Promote property curb appeal

When it comes to self-storage "curb appeal," the further away you get from the stereotypical concrete jungle image, the better. While some tenants could seemingly care less about the aesthetic appeal of their self-storage facility, few would argue that beautiful beats out unsightly any day.

However, much like the concept of landscaping or remodeling a home, discussion of sprucing up a self-storage facility generally conjures images of mounting dollar signs. While that certainly can be an issue, there are more economical ways than ever to improve property eye appeal.

Rachel Adams of Inside Self-Storage correlates upgrades to upticks in revenue brought about by downsizing delinquencies. She notes in an article published in May, "Three quarters of the tenants at U-Securit Self Storage in Conyers, Ga., were in delinquent status before the facility underwent a renovation in 2007. At that time, the office only had standing room for two people. Additional customers had to wait outside, and often left the facility in lieu of waiting in the elements to sign a lease. The owner invested in a remodel, converting three existing units into a 400-square-foot office and adding a new facility facade. Afterward, delinquency dropped to 8 percent. The approximate $35,000 invested was recouped in only 24 months. Business went from dismal to booming."

Adams elaborates, "To determine whether a facility is renovation-ready, operators should consider their business from their customers' viewpoint, says Sharon Pallas, who was the area manager of U-Securit during its renovation. 'If you have a small area and you want to sell boxes for the extra income or you need to up your services, then renovation is the answer. Sometimes it's just a coat of paint, new flower beds or a little curb service,' says Pallas, who's currently the training and special events coordinator for Universal Storage Group, a provider of third-party management services."

She adds, "Regardless, the end goal is the same-to stay competitive and increase performance. Some common refurbishments include adding air-conditioned units, revamping a facade, repairing or replacing doors or roofing systems, adding or improving landscaping, and office TLC. Depending on the amount of work required, the process can be a large and extensive undertaking or simple minor updates and repairs."

Okay, your delinquencies are up, the look of your facility is heading down, and you need to do a quick fix that won't break your bank. What can you do rapidly that won't require a lot of money or bureaucracy to complete?

1. Declutter. Look around the property, and where feasible, clean up and organize areas that look junky. This may include the office. Hire a couple of high school or college kids to trash the big stuff. If an area chiefly needs organizing to tidy it up, do a bit of shopping at the Container Store or IKEA and browse the web for tips about such organizational matters. Get a bit creative and you'll likely find a solution that's appropriate to the task at hand.

2. Beautify. Even if the property is essentially a concrete and metal jungle, there are still many low-cost ways to enhance the look and feel. Just get a bit creative and turn loose the hunter/gatherer within you (or someone else in your employ or sphere of friends/family to do the deed).

Here are three starter suggestions:

-Add a couple of raised garden beds. Buy eight-foot landscape timbers at Home Depot or a comparable store and build your own in an afternoon with some spikes and a drill (to start the hole). Inter-lace the timbers so each holds in the other, then place spikes on the corners. (I did this, both in a square and triangle shape. Other than some labor, the whole job was cheap, quick and satisfying.) Or, just buy ready-made ones, also available at Home Depot-type stores. Get some dirt and colorful plants/flowers and you're ready to roll-even if you have to landscape on an asphalt surface. (Just make sure there's some depth beneath your plants.)

-Gussy up the gateway area. Make the first impression a pleasant one. From economical yard art and statuary to container plants and flowers, and even portable fountains, you can create a welcoming entrance environment-again with a bit of creativity and the willingness to explore. Costco, IKEA, Big Lots, Tuesday Morning, et al have a variety of affordable decorating items.

-Paint, paint, paint. And, of course, a fresh coat of paint in strategic areas often does wonders to enliven drab and/or dirty surroundings. There are plenty of options at the big box hardware/do-it-yourself stores to create computer images of possible designs-if you want to get artsy. Otherwise, just get painting.

3. Amplify ambiance. I have a friend who purchased a three-foot "water feature" for her patio (few hundred bucks if that). It's one of those that creates the trickle down effect of water over rocks. The sound and serenity it creates can chill out even the most anxious tenant or prospect. Consider buying something comparable for the office. It may prove a calming influence on even the most stressful days.

Or, get an Otis Spunkmeyer oven and delight visitors with the aroma of freshly-baked cookies or other specialty food delights. Aromatherapy is a proven stress-relief tool. Combine good smells with good taste.

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