There is a ton of bad information out there on the self-storage or mini-storage industry. Contrary to what you may read, there is virtually no money in building new facilities or buying them at a 7% cap rate. If you really want to make money in self-storage, you have to put in significantly more work, and follow a different game plan entirely. Buying an established facility with good occupancy at market rents will not lead to great riches ' only endless concern over making the note payment. The way to success is much more basic.
Buy low and sell high
Few people make a fortune owning self-storage facilities. They make their money selling them. To make money buying and selling self-storage facilities, you have to understand how to buy at the cheapest possible price and how to sell at the highest possible one. And it's not a whole lot different than other forms of commercial real estate. But it's shrouded in more bad information than most.
A lot of people got spoiled
During the 1970s and 1980s and even 1990s, you could not build a self-storage facility and go wrong. The industry was in its infancy, and the demand outstripped the supply in almost every market in the U.S. As a result, the 'build it and they will come' approach seemed to be 100% accurate at all times. Financing to build was easy to attain, and the facilities just started popping up everywhere ' in big cities and rural markets alike.
The reality of today
Supply and demand have now met, although in some markets supply still overshadows demand. Gone are the days of success being rewarded on poor strategy or execution. Some markets have significant vacancy and rents are stagnant. The good news is that the buildings are easy to maintain and the business model is simple and easy to understand. Plus, the typical customer is relatively stable and seems happy with the relationship.
How to buy them cheap
You need to buy self-storage facilities that are either poorly managed or in distress, such as foreclosure. A stabilized property that is professionally managed has no upside. You want a property where you can increase revenue through higher rents and increased occupancy, and decrease costs through renegotiating all the bills and proactively finding ways to cut costs.
The good news is that there has never been a better time to buy these facilities, as the current economic depression, coupled with the collapse of real estate financing has made these opportunites more abundant.
How to sell them high
Selling a self-storage facility at a good price is made possible today through the internet. Sites such as selfstorages.com and Loopnet.com have opened up the sea of investors to this asset class in a big way. You can reach one hundred times more buyers through internet postings in one month than in an entire career before. Sales is a volume business, and the volume is on your side.
Of course, to get a property sold, it must be reasonably priced. That's why it's essential that you buy them really, really cheap on the front end.
You can make big money in self-storage, but only it you are a very smart buyer and seller. People who pursue average deals will only, best case, achieve average returns, which are less than spectacular. You must seek out deals that are dramatically underpriced and turn them around if you want to really take advantage of this niche.