

“It was the right time to form an integrated partnership,” says Tice. “Inland has internal entities and its own staff to augment Devon.”

“Devon has been an integral strategic partner as Inland has expanded our presence in the self-storage sector,” Lampi, said in the press release. “As the sector continues to institutionalize, creating operational efficiencies for the benefit of our investors through scale has never been more important. I am looking forward to the synergies created by this transaction.”

Those synergies will enable Devon to eventually take over the management of Inland’s other 87 self-storage assets. The facilities currently being managed by other companies will “all transfer to Devon by the end of 2025,” says Tice.

“Inland bought the people, presence, systems, and the reputation of Devon,” says Nitzberg. Also included in the deal is its proprietary acquisition and market analysis software specific to the self-storage industry.

Despite the change in ownership, Devon Self Storage will retain its name to avoid costly signage changes. “It creates liquidity and ensures the company will continue after I’m gone,” Nitzberg says, pointing out that the capital injection will also enable Devon to stay on top of the tech changes and better compete with the large, well-capitalized REITs.

Devon Self Storage HQ
Warren, Mich., location after conversion
old building before renovation
Warren, Mich., location before conversion
front office of a storage facility
Office of the Warren, Mich., facility
inside a self storage facility
Interior of Eau Claire, Wis., facility
Future Plans
As they acclimate to the transaction, Inland and Devon are simultaneously setting goals and plans for 2024 and beyond. For starters, Nitzberg says their construction department is busy with $250 million in projects going on this year and into 2025. He expects Devon Self Storage’s portfolio to reach 250 to 300 facilities by the end of 2025. Nitzberg also foresees Inland growing it into a $5 billion company. “2024 and 2025 will be busy years,” he says.

Tice shares those sentiments, saying that Inland plans to add approximately 50 self-storage properties to its portfolio each year. “We’ll continue to purchase facilities, do redevelopment with Devon, and expand its third-party management platform,” he says. “We’re well-positioned to grow that third-party portfolio.”

Tice goes on to say that the goal for its third-party management clients will be to grow them and make them as profitable as possible while managing them the same way they manage their own facilities.

About these exponential growth strategies, Nitzberg quips, “Don’t stand in front of the elevator or we’ll run you over!”

Lastly, don’t expect to see a retirement announcement from him anytime soon. “I would die of boredom,” Nitzberg says, adding that he did retire once, back in 1987 after selling his previous company, Equitec, which he had grown to $4.5 billion in assets under management for 250,000 individual investors and 100 institutional clients. “I’ll quit when it isn’t fun anymore!

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.
Capital Partners
In addition to Inland, Devon Self Storage has partnered with 20 different investment groups throughout the years. In total, they have received approximately $2.12 billion in capital for investments. More than half that amount ($1.12 billion) was secured through its relationship with Inland.
Investment Group
Total Capital
State of Hawaii Retirement System (1989-1993)
$45 million
State of Michigan Retirement System (1996-2016)
$45 million
General Mills Pension Trust (1997-2008)
$37 million
Harvard Private Realty Capital (1997-2002)
$39 million
Whitehall Fund XI (Goldman Sachs) (1998-2002)
$83 million
Charlesbank Capital Partners / Bay North Capital (2003-2012)
$36 million
Lubert-Adler (2004-2016)
$49 million
Metropolitan Real Estate Advisors (2004-2015)
$32 million
Wells Fargo Bank Pension Trust (2005-2014)
$14 million
JPMorgan Investment Management (2006-2007)
$303 million
Atalaya Capital Management LP (2010-2017)
$10 million
Garrison Investment Group (2011-2013)
$8 million
Wafra Capital Partners, Inc. (2013-2019)
$96 million
Aviva PLC (2015-2018)
$15 million
LLJ Ventures (2018-2021)
$35 million
Texas Employees Retirement System (2015-Current)
$26 million
Miscellaneous High Net-Worth Families (2000-Current)
$87 million
Inland (2018-Current)
$1.12 billion
Ozone Capital Management (2019-Current)
$10 million
Fairway America (2019-Current)
$15 million
Bamboo Equity (2022-Current)
$19 million
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feature story
A Relationship Of Expansion
America’s Self-Storage Sector And Multifamily Housing
By Nick Luettke and Dan Quan

merica’s self-storage market has a deep relationship with multifamily development, migration patterns, and household formation trends. While most sectors across commercial real estate (CRE) have a symbiotic relationship contributing to ever changing space demands, few relationships are as direct as multifamily and self-storage. Population growth, employment, and household formation drivers help inform performance in the housing market leading to downstream adjustments in the self-storage space. We’ve analyzed the relationship between self-storage and multifamily markets at the metro, regional, and national levels to evaluate common trends started before the pandemic and spurred forward during.

The self-storage market, made up of climate-controlled and non-climate-controlled units, has witnessed the greatest expansion in metros also featuring the most multifamily housing growth, and many key macroeconomic indicators are simultaneously driving expansion and issues within the new construction space for both sectors. Both markets have performed well since the pandemic, but both observed vacancy increases in 2023, as multifamily rose by 50 basis points to end at a 5.4 percent national vacancy rate, while self-storage rose by 80 basis points to end at 12.6 percent. However, vacancy rates only tell parts of the story, as both sectors have undergone significant periods of inventory expansion in the last decade.

See Chart 1: Regional Inventory Growth (Source: Moody’s Analytics)

Regional Inventory Growth
Today’s Challenges
Construction across CRE has had an awkward but decent year as uncertainty lingered throughout 2023. A number of counter-acting factors have played a significant role in recent construction for both multifamily and self-storage. While the two underwent inventory expansion peaks at slightly different times after the great recession, today both markets are impacted by some of the same positive and negative macroeconomic developments in year-on-year construction.

On the optimistic end, fears of a recession have eased in recent months as greater expectations of a soft landing have increased. A variety of factors have led to that attitude shift, but a prominent metric is the healthy employment figures that continue to roll in as the nation sits at a moderately low 3.7 percent unemployment rate while wages have continued to grow. Anxiety over whether office sector struggles would spill over into other CRE sectors has been countered with fairly strong macroeconomic performance, as highlighted by performance in self-storage and multifamily housing spaces.

On the pessimistic end, costs have continued to rise in construction as the market is hit by both financing challenges and a strong labor market. The strong labor market has driven up wages and created significant challenges for the construction market in multifamily and self-storage. In many cases, elevated construction costs threaten to cut into margins, if labor is available at all. Conversely, the same labor market strength has also kept up demand for housing markets and therefore self-storage downstream. Household formation is strongest with higher employment and wages, and the ability for a greater number of Americans to rent or buy living spaces impacts demand of self-storage.

Self-storage and multifamily both observed minor completion slowdowns in 2023, though neither saw construction slowdowns to the level of the troubled office sector. Multifamily completed 212,484 new units, substantial and in line with recent years, but still the lowest of any year since 2014, while self-storage added 111,219 new units, also the lowest since 2014 in the sector. Financing challenges pose little upside for development and harder to overcome obstacles for both new construction and transactions of existing developments. The notion of higher for longer has continued to extend as health of the broader economy persists, presenting obstacles for those looking to finance projects and deals. On the CRE performance side of things, higher interest rates make financing a deal tougher given the need for elevated returns. Consumers are also impacted by higher rates, particularly those looking to move from multifamily rentals to single-family ownership.

A point of divergence may occur in the next year or two between self-storage and multifamily markets as the perceived social benefit of housing for voters could play a role. Local governments have been and are likely to continue to address housing affordability issues this election year. Tackling affordability issues could move self-storage markets downstream given spending adjustments, but the most direct impact will be through the location of new construction at the market and submarket level. Given multifamily construction’s greater lead time on development than self-storage, there may be a period of new multifamily construction combined with lower interest rates later in the year leading into next year. How local and state governments move forward addressing multifamily affordability issues should play an important role for self-storage development and performance.

Inventory Expansion Over The Last Decade
The strong relationship between self-storage and multifamily housing since the start of the pandemic reflects shifting migration trends as highlighted by many Sun Belt markets and their substantial growth in both sectors. The story of self-storage in recent years has largely become a story about pandemic-era growth driving rents up and vacancies down, but self-storage’s nationwide inventory boom fortunately positioned the market to absorb significant levels of pandemic-era business.

The impressive absorption success starting in early 2020 and running through today largely came through fortuitous timing of nationwide inventory growth pre-pandemic. Our contemporary self-storage data covers 125 metros across the United States while our historic data set of 50 of the largest metros provides us a 10-year snapshot. Those 50 metros with greater historic data grew their inventories collectively by 25.1 percent between Q4 2013 and Q4 2023. Remarkably, the nation’s multifamily inventory grew by 23.6 percent during the same 10-year time period. The Multifamily and Self-Storage Vacancy and Growth Chart highlights the tight relationship in inventory growth between the markets, with self-storage benefiting from reduced build times and historically smaller and more agile markets that carry naturally higher vacancy rates.

See Chart 2: 10 Year Inventory Expansion Chart (Source: Moody’s Analytics)

10 Year Inventory Expansion; Q4 2013 - Q4 2023
National trends between self-storage and multifamily are emphasized even stronger when we turn toward metro-level analysis. Eight of the nation’s top 10 markets with the greatest growth in self-storage inventory from Q4 2013 to Q4 2019 also observed multifamily growth ahead of the national average. Charlotte, N.C., stands out as a clear, star example of growth in both markets. Charlotte’s self-storage expanded significantly over the last decade with an inventory growth of 71.6 percent, the nation’s largest of the 50 metros Moody’s has tracked for at least a decade. Mirroring the substantial self-storage growth is the metro’s multifamily growth; the multifamily inventory grew by an astounding 70.6 percent in Charlotte, which is the greatest of any of the large, tier-one metros in the nation. Some other prominent Sun Belt metros had similar growth patterns: Orlando grew by 54.0 percent in multifamily while self-storage grew by 50.4 percent; Miami grew by 42.2 percent in multifamily and 47.1 percent in self-storage.

The Sun Belt has experienced significant population growth over the last decade and the southern emphasis on inventory growth reflects the important dynamics of household formation and performance in these sectors. While the pandemic spurred many of these developments on and amplified their impact with significant adjustments in rents, much of the inventory growth in both markets occurred prior to the pandemic. Both sub-sectors within CRE were positioned well to benefit from accelerated spending, lifestyle, and migration patterns.

These useful metro level correlations highlight national trends in construction, but the full story requires some deeper analysis. A few notable points of variation exist within metro-level divergence. The first occurs with New York metros, as self-storage significantly outpaced multifamily housing development. Long Island was the only metro of the top 10 self-storage markets to not have multifamily development above the national average. While the Long Island storage market experienced 45 percent growth in units over the last decade, multifamily only grew by 5.8 percent—the largest gap in inventory growth rates of the 50 metros, as severe shortages of buildable land zoned for multifamily development in Nassau and Suffolk counties has limited new apartment supply.

The New York metro largely reflected Long Island trends, with self-storage growing by 47.6 percent in the last decade yet multifamily growing by just 17.6 percent. New Yorkers pay historically high rates for housing due to limited supply and tight geographic conditions; renters pay about 58 percent of their income on average. Given the size of New York City and surrounding suburbs, the lack of multifamily development is understandable due to space needs but continues to dramatically impact rent-to-income ratios.

Regional Growth
The pandemic was not the sole source of self-storage’s success story in recent years, though it played a key role by accelerating pre-existing migration trends while also shifting rental behavior as Americans sought larger and newer apartments. We divide American metros into five geographic regions, and all five regions reflected national trends in development and leasing with generally positive performance. The Southern Atlantic region had the strongest performance across many metrics, an unsurprising result given significant migration patterns. The region benefited from shifting preferences toward greater space and warmer weather; at the same time, America’s aging baby boomer generation has squarely entered retirement age, benefiting both the traditional retirement state of Florida with significant retirement spillover into nearby states. Despite already having significant self-storage inventory space with 2.68 million square feet in inventory at the start of the pandemic, the region observed the second-largest inventory growth rate during the pandemic as construction continued.

See Chart 3: Regional Inventory Growth Chart (Source: Moody’s Analytics)

Multifamily and Self Storage Vacancy Growth
Only the Northeast, which started the pandemic with 1.23 million square feet, outpaced the South Atlantic’s pandemic inventory growth rate of 7.5 percent, with a staggering inventory expansion of 14.1 percent in the last four years. The Northeast’s substantial inventory growth, while impressive, generally kept up with demand in the region, as occupied stock grew by 15.1 percent as well, leaving a gap of 1.0 percent. While the Northeast region largely kept up with demand through inventory growth, the Sun Belt regions provide a different story. The Southwest and South Atlantic regions saw their occupied stocks climb ahead of their inventory growth by 4.8 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, indicating a greater ability to absorb surging demand with pre-existing stock to keep vacancy levels in line.
Stars Since The Pandemic
The spark of the pandemic fueled an already expanding self-storage market across the nation. Multifamily housing trends largely reflect migration patterns and economic performance driving household formation, combining with age demographics to drive demand in a market, which in turn drive self-storage demand. Population growth and migration trends influence the sectors most directly by impacting demand, but inflection points like the pandemic also influence demand through behavioral shifts.

The Sun Belt region dominated headlines with population growth and migration patterns throughout the pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, nine of the top 10 metros with the greatest growth in multifamily occupancy are in the Southern Atlantic region specifically. At the same time, metros across the Sun Belt led occupancy growth in total figures in self-storage as Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Austin, and Atlanta led the nation in occupied stock growth since the pandemic.

Markets like Phoenix help highlight the underlying importance for demographic metrics in both sectors given the metro’s substantial population growth. Between Q4 2019 and Q4 2023, Phoenix led the nation in total growth of self-storage occupied stock with an increase of 31,562 units, while also seeing its multifamily occupied stock grow by 36,036 units, the third highest in the nation. Through the lens of total occupied stock figures, many of the same larger cities saw both their multifamily stock fill up along with self-storage space. Of the top 10 metros with the greatest total increase in occupied self-storage, all 10 also finished in the top 20 U.S. metros with the greatest expansion in multifamily housing since the pandemic.

Pandemic success stories in large markets like Phoenix, Dallas, or Houston highlight the dual growth in self-storage and multifamily housing in recent years. However, relative figures paint a more nuanced picture where regional mid-major cities saw the greatest expansion of self-storage occupancy, while Florida metros dominated multifamily occupancy growth with lower than expected self-storage demand. Des Moines (37 percent), Albany (33.4 percent), Augusta (28.7 percent), Knoxville (24.7 percent), and Providence (22.8 percent) led the nation with the largest growth in occupied stock between the start of the pandemic until today. For context, many of the nation’s largest metros in terms of total growth in occupied stock grew in the low double-digits. Metros like Phoenix (15.0 percent), Dallas (11.6 percent), Chicago (10.5 percent), and Houston (7.0 percent) are largely driving overall growth in the self-storage market given their size but have more moderated performances when viewed through relative growth. For metros with traditionally smaller inventories, such as Des Moines and Augusta, the pairing of population growth with an influx of modern facilities to meet demand has produced a more dramatic impact than in larger, more mature metros.

Wrapping Up
America’s self-storage market has become instrumental to the CRE ecosystem as space demands have increased. Multifamily indicators help drive self-storage growth through a combination of migration patterns and macroeconomic success, and many of the nation’s leading self-storage markets are reflecting similar multifamily growth. With the single-family market remaining challenging to financing and labor supply issues, the multifamily market has remained strong and space needs remain elevated. While performance of existing units has increased since the pandemic, construction challenges persist for many of the same positive macroeconomic issues benefiting existing units as development costs remain high. Prominent Sun Belt markets lead the nation in multifamily and self-storage in response to pre-existing migration trends being accelerated by the pandemic, but underneath the surface, some other regions, like the Northeast and Midwest, have closed the performance gap. Looking to the year ahead, the biggest questions impacting both sectors are tied to macroeconomic performance, particularly whether the nation ends up successfully navigating a soft landing or heads into a recession, along with the potential of interest rate cuts. In the face of this macroeconomic uncertainty, the self-storage and multifamily markets have performed well over the last decade and are positioned well to continue finding success given the current state of America’s housing market.
Nick Luettke is an associate economist for Moody’s Analytics. Dan Quan is the director of data quality for Moody’s Analytics.
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Advanced Building Materials
The Benefits Of Insulated Metal Panels In Self-Storage Construction
By Karim Muri
outside front view of Life Storage facility

n the U.S. today, 1.8 billion square feet of self-storage space provides the ability to securely store belongings. The need for more storage units is growing along with rising populations and smaller living spaces. Downsizing, renovating, moving, and decluttering are just some of the reasons why more than a fifth (21 percent) of Americans currently use self-storage, and why another 15 percent say they intend to do so in the future.

The self-storage industry continues to grow, with new facilities under construction to meet the storage needs of an increasingly space constrained society.

Modern self-storage buildings have come a long way from their bland, boxy beginnings. Today, these facilities are constructed using advanced building materials like insulated metal panels (IMPs) to make them more aesthetically appealing, energy efficient, durable, and cost effective.

Growing Self-Storage Market
Consumer spending makes up around 70 percent of the American GDP. With Americans spending more on goods than ever before, the demand for self-storage facilities is rising.

In the U.S., the self-storage market size is currently valued at $44.37 billion and is expected to reach $49.88 billion in 2029, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.37 percent.

The growth of this market is reflected in the 262.4 million square feet of storage space built over the last five years–the equivalent of 14.6 percent of the total inventory. In 2023 alone, 50.5 million square feet of new storage space was delivered; another 54.4 million square feet is expected to be delivered in 2024, according to data from StorageCafe.

More Than Storage facility with drive in and lobby
Evolution Of Storage Facilities
Storage facilities have existed since ancient times. Some early civilizations stored personal belongings in large ceramic pots buried in the ground. In ancient Rome, storehouses were constructed to preserve food and keep precious possessions safe.

Modern self-storage was introduced in U.S. in the late 1800s by Bekin Van Lines, which built the first concrete and steel warehouse for storage. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, as highways expanded throughout the nation and people began moving more, storage facilities really began to take off.

Today, modern storage facilities have evolved to offer climate-controlled units that maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels to prevent moisture from damaging items. Storage facilities are also now specifically designed to hold boats and RVs, and other specialized facilities are popping up across the nation to store sensitive items such as wine, artwork, and antiques. One of the latest storage facility trends to emerge is the construction of multiuse facilities that incorporate retail spaces, cafés, or workspaces with storage facilities in one structure.

Building Material Of Choice
As storage facilities continue to evolve, IMPs are a building envelope solution that meets the requirements of these types of facilities. IMPs are exterior wall and roof panels with steel skins and an insulating foam core. Because of their excellent thermal properties and design flexibility, IMPs are increasingly becoming the building envelope material of choice in the construction of storage facilities. These panels are helping transform self-storage facilities, delivering outstanding thermal performance to satisfy increasingly stringent local building code requirements while allowing architects and designers to create structures that deliver high-end design. That’s critical in an environment where approval from local municipalities for construction of these facilities can come with requirements for visually appealing designs to prevent plain industrial boxes from blemishing a suburb’s streetscape.
Advantages Of IMPs
With exceptional design flexibility, superior thermal performance, durability, ease of installation, and more, IMPs offer many advantages over other conventional building envelope systems in the construction of self-storage facilities.

Design Flexibility
IMPs offer architects design flexibility. These panels come in a wide range of profiles and patterns, color options, textures, and finishes that can be customized to fit any project’s design aesthetic.

With IMPs, designers have considerable freedom to vary the size, dimensions, and orientation of the panels. Different sizes can be integrated within the same façade to create a dynamic pattern and unusual geometries from jutting angular designs to sweeping curves, with IMPs oriented horizontally or vertically.

IMPs can also be seamlessly integrated with wall and roof accessories like daylight and wall light systems, louvers, and sunshades.

With many design possibilities, IMPs can be used to create a distinctive look that reflects a storage facility’s brand image and to integrate with a location’s aesthetic.

outside front view of Vaultra Storage facility
Thermal Performance
The exceptional thermal insulation capabilities of IMPs make them ideal in the construction of storage facilities where climate control is essential. Featuring a core of continuous, rigid insulation, IMPs achieve the R-values needed to maintain a stable interior environment regardless of external weather conditions, helping to ensure that specific temperature and humidity level requirements are met to protect stored items from damage.

IMPs are a single component building enclosure system featuring high levels of thermal insulation. While other insulations may have to use double layers or more expensive, higher-density materials to meet the thermal code requirements, IMPs are a high-performing, all-in-one solution for meeting stringent thermal performance requirements required by building codes.

Remaining air and weathertight over the life of a building, IMPs also help reduce the amount of energy required to keep storage units climate controlled, which helps reduce heating and cooling costs for storage facilities.

Embodied Carbon
Because buildings are a major contributor to global climate change and waste production, many architects are taking a greener approach in storage building design and material selections. That includes selecting IMPs with low levels of embodied carbon. These panels are a material choice that can meet or exceed current energy codes and contribute toward achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Building Rating System.

Remaining air and weathertight over the life of a building, IMPs also help reduce the amount of energy required to keep storage units climate controlled, which helps reduce heating and cooling costs for storage facilities.
Today, IMPs are playing a role in climate-conscious building practices to help the self-storage industry achieve net-zero energy and carbon-neutral targets. The high R-values and thermal performance offered by these panels help deliver improved energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption and lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Constructed of durable steel and designed to last for decades, IMPs can handle inclement weather while remaining air and watertight. IMPs can stand up to the wear and tear of all types of buildings and can be manufactured with special coatings that withstand heavy cleaning and sanitation. This durability ensures that self-storage buildings retain their aesthetic appeal and structural integrity for decades, reducing the need for frequent renovations or repairs.

Speedy Installation And Cost Savings
IMP are quicker to install than traditional multicomponent site-built wall and roof enclosure systems. Requiring only one type of installer instead of multiple trades to attach to the structural framing, IMPs provide a weathertight building envelope in a fraction of the time compared to conventional multicomponent systems.

Accelerating speed of build with IMPs creates construction efficiencies that result in labor cost savings and faster dry-in of projects, which allows inside work to begin sooner. The increased build speed of these panels helps construction projects stay on track, resulting in reduced downtime and a better chance of on-time project completion.

As the self-storage industry continues to grow and more self-storage facilities are constructed, IMPs will continue to be the building envelope solution of choice to make these facilities more aesthetically appealing, energy efficient, durable, and cost effective.

Karim Muri is vice president of marketing services and strategy development for Kingspan Insulated Panels North America. Muri has led strategic marketing in the construction products market for nearly 20 years. His global experience includes leadership roles in Australia and the United States, working in both the residential and commercial building sectors.
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Custom Site Planning
The Right Layout And Unit Mix For Your Facility
By M. Anne Ballard

aving completed hundreds of site plans, this issue is definitely on the forefront of the industry now and occupying lots of energy to conclude with the correct answers. I hear arguments for maximizing density of units with no consideration to user experience or operations and see proposals for just duplicating what others have done or what the architect showed them from another project with no diversification of unit types and/or no layout or consideration of the office or retail area, even in ones that are remote managed in their set up. All of this leads to changes and issues down the line.

The goal is not to build the cheapest and fastest, most common plan. The goal is to arrive at a product that is easy to use, much sought after within its market, fills a void that existing competitors don’t or won’t supply, commands premium rates, and has the attributes the market wants, such as upscale, high-tech, retail, and solid or stable in its image.

There are lots of ways to layout a site and do a unit mix. Before you begin this critical process, a little background and research is necessary to provide the data you need to meet the goal.

First, we need to know the topography and buildable amount of the land; showing where the changes in elevation occur is critical to many parts of the plan like water run-off and retention. Can you have two-story buildings with access on two sides (called an over-under building with no elevators), or is there a portion that is unbuildable due to steep inclines, wetland restrictions, overlay districts restrictions, or easements? Once you have determined the buildable area, then the real work begins.

What are the setback requirements? This shows how close your buildings can be to the road or side yards. Some even require certain landscape buffer areas that can range from 10 to 50 feet depending on your zoning and neighbors.

Check for any easements running through or alongside the property, i.e., gas or utility lines, sewer easements, or other special easements shown on the survey.

Once you have confirmed the buildable area you can begin site planning. While completing the tasks above, you must also study your prospective market for information to assist you in compiling the correct unit mix for your site in your market. There is no such thing as a standard unit mix! I’ve seen most of my competitors’ feasibility studies, where there was no customized unit mix shown, only a hypothetical unit mix, which results in only hypothetical results. You need a unit mix and site plan customized for your piece of property in your location to forecast an accurate lease-up rate and accurate income per month with rental rates based on the current supply and/or lack of supply for each type.

We love to do a fortress style layout. This is using the backs of the buildings as the perimeter of the site; this cuts down on fencing needs and is perceived as a safer way to serve customers as there will be limited access to the site. This is especially good for long, rectangular sites. See Figure 1, a site plan for one of our clients in Florida. With units down both sides, and only one entry and exit point, it becomes easier to control on-site activity.

Perhaps you have wide building setbacks impeding your buildable area; in this case you may want to use the setbacks as driveways to increase use on the site. Figure 2 is a recent example of this use, where the driveways are on the exterior of the buildings and a one-way traffic pattern is used with two gates (one inbound and one exit).

site plan showing central entry, exit point, and buildings
Figure 1: This site plan shows a central entry and exit point with buildings down each side of the perimeter.
site plan showing the driveways down each side
Figure 2: This plan shows the driveways down each side within the building setback areas so that the traffic flow is one way with an entry and separate exit gate.
As each physical site is unique, so is each site plan.

Driveway widths are a critical component to having a good site plan and user experience. In general, we like 30-foot-wide drives on 40-foot end caps to accommodate all sizes of trucks on the site and make turning easier for each user. Where we will have angled spaces in RV parking, we use 45- to 50-foot-wide drives to accommodate those users. Most engineers can provide a truck turn overlay as is used and required for fire truck access. In the past we saw sites with drives as narrow as 15 feet, which makes access impossible for rental trucks and tractor trailers. We stay with 30-foot drives for the most part, but we’ve used as narrow as 24 feet in a few instances. The more restrictive the driveway widths, the more necessary a one-way traffic pattern becomes.

20-by-40 drive-thru contractor bay
Figure 3: A 20-by-40 drive-thru contractor bay
If the lot is very small, such as in an urban corridor, you may only have access on one or two sides of a building. Remember, however, customer resistance to long distances between loading and unloading. We don’t really want to see anything over 100 to 120 feet between point of loading and unit. This also applies to elevator use, as it is often necessary to add an elevator due to long distances that must be travelled. Elevators can be set into the building up to 40 feet to lessen the distance traveled and reach more units.

Unit mix for your site should, as previously mentioned, be customized to your site and market demand. We have shown that a diversified unit mix of product types tends to lease up more quickly than single product type properties (i.e., all climate-controlled or all non-climate-controlled properties). To me, this is logical, yet few utilize this process.

Common unit types we are using today include non-climate-controlled, climate-controlled, drive-up climate-controlled, contractor bays, incubator offices with storage backs, office suites, open parking, covered parking, enclosed parking, and shed type parking (three sides covered, open faces parking). We have seen from recent data the huge demand for RV and boat parking of all types and the need for contractor bays (600 to 1,000 square feet).

Using a study of all current and planned competitors will tell us which units the market is missing or needing more of that type. For example, almost every large unit we have is full across the portfolio; the same is true for all the contractor spaces and offices, both standalone office suites and incubator offices that come with a storage unit in the back, as well as covered and enclosed RV/boat spaces.

Contractor bays need exterior access with a large roll-up door approximately 12-by-12 and a 3-foot man door. These would include one outlet and lighting and may be a drive-thru unit, such as the one shown in Figure 3.

RV units are best angled in the building such that a 40-foot-deep building yields a 45-foot parking space. Many times, we do these as sawtooth buildings with a man door on the side and may be drive-thru units. In this configuration, a minimum 40-foot drive is required (see Figure 4).

site plan showing 15-by-45 angled RV spaces
Figure 4: This building has 15-by-45 angled RV spaces with a side door on a sawtooth design.
Most non-climate-controlled buildings are typically 30 feet wide, as this allows for almost any configuration needed.

You can have two door 10-by-30s, 10-by-10s backing up to 10-by-20s, and 10-by-15s back to back. To get smaller units, hallways are used and should be 5 feet wide with 4-foot man doors that are half glass leading inside. Additionally, we like to diamond plate those entry doors on both sides below the hardware to get longevity and reduce maintenance, as customers will be banging carts and dollies into those doors constantly.

Figure 5 is an example of a non-climate-controlled building with contractor bays on the exterior and traditional units on the interior. It illustrates how key it is to arrive at a custom unit mix perfect for your site in your market.

Climate-controlled buildings have different requirements and can be single-story or multistory (see Figure 6). Keep in mind that the largest units need to be close to the entry and on the ground floor. Typically, ground-floor units also bring in a premium price as the most desirable location.

site plan showing contractor bays
Figure 5: This building shows contractor bays on the exterior and non-climate-controlled units inside.
site plan showing the first floor of a multistory climate-controlled building
Figure 6: This building shows the first floor of a multistory climate-controlled building; notice that exterior climate-controlled units and elevators are set into the building.
Upstairs units will be the smaller unit sizes to balance the overall mix. Even though the small units bring in a higher price per square foot than the larger ones, loading up the site plan with small units is the wrong move; they will not lease up in suburban sites. In urban and college markets, they will want smaller unit sizes. So, studying the market prior to drawing the site plan or doing the unit mix is mandatory. Seek help from an experienced operator or consultant to ensure your project perfectly fits its market and the current demand.
M. Anne Ballard is the president of marketing, training, and developmental services for Universal Storage Group (USG) in Atlanta, Ga. USG is the winner of 12 Facility of the Year Awards and Anne has designed the last six of those for their clients. USG is an award-winning third-party management and consulting company and consistently listed as a Top Operator. You may reach them at (770) 801-1888 and
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Ground-breaking Development
Harbor Avenue Self Storage in Seattle, Wash.
By Kelly Kelley-Horne
quarter front view of the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility located in Seattle, Washington with a metallic gray façade and navy blue signage

ully constructed in 2023, Harbor Avenue Self Storage in Seattle, Wash., is a standout example of contemporary design and practicality. Crafted by reputable self-storage designer Jackson | Main Architecture, P.S., managed by SecureSpace, and built on a remediated site, the facility boasts approximately 130,000 square feet of rentable space and 1,117 climate-controlled units in a variety of unit sizes to cater to a diverse range of storage needs.

Unique features include a Type II-B construction for enhanced safety, a three-story structure with a basement to optimize the 1.24-acre site, and parking for 16 vehicles. The facility’s aesthetics, marked by a blend of modern and industrial elements, such as pre-finished metal panels and concrete masonry, complement its urban setting while offering the most advanced security technology, including AI-enabled 24/7 surveillance.

Harbor Avenue Self Storage emphasizes user experience from the facility’s harmonious fit into the cityscape to its carefully considered features, including abundant parking, sizable elevators, and a sheltered loading area, ensuring convenience and accessibility. The interior aesthetics further express a dedication to excellence and user satisfaction, with a hospitable leasing office with recognizable branding and contemporary comforts.

external side view of the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility
external rear view of the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility
the spacious lobby at the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility
a hallway of units in the the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility
quarter rear view of the Harbor Avenue Self Storage facility
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Working Capital
Overcoming The High Cost Of Funding
By Mark E. Battersby
illustration of a male figure dressed in a suit and tie and wearing a large sack of overflowing money on his back like a backpack

oday’s high interest rates have put that all-so-necessary funding out of reach for many self-storage facility operators and developers. This situation is compounded by the reluctance of many traditional lenders to provide that all-important working capital required by every business.

Actions of the Federal Reserve have contributed to an increase in inflation and raised interest rates with no indication of substantial relief in sight. Combine those higher interest rates with leasing and purchase prices essentially doubling in the last few years and funding any business today is extremely difficult.

The Banking Community
With the well-documented reluctance of banks to provide the funds needed by small businesses, it may seem strange to suggest that every search for affordable funding should begin with the operation’s bank. Although numerous factors will impact the type of lender eventually choosen, the best option is usually to start with the bank currently used for the operation’s banking.

Even without a personal relationship with the banker, an existing bank often has a broader perspective of the operation’s debt, spending, and cash flow. While perhaps only a number in the bank’s system, the operation is already in the system. That puts the self-storage professional one step ahead in overcoming that reluctance.

Obviously, if a relationship with the operation’s current bank, as faint as it might be, isn’t sufficient to overcome the bank’s reluctance to provide the needed funds, or render advice, a new bank might be necessary. Since banks are often the source for the most economical financing, a community bank might be the answer.

Establishing relationships with community banks is often easy, with them considering the operation as a whole alongside the operation’s cash flow, credit, and collateral factors.

Needs Vs. Cost
Banks, in general, are interested in businesses with collateral and strong credit. Often, while not interested in providing long-term funding, banking services such as cash management, payroll services, merchant services, and lines of credit may be available.

Every self-storage facility should already have a line of credit to help tide them over short term. A business’ line of credit provides access to funds up to a preset limit, with the business paying interest only on the funds withdrawn. Fees for having the funds readily available are usually competitive.

However, as finding capital becomes more difficult, it’s more important than ever to determine why the self-storage operation needs capital, how fast it is needed, and what it can afford to pay for that funding.

While banks, even community banks, typically have low interest rates and offer competitive terms, financing may be hard to qualify for. Thus, an incentive such as a guarantee by the Small Business Administration (SBA) might help obtain that needed funding.


SBA loans make it easier for businesses to get needed funding. The SBA offers lenders, mostly traditional lenders, a federal loan guarantee. This makes it less risky for banks to lend and often means more favorable interest rates and terms for the borrower.

Repayment periods for SBA loans are based on what the funds will be used for. They range from seven years for working capital to 10 years for equipment purchases and 25 years for real estate purchases. There are a number of SBA loan guarantee programs available, including:

  • SBA 7(a) loans, the most popular, provide funds for many purposes and are available in amounts up to $5 million.
  • SBA 504 loans offer long-term, fixed-rate financing to purchase or repair real estate, equipment, machinery, or other assets.
  • SBA Microloans are the smallest loan program offered and provide $50,000 or less to help businesses expand.

When traditional sources, even with guarantees, fail to provide affordable needed financing, it might be time to explore a relatively new option: online funding.

Going Online
Online lenders are enjoying a surge of popularity. Best of all, online banking eliminates the cost of brick-and-mortar branches, thereby generating cost savings to be passed on to borrowers.

Fintech, or financial technology, consists of two areas: interacting with a bank minus the human element and independent lenders working outside the traditional banks. Applying for an online business loan can be accomplished entirely online.

While online banking is best for those with bad credit with under-qualified borrowers paying extra, their fast funding and easy applications make them popular with many potential borrowers.

The ESOP Option
An effective strategy for minimizing the cost of the funds needed by the business involves selling the business. An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a tax effective way to transfer ownership of a small incorporated self-storage facility or business to its employees while, at the same time, raising the funds needed for the operation’s growth.

With an ESOP, the business issues new shares of stock and sells them to the ESOP. The ESOP then borrows funds to buy the stock. The self-storage operator or developer can then use the proceeds from the stock sale to benefit their operation’s growth or expansion.

The business repays the loan by making tax-deductible contributions to the ESOP. The interest and principal on the more easily obtained ESOP loans are tax deductible, which can reduce the number of pre-tax dollars needed to repay the principal by as much as 34 percent, depending on the operation’s tax bracket.

Unfortunately, the tax shield does not help with S corporations since they don’t pay corporate income taxes. Capital gains deferral, however, can make ESOPs attractive to these pass-through business entities.

Bootstrapping And Self-Funding
Obviously, it is wise for every self-storage operator and developer to have at least some personal funds at risk since that shows potential lenders and investors that the owner is committed to the success of the business.

The most basic, affordable funding strategy, called “bootstrapping,” means using personal or family funds to finance the business. On the downside, our tax laws make self-funding a touchy and complex situation. And, offsetting the convenience of bootstrapping often means giving up equity in the business.

What’s more, when a loan is made between related entities, or when a shareholder makes a loan to his or her incorporated business, our tax laws require a fair market rate of interest be included. If not, the IRS will step in and make adjustments to the below-market interest rate (BMIR) transaction in order to properly reflect “imputed” interest.

Borrower Be Aware

Dealing with an economical but unfamiliar lender isn’t always trouble-free. A loan agreement might, for instance, contain a provision requiring the loan to be repaid if the buyer misses several payments, fails to maintain certain debt service coverage, etc.

Some lenders want delayed payments made up in a single payment, some will modify and extend the loan with minimal paperwork with others treating it as refinancing, complete with the costs associated with refinancing.

And don’t forget loan forbearance. Every borrower should have a clear picture of when the forbearance will end and what the lender intends to do at the end of that period.

Speaking of loan terms, every borrower should generally match the term of a loan to the life of the item to be financed. If the financing is for a computer or security system, the loan shouldn’t be longer than their expected life.

On a similar note, a fixed interest rate stays the same through out the term of the loan while business loan rates often fluctuate, making them more expensive.

Avoid At All Costs

In the search for capital, the easiest options may be the most expensive:

  • Credit card debt. Business credit cards often offer more flexible repayment terms but typically have higher interest rates than traditional financing. Designed to appeal to businesses whose cash flow might be irregular, the higher cost of business card debt results because the debt is usually unsecured, making it riskier for lenders.
  • E-mail solicitations. Answering those “We Lend Money to Businesses” ads means leaving the banking sector with its various protections and borrowing from a private lender.
The Added Cost Of Taxes
After funds have been obtained at a favorable cost, it doesn’t mean that the interest is automatically tax deductible. There is something called the “tracing rule,” where interest is traced to its use to determine whether or not it is deductible. Suppose, for example, a business borrows money but only a portion is used to purchase needed equipment. The balance of the borrowed funds goes to a key employee or even the owner to purchase a personal vehicle.

Obviously, the interest on the borrowed funds used for equipment, supplies, or other business expenses are deductible. The interest on the portion of those borrowed funds distributed as a loan or bonus is not tax deductible by the borrowing self-storage facility or business.

Every self-storage professional seeking to borrow money faces many challenges, such as where funding is available and at what interest rate. What is the total cost including fees? Is the funding good for an extended period of time, or can payment be demanded early? Guidance from a professional adviser may be necessary.

Mark E. Battersby is a freelance writer based in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
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Applying Past Knowledge
The 12 Lessons Of 2023
By Gary Edmunds
the number 2,023 in gold with a grad cap and a ribbon wrapped diploma roll

was an enlightening year. Coming on the heels of some of the best years in the admittedly short history of self-storage, it taught us a lot. These are 12 of the lessons I learned.

Don’t complain if you go cheap.

My Scottish ancestors would revolt if they thought I was throwing money away, but it’s true. We can look at professional sports for confirmation. The lowest payroll teams in the major leagues include:

  • 2023 Oakland A’s: 50-112
  • 2022 to 2023 Indiana Pacers: 35-47
  • 2022 Chicago Bears: 3-14
  • 2022 to 2023 Anaheim Ducks: 23-47-12

The lesson is that sometimes we have to spend some money to make some money. Taking the cheapest option often results in underperforming assets. Buy the better-quality security system instead of something cheap online. Hire the better management company instead of the cheapest one. Invest in performance, not in cheap.

Advertising is fixed, but marketing is flexible.

Advertising is a specific expense. Every marketing company can help you budget for Google Ads or social media clicks. But marketing is adjustable. Deciding to buy doughnuts for local brokers or cookies for police departments is flexible. Sending a pizza to the manager of a local motorhome park is flexible. Do that with the hope that it leads to a referral.

There are no right answers to marketing.

Marketing storage units is hard. There’s no right answer. What works in one location may not in another. Don’t overthink it. Adjust and move on. Always move on. Because even if it works today, there is no guarantee that it will work tomorrow.

Marketing is more important than anything else!

New owners to our industry almost always ask me about auctions, maintenance, and past dues, when those things shouldn’t matter to them. If you don’t prioritize and spend the time (and money) on marketing, nothing else matters. Nothing. Who cares if you have nobody past due if your occupancy is 40 percent? Not me. Fill the facility first, and then you can worry about secondary priorities. If you’re not full, then work on that and that alone.

2023 was the year the lenders decided not to play.
In 12 months, the terms LTV and LTC disappeared. After 25 years in commercial real estate, I would never have predicted that a bank would require a deposit account relationship with a borrower and for that deposit account to be 20 percent or 30 percent of the requested loan balance. We can adjust to interest rates over time, but the terms being discussed … wow.
Unique revenue streams will be necessary moving forward.
I think we have moved past the unlimited rate increases we all came to appreciate since COVID. Now, to maintain some of the revenue projections, we are going to need to work a little harder. Changing fee schedules and emphasizing tenant protection sales is good, but we may need to implement new revenue-producing tech or charges for special services such as 24-hour access. Let’s be creative!
Property insurance is no longer an afterthought.
I spent 20-plus years in the property insurance business, and it has changed seemingly overnight. We all seem to think insurance companies are sitting around their offices on piles of cash. But the last five to 10 years have been challenging for property insurers. Skyrocketing repair costs, massive disasters, and minimal interest income have challenged the insurance industry. Borrowers have enjoyed the low interest rates of recent years, but imagine you are an insurance company with millions to invest and the going interest rate was 0.5 percent? That doesn’t exactly net a large return for the insurance company. Numerous companies are leaving the storage insurance market. That’s frightening to me.
Arrogance and expense of labor is not going away soon.

The American worker has no fear or accountability. If they don’t show up for work and get fired, how long will it take them to get a new job? Assuming they want one, probably a day or two. Why should they give two weeks’ notice? It’s not like they need a good reference to get their next job. Pay them more. How? Does that make a difference anyway?

I would assume that everyone understands the impact of team turnover. The energy spent recruiting, hiring, and training is enormous. As an employer, it forces us to look at alternative options. Technology such as kiosks can be a big part of replacing labor. Websites allow tenants to complete the rental process on their schedule instead of during our office hours. Call centers can answer the phone at all hours. And none of those options require an owner to schmooze a prospective employee.

<10 or >100.
Late in 2023, I was in a group listening to Scott Lewis, CEO of Spartan Investment Group. He made the statement that an owner should only think about self-managing if they own less than 10 facilities or more than 100. The statement caused me to really think about some of my beliefs. For the most part, I agree. There are some owners who have no interest in managing at all and that’s OK. For those who do, there are certainly some challenges as you grow. Managing multiple locations means developing a team, and we just talked about the challenges of labor right now.
Embracing new is more important than ever.
We can’t rely on Google to provide all the leads we need. Value pricing software and web platforms are the new normal. How is AI going to impact self-storage? Our company has gone away from calling leads and following up. 200 years ago, I would have been burned at the stake for heresy for making such a statement. Now, we have found that texting is a much better process for our tenants, and thus, our company. (And it reduces labor needs!)
Real estate taxes matter.

I recently looked at on-market properties in four states. I found the following data regarding real estate taxes and revenue:

  • California = 17 percent of projected gross revenue
  • Illinois = 15 percent of projected gross revenue
  • North Carolina = 7 percent of projected gross revenue
  • Mississippi = 7 percent of gross projected revenue

This was not a scientifically performed study, but it compared multiple similar properties in those states. Is the data 100 percent accurate? No. Is it indicative of the market in each state? Yes.

Given these numbers, why aren’t more investors looking at this when buying property? Maybe they are. Why would you buy in California or Illinois when an identical property in North Carolina or Mississippi has a significantly better return? I think this is becoming a conversation in some states, but politicians are addicted to spending. I don’t see changes being made to their tax structures. In the meantime, it’s one more significant factor to evaluate when looking to invest in self-storage.

Expense ratios >40 percent.

Not too long ago, it was our goal to keep spending at a mature facility to less than 35 percent. That is becoming much harder to do given today’s challenges. Many of those challenges have been listed here. Real estate taxes, property insurance, labor, and marketing all require more money than they did a few years ago. It’s also because self-storage has left its “simple” phase behind.

In the 1970s, a family was lucky to have one vacuum. Now the typical household has a house vacuum, a shop vac, a Roomba, and a hand-held battery vacuum. It’s no longer simple. Self-storage is similar. In the old days, there was one avenue for a tenant to rent. Now we must maintain an office, a kiosk, and a website so we can meet the tenant on their terms. Gates and security systems have become necessary at most locations. None of that is simple, and all of it increases the operating costs of a facility.

Many of these items are simple in nature and we learned them without trying, but some will challenge our way of thinking for years to come. 2023 wasn’t a great year, but it was certainly an experience. Maybe if we apply these lessons, 2024 will be less challenging.

Gary Edmunds bought his first storage property in 2001. Since then he has added 16 facilities to his portfolio. In 2020, he launched The Storage Manager, a third-party management company specializing in remote operations. With over 20 years of experience, he has extensive knowledge of the successes and challenges of running storage facilities. A retired State Farm agent, he understands the value of training and utilizing team members to provide the best return.
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Intricate Demand Dynamics
Cracking The Code Of Site Selection
By Garrett Byrd

s investors navigate the terrain of potential self-storage, they must decipher the complex interaction of self-storage supply, population dynamics, and pricing strategies to unlock the true potential of their ventures. In this comprehensive exploration, we dig into the pivotal role of square foot per capita (supply), population, and pricing in the quest for optimal self-storage site selection.

Square Foot Per Capita
One such metric that has long been central to the self-storage industry is the concept of “square foot per capita.” This metric, calculated by dividing the total square footage of self-storage facilities by the population of the respective area, provides insights into the supply and use of storage services. It offers investors a fundamental gauge of demand and market saturation within a given locality.

However, the reliance solely on square feet per capita has come under scrutiny in recent times. While undoubtedly important, this metric offers a somewhat limited perspective, failing to capture the intricate dynamics of the self-storage landscape. With advancements in technology and a deeper understanding of market intricacies, investors are now exploring more comprehensive evaluation methods. A market commanding higher rental rates and a strong population are becoming better indicators of self-storage success.

Gone are the days of lengthy manual calculations to determine square feet per capita. Innovative tools like StorTrack and Radius+ have revolutionized data acquisition, allowing investors to access crucial information on demand at their fingertips. Yet, while technology streamlines data collection, the art of site evaluation remains a multifaceted endeavor. I see a lot of experts use a range from 6 to 10 square feet per person. Until I look into details of a specific area, I use 8 square feet per person of the total square feet as equilibrium point.

Beyond the numerical confines of square foot per capita lies a range of qualitative assessments and comparative analyses. To truly gauge the potential of a location, investors must conduct comprehensive facility reviews, considering factors such as manager competency, facility location, class of facility, technology in use, overall appearance, and pricing strategies. It’s a universal approach that transcends numerical metrics, offering insights into the competitive landscape.

Understanding Population Dynamics
Population dynamics serve as the cornerstone of self-storage demand analysis, offering a detailed perspective on market potential and saturation levels. The concept of square feet per capita, though historically revered, presents a partial view of demand dynamics. While it measures the average storage space available per individual, it fails to capture the intricate interaction between supply and demand within a given locality.

By deciphering population density, growth trends, and demographic profiles, investors gain invaluable insights into the underlying demand dynamics, laying the groundwork for strategic site selection. The higher the population is in any given three-mile radius, the faster you will lease up, as the absorption rate increases with a denser population.

However, population analysis alone provides but a fraction of the equation. To truly detect market viability, investors must dig even deeper into pricing dynamics where the details shape investment outcomes.

A significant shift emerges with the exploration of rental rates within a specified radius. Unlike square foot per capita, which provides a generalized overview, rental rates offer a better understanding of market demand. Savvy developers and franchise owners, recognizing this paradigm shift, base their decisions on tangible drivers of success within specific locales.

Navigating Pricing Dynamics
Pricing dynamics stand at the heart of the self-storage industry, reflecting the delicate balance between supply, demand, and market competitiveness. The contradiction between web rates and in-store rents underscores the transient nature of pricing strategies, challenging investors to navigate a landscape loaded with complexities and uncertainties.

Web rates, often characterized as teaser rates, offer customers enticing initial offers that may not reflect the true cost of storage. Conversely, in-store rents provide a more accurate reflection of real-time market dynamics, guiding investors toward informed pricing decisions.

The evolution of innovative pricing models has further heightened the complexities of pricing dynamics, requiring a refined approach to revenue management. From unit occupancy to economic occupancy, investors must decipher a myriad of metrics to ascertain the financial health of a self-storage venture.

Unlike square foot per capita, which provides a generalized overview, rental rates offer a better understanding of market demand.
Within this landscape, reliable demand data assumes paramount importance. Step into the domain of self-storage data websites, which are a wealth of insights into the dynamics of the market. From existing facility information to population demographics, these platforms offer a gold mine of data to inform developers’ decisions.

Yet, utilizing self-storage data websites requires a discerning eye. While undeniably beneficial, these platforms serve as a starting point rather than a definitive source of truth as web rates become a moving target to measure. The burden lies on investors to corroborate data insights with on-the-ground assessments, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics.

Effective site selection does not hinge on any single metric but on a combined blend of numbers and insights. The equilibrium of supply and demand exceeds numerical thresholds, representing the essence of market dynamics. Therefore, investors need to approach site selection with keen insight and persistent diligence.

Bottom Line
The quest for the ideal self-storage location is a journey defined by the details and complexity. It has become an art and a science to find the right parcel to develop self-storage. While square foot per capita remains foundational, its limitations necessitate a broader evaluation framework. By understanding rental rates, conducting facility reviews, and leveraging data analytics, investors with the right team on their side can unlock the true potential of self-storage development. It’s a journey guided not by numerical absolutes but by the keen intuition and informed decision-making process of self-storage developers and the team they chose to guide them.

In the perfect utopia, you would want to develop your self-storage facility in an area with high average rental rates of $1.50-plus per square foot, a population of 30,000 or more in a three-mile radius, and limited competition. As the self-storage industry continues to evolve, effective site selection becomes increasingly critical. In an era characterized by technological innovation and shifting market dynamics, investors must adapt their approach to remain competitive. Through the understanding of metrics such as square foot per capita, population, and rental rates, coupled with diligent on-the-ground assessments, investors can identify prime locations and unlock the full potential of their self-storage investments. It’s a journey defined by having instrumental development guidance, adaptability, insight, and unwavering determination to succeed in an ever-evolving market landscape.

Garrett Byrd is the vice president at Storage Authority Franchise which is a leading provider of comprehensive solutions for self-storage development and operations. With a focus on excellence and profitability, we empower franchise owners to achieve elite status in the industry as an alternative to consultants and third-party management. Our proven systems, expert guidance, and unrivaled support help self-storage facilities thrive and surpass all expectations. If you are thinking about self-storage, you owe it to yourself to contact Garrett Byrd at (941) 928-1354 or to learn more about the Storage Authority Franchise opportunity.
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Cuts And Costs
Rate Expectations For 2024
By Jerry LaMartina

he self-storage market sentiment consensus holds that the interest rates roller coaster should take a slight dip late in the second quarter of 2024. That’s the word from Chris Sonne, executive vice president and specialty practice co-leader for self-storage for Newmark Valuation in its Irvine, Calif., office. Other self-storage experts agree that lower rates are up ahead.

Newmark surveys 50 key market players every quarter, Sonne says. Most of those recently surveyed expect the federal funds rate to decline in May or June, starting probably with a decrease of 25 basis points, or one-quarter of 1 percent.

The federal funds rate is the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight lending from cash reserves so borrowing banks can meet reserve requirements. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee issued a statement Jan. 31, 2024, saying it would maintain the fed funds rate’s target range at 5.25 percent to 5.5 percent. The FOMC also continues to seek maximum employment and 2 percent inflation over the longer term.

Rate Expectations For 2024
Neal Gussis, executive director of capital markets for SPMI Capital, Strat Property Management Inc.’s capital markets division, says he expects the Fed “will hold to its words” that it wants to ease and sustain inflation to a 2 percent year-over-year increase and that it expects to cut the fed funds rate three times in 2024. Cuts will affect the cost of loans based on the Wall Street prime, the secured overnight financing rate, and the Bloomberg short-term bank yield. These all move nearly parallel to the fed funds rate.

January’s core inflation rate, which excludes energy and food costs, remained at 3.9 percent, though the market had expected it to decrease, Gussis says. January’s new jobs report exceeded expectations. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent.

“It’s not hard to interpret that the economic indicators give little motivation for the Fed to lower rates during their next meeting or two,” says Gussis. “In terms of taking action to cut the fed funds rates, I do believe they will make efforts in the latter part of 2024 to keep their promises of three 0.25 percent cuts, or 0.75 percent, by year’s end. There are many industries, including the banking industry and real estate industry, that the inflated rates have greater impact upon.”

Gussis anticipates the yield inversion for the five-year to 10-year treasury curve will normalize slightly in 2024, putting the five-year yield lower than the 10-year yield. He predicts those rates will increase and decrease between 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent. Fixed-rate mortgages are typically based on the lender cost of funds and the relative risk of investment compared to U.S. treasuries. He expects most mortgage rates to be in the low 6 percent range to the mid-7 percent range.

Shawn Hill, principal with The BSC Group, based in Chicago, also expects rates to gradually decline throughout 2024. The Fed’s expected cuts to the fed funds rate should mean lower costs for variable-rate borrowers as the secured overnight financing rate and prime benchmark indexes both decrease.

“We also saw meaningful downward movement in the five- and 10-year treasury indexes in the fourth quarter, and credit spreads have also started to trend down,” Hill says. “All of this bodes well for not only self-storage but all commercial real estate borrowers if it plays out as expected. However, there is always the potential that something existential could disrupt the markets.”

The expected federal funds rate will have two aspects, according to Sonne. “Some people think the expectation is already baked into things,” he says. “But I think it’ll have a really strong effect, kind of psychologically the impact of the market momentum in general that things are on the right track, particularly if asking rates—what people are advertising on the internet—go back to a normal cadence. They’ve been so far below what existing rents are, and so everybody’s looking to March or April [for where asking rents will be and for the market’s response]. Are we going to have very low asking rents? Or are we going to have a return to normal? … If that happens, and we have lower interest rates, we’ve got a lot of good news for self-storage.”

Steve Libert, a co-founding principal of Chicago-based CCM Commercial Mortgage, says that if the Fed lowers its fed funds rate, then short-term rates should fall throughout 2024. The market expects the Fed to decrease short-term rates in June. He predicts the Fed might lower the rates by 1 percent with multiple rate cuts.

“We’re going to see a little bit of a drop this year compared to a major increase at breakneck speed,” says Libert. “When the pandemic hit, the Fed dropped the funds rate to almost zero. Then the pandemic fed inflation, caused by stimulus money and supply chain shortages. Toward the end of pandemic, the Fed took the funds rate from almost zero to 5.25 percent.”

When the pandemic brought record-low rates, self-storage owners were able to finance facilities for 3 percent to 4 percent, Libert says. He financed a couple of them just below 3 percent with 10-year money. He says that “was like catching lightning in a bottle.” Libert thinks some owners believe rates will return to that level sometime soon. But, barring a financial crisis or disruptive world event, he says rates won’t fall that low for self-storage owners “for a long time.”

The current rates range from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent to refinance or sell facilities that are mature and stabilized, but loans for construction financing are more expensive and harder to get because new facilities need time to lease up and generate cash flow to service their debt.

“Those rates seem high only because we’re looking in the rearview mirror at 3 and 4 percent rates,” Libert says. “And rates went up so quickly. They may come down into the 5s if we’re lucky.”

On the operating side of the equation, because self-storage’s condition is closely tied to the housing market, when that market improves, self-storage demand, rental rates, and occupancies will follow suit, Libert adds.

Rate-Rise Mitigation
Gussis notes that borrowers with variable-rate loans pay higher interest rates. They can mitigate that by converting to a fixed-rate loan, lowering their loan amount, looking into a swap instrument in the treasury management group of their bank, or trying to get a commercial mortgage-backed security loan. Borrowers should also look for prepayment flexibility to keep the cost of prepayment predictable and manageable if they try to refinance when rates are more attractive.

“As with almost anything in life, there is usually not a perfect loan that gives you the best of all terms, so borrowers need to choose what the rankings are of the loan terms that are of most importance,” says Gussis.

Hill says the best way to mitigate negative effects of interest rates is to “be strategic in your decision-making regarding the duration and structure of debt that is used to support your transactions.” Capitalization rates for storage have risen in the past year but remain lower than interest rates. Negative leverage can only last so long.

“If you are planning to buy or refinance a property, be conservatively certain in your debt underwriting to ensure that the leverage and upside in the deal [are strong],” says Hill.

Borrowers sometimes seek a six-month extension as opposed to a total refinancing, Sonne says. Some extensions require less paperwork and no appraisal. People will sometimes accept that with higher interest rates they’ll have negative cash flow for a year or two. This can make deals “work and flow,” though they have to put more money into the project.

Libert says buyers and sellers simply must adjust their expectations when interest rates rise.

Bearish Or Bullish?
Sonne, Gussis, Hill, and Libert all express optimism about self-storage’s prospects, even if interest rates stay high. The sector has proven its recession resistance more than any other class of commercial real estate.

Self-storage “has weathered many a storm, and barring some unforeseen black swan, I think the worst of this one is behind us,” Hill says.

Jerry LaMartina is a freelance reporter and editor based in Shawnee, Kansas.
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Make An Impact
Learn How To Give Back
By Alonna Ross
cardboard boxes filled with toys

ave you ever wondered how you can get more involved in your local community and be a part of giving back? Your self-storage facility is the perfect place to start!

Over my career in self-storage, I have worked with large and small operators on brainstorming ways to give back. One of my favorite and simpler ways to start is collecting donations at your facility. You can pick what you want to collect and who will receive it. How many times have you watched people move into your facility using blankets to cover some of their breakable items? Probably quite a few times. One great and easy option is to do a blanket drive that benefits your local animal shelter or homeless shelter as they are almost always in need. I would recommend doing a blanket drive in the late summer and early fall before the need for blankets is immediate; that gives you time to gather your donations.

Another popular option for gathering donations is a canned food drive at your location. Most of our leases clearly state that you are not to store food in your storage unit as this attracts rodents and insects. You can place a sign near your front desk that reminds tenants that food is not to be stored in their unit and can be placed in the donation box in your office. We see these donations come up a lot during the holidays, however people are in need of food all year long, so this is a wonderful way to give back and hopefully help prevent food from being stored in your storage units.

Not all acts of service need to be donation based though. Turn your volunteer activities into a team building experience …
How many times have you opened a storage unit and found mountains of papers, newspapers, or magazines? Another great way to give back to your community is to host a local shred-a-thon in partnership with a local paper shredding company. Helping your community can consist of going green and encouraging those in your community to recycle by giving them a place to do this. This not only helps the planet, but it also drives traffic to your storage facility—people who may not have known they had a storage facility so close by their home or office.

Not all acts of service need to be donation based though. Turn your volunteer activities into a team building experience and find a weekend to do a walk for your charity of choice. As humans, we are all a little competitive, so you can even challenge employees to a friendly competition. One of my favorite events to participate in every year is the Autism Speaks Walk. My youngest son is autistic, as am I, so this is a charity that is near and dear to our family. We participate in this walk every year and I have had many coworkers join in over the years. When we founded, and our team was able to select a charity of our choosing to support, I knew right away I was going to pick Autism Speaks. According to the Autism Speaks website, “The Autism Speaks Walk is the world’s largest autism fundraising event dedicated to supporting the needs of people with autism and their families throughout their life’s journey. The Autism Speaks Walk brings together people with autism and the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, relatives, and providers in a network of friendship and support. Funds raised help fuel innovative research, advocacy, and critical programs and services.”

Partnering with self-storage-specific charity organizations like StorageGives is also a wonderful way to give back on a broader scale. When self-storage operators are hosting their auctions on, they have the option to participate with StorageGives. The operator is then able to select the percentage from each of their online auctions to go to charity. The majority of operators who are using and donating to StorageGives are giving 10 percent of their winning bid to charity. We make this process as easy as possible for the operator from beginning to end. Once a unit is sold online, we charge the buyer’s credit card for the 10 percent StorageGives donation and 100 percent of what we collect goes directly to charity. The facility does not need to worry about cutting a check to the charity at the end of the auctions as it is all handled by the auction software. The operators can view their StorageGives dashboard to see how much each location was able to raise for charity that month and the impact they are making not only in their community but across the globe. When the StorageGives team was selecting charities to support, we looked into every single charity to make sure the majority of the money donated was going to the charity and not the administration of the charity as that was especially important to us.

a crowd people walking through a blow-up arch
When you are giving back, I highly recommend that you take photos of your team participating, your donation boxes in the office, and/or flyers showing you have an event taking place at your facility. These photos can be shared on your various social media platforms to help bring awareness to the cause you were supporting as well as telling others in your community how they can give back. Marketing 101 has shown us that people browsing our social media do not want to just see what move-in specials you have or what day your auctions are taking place. They want to see the smiling manager behind the counter, and they want to see your employees doing things like giving back to the community.

In the past couple of years, I have seen more and more companies offering VTO (volunteer time off) to their employees on a yearly basis. An employee will get 8 hours of paid time off to go volunteer in their community during business hours. These 8 hours can be broken up in most cases so they can do volunteering in shifts if needed. The employee will have a form filled out by the charity where they volunteered to provide proof of their volunteer hours to their employer. By offering VTO, this allows your employees to pick the specific charity they want to volunteer with and get paid for doing it.

No matter how small or big your individual efforts are when it comes to giving back to your community, know that we can all make a significant impact when working together to give back.

Alonna Ross is the business development manager of
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Self Storage Association Update graphic
The Taxman Cometh
By Joe Doherty

ne of the reoccurring issues for self-storage owners is the persistent threat of states and municipalities enacting new taxes or increasing existing taxes on their operations. As part of our advocacy efforts, the SSA attempts to defeat or reduce those tax burdens where possible. The SSA is currently working to resolve issues in Illinois and Nebraska and succeeded in defeating a new tax in Virginia.

For the past several years, the Illinois legislature has considered legislation to require income-producing property owners, including self-storage owners, to provide their local assessor with income and expense data to use during the initial valuation process. The primary supporter of this legislation is the Cook County Assessor’s Office. Although the business community has repeatedly defeated the legislation, it is back for consideration again this year.
Similar to Illinois, legislation to expand the sales tax base to include numerous “services” has been before the Nebraska legislature for many years. This year’s legislation is part of the governor’s plan to reduce property taxes in exchange for the highest statewide sales tax in the country. Self-storage is wrapped up in this year’s bill as part of a new tax on “storage services.” Of course, self-storage is not a service, but since when have the details mattered when the government wants more tax dollars? Several Nebraska operators and I testified in opposition to the bill, as did numerous other business owners and citizens. As of this writing, we are awaiting further action from the legislature.
money laying on a stack of tax return paperwork
The Virginia legislature also proposed a sales tax on self-storage rentals this year. Fortunately, it died a quicker death than the Nebraska sales tax proposal. The national SSA and Virginia SSA worked collaboratively to defeat this bill.
Taxes, particularly at the city or county level, often appear without notice. If you hear of a new tax under consideration that affects self-storage, please let me know ( Generally, it is easier to be proactive and defeat those bills before they become law. Once a tax is “on the books,” the task to remove that revenue from the coffers is much more difficult. If you are looking for additional resources on taxes affecting self-storage, I encourage you to review the Legal Resource Center at
Joe Doherty is senior vice president, Chief Legal & Legislative Officer of the Self Storage Association (SSA).
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The Last Word
man in a suit jacket, light blue collared shirt, denim blue jeans, and black shoes
Snail’s Pace Of Acceptance
By Kelly Gallacher, co-founder of Gallacher Development LLC

n the year 2000, a not so well-known revenue option came to the forefront of the self-storage industry: “tenant insurance.” Public Storage had been marketing to their tenants an insurance policy for the items stored within their units. This was met with skepticism by most of the industry as a “fad” that wouldn’t last, yet some visionaries saw the potential.

It took approximately 10 years before tenant insurance became an accepted enhancement benefiting both owners and tenants. Many operators were slow to adopt the program for fear of losing occupancy. Things began to change when accumulated data proved acceptance of the tenant insurance had not decreased occupancy. Tenant insurance was sold as a protection to the customer. With time and additional data, appraisers and banks began accepting tenant insurance as a revenue source that allowed it to be capitalized based on percentage of penetration. Today, tenant insurance is widely accepted and neglecting to provide tenant insurance is seen as a sign of an uninformed owner/operator.

Storage Express pioneered the “unmanned” facility years ago; their concept intrigued most of the industry, yet once again acceptance was suspect.

Approximately three-plus years ago, I received a phone call about an interesting company called StoreEase. It was recommended that I talk with Josh Boyd, CEO, and decide whether the concept had merit. I visited StoreEase’s Birmingham headquarters in 2020. When I first walked into the StoreEase facility, I was warmly greeted by a virtual manager. The experience changed the way I looked at the unmanned model.

While developing an 85,000-square-foot facility in the Salt Lake City area, we jumped all in and incorporated StoreEase from the beginning, including the office design, security, and operational functions. Even though this was a brand-new development and would be managed without a manager on site, having seen StoreEase’s operating facilities and the excellence of their virtual managers, we concluded it was worth the risk. Being a Janus loyalist and knowing that StoreEase had a relationship with Nokē, we confidently pressed forward.

We’ve been open for 14 months and are over 40 percent leased. I’ve spoken with over 40 tenants about their experience, and each was pleased with the simplicity and professionalism of the process. We have all five-star reviews for our property; tenants love the virtual “two-minute move-in.” I endorse this management format for these and additional reasons. Others might suggest concerns, including facility size or demographics, but I believe they’ll eventually see the benefits and this concept will continue to gain acceptance. I just hope it doesn’t take 10 years!

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