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10 real-estate Traps for self storage developers

by: Kevin Harless

Developing a self-storage facility starts with a crucial step: buying the right piece of land. Buyer beware though of the Top 10 real-estate traps that can derail your self-storage project before it ever begins.

1.Zoning Traps- Zoning laws can stop you in your tracks. Before purchasing land, ensure it is zoned for self-storage specifically. Rezoning land will lead to a time-consuming process with no guarantee of success, potentially halting your project entirely.

2. Environmental Quagmires - Environmental issues can create substantial delays and added costs. Conduct a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to identify any potential contamination or environmental hazards. If issues are found, a more detailed Phase II ESA may be required, which could uncover problems requiring costly remediation efforts.

3. The Title Ambush- A clear title is crucial when acquiring land. Any liens, easements, or disputed ownership claims can complicate or even nullify the sale. Conduct a thorough title search to uncover any encumbrances that could affect your ability to develop the property. Resolving title issues can be time-consuming and expensive.

4. Access and Visibility Pitfalls- The success of a self-storage facility often hinges on its location. Properties with poor access or low visibility can struggle to attract customers. Ensure the land is easily accessible from major roads and highways and is visible to potential customers. Poor site access can severely impact your facility’s occupancy rates and revenue.

5. Infrastructure and Utilities Snags-. Ensure the land has access to essential utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage systems. If these utilities are not readily available, the cost and effort to extend them to the site can be prohibitive.

6.Topography Trammels- Uneven or sloped terrain can complicate construction and increase costs. Additionally, drainage and erosion control become critical concerns on sloped sites, requiring careful engineering and planning. Poor topography can increase construction costs making some projects untenable.

7. Easement Entanglements- An easement grants a third party the right to use a portion of your land for a specific purpose, such as utilities, access roads, or pipelines. Easements restrict where you can build and what you can do on the property. Always perform a detailed title search to identify any existing easements and understand their implications on your project.

8. Market Melee- Conduct thorough market research to ensure there is sufficient demand for a new self-storage facility. Overlooking this step can lead to investing in a location where the market is already saturated, reducing your chances of success.

9. Legal Land Mines- Compliance with building codes, health and safety standards, and accessibility requirements is essential. Failing to adhere to these regulations can result in fines, legal disputes, and operational shutdowns. Consult with legal experts to ensure all aspects of your project meet the required standards.

10. Community Opposition - Local residents and businesses may oppose your development due to concerns about increased traffic, noise, or changes in the neighborhood's character. Failing to engage and get the support of the community during early planning can result in public hearings, delays, and potential project cancellation.

Acquiring land for a self-storage project is like navigating a jungle full of booby-traps. Step carefully, know your terrain, and you will be the master of your domain. Go haphazardly and without care and diligence and you will surely spring a trap that may cost you your investment.

Kevin Harless is Development Director with Storage Authority Franchise, he is a resident of Dallas, Texas where he has spent the last fifteen years of his career in self-storage construction, management, and acquisition. Contact Kevin at or on Linkedin at, or read more of Kevin’s articles and blogs at


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