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You found a Potential Self-Storage Conversion. Now what?

By Drew Case

Storage Authority Franchise

You have been searching for a building to convert to self-storage and you finally found one. Now, what do you look at to ensure you aren't signing up for an expense that goes way beyond your budget. Not every conversion needs to be the former big box that closed a few months ago. The search for these sites is very similar to searching for bare land, but how usable is the building and what will it cost to make it usable? Here are some aspects I have personally reviewed when looking at self- storage conversions to determine what might be hiding behind that door.

1.) The roof will vary in cost, based upon the type and size of the roof. Is it a built-up asphalt roof, TPO material, rubber roof, metal or shingle. It can be any of these roof styles and repairing or replacing will vary in cost. I suggest having an experienced and trustworthy roofer in your contact list. Bids will often vary between roofers in my experience. Many roofs can be patched or repaired and buy yourself time until replacing is the only option. Patch the roof, get the facility occupied and select your opportune time to replace. If you can afford to replace the roof immediately, doing so may be the best option as roofing costs always seem to rise. When touring the building, preferably when it is raining, look for stained ceiling tiles or dry circles on the floor from prior rain. If possible, gain roof access or bring a drone and take photos.

2.) Depending on the age or use of the building, check for the sprinkler system. Wet systems mean there is water in the pipe at all times. These buildings will require some heating so the pipes never freeze and burst. Dry systems have no water standing in the pipes, but will fill if the system is tripped. Check the systems last inspection date on the tag. This is often found on the system in the riser room. If the last inspection is more recent, the better off you are. You can also look at the sprinkler pipes for stains or band clamp patches to see if more problems potentially exist. If no sprinkler system is present, you may need to install the entire system from the main supply to the street. Check with the local Fire Inspector as needed.

3.) Floor ratings must meet standards for building self storage. Often, office buildings do not meet these standards You will need a core sample and have it pressure test to determine if you can support self storage. This is also required if your hopes are to utilize tall ceilings to build a second floor inside the building to double your square foot available. If the building is multi-level and has elevators, consider the size and weight rating of the elevators to determine of they are usable. Replacing and installing elevators is a six figure endeavor!!

4.) HVAC systems can be pricey. Are they intact and do they function? You may not get the chance to test them, however you should ensure the units have not been stripped of their parts for scrappers. Intact units may need repairs, but much less costly than complete replacement.

5.) Electrical boxes and main power. Primarily, just make sure they are existing and not stripped of their copper wiring. I recall looking at a grocery store and then two weeks later I returned to look one more time, but the entire store was stripped of its HVAC units and all wiring by scrappers. This compromised the deal. Have an electrician evaluate the system.

6.) Paving condition and lot drainage. Alligatored asphalt paving van be milled and paved over with a new layer. You can do paving in phases and just repair the bad sections, but consider paving in your expenses when you negotiate. Concrete is more expensive. Inspect the standard catch basin drains to ensure they are not collapsed. The lot may be sloped and have natural run-off, but again, the best time to review drainage is when its is raining.

7.) Building condition is important if its block or brick. This could require tuck work to get the building sealed up properly and reduce future issues. Inspect for brick spalling from excessive moisture. A mason can replace damaged bricks or blocks as needed and ad a breathable sealant to reduce issues in the future. Along with building condition, look at any needed demo work needed to clear out the structure to build your units. Usually, local laborers can handle demo work affordably.

8.) Zoning is always a factor. Always review zoning of your selected site. Most cities will have zoning maps on their website. If not, you can call the city or ask them for copies of their maps. Often, the city will give you an idea if self-storage is permitted in the area or if zoning or they are against the idea altogether. If the site requires a zone change, PUD, or variance, expect to have the expense of a renderings, engineer and architect drawings and several visits to city council to attain approval and that is not guaranteed.

Personally, I have completed about 20 conversions for self storage. Other than a few big boxes, each one was a little different. Using these tips can get you good start on what to expect when you are reviewing your self-storage conversion. Just keep your eye open as you walk the site and have fun touring some interesting sites!!

Storage Authority's guidance in self-storage development underscores the intricate balance between meeting storage demands and environmental sustainability. By aligning with Storage Authority's principles and leveraging our team's expertise, along with your engineer, architect, and general contractor we can navigate the complexities of impervious coverage with confidence, ensuring the creation of self-storage facilities that are both economically viable and environmentally responsible.

Storage Authority Franchising is all about owning your own local self-storage business, supported by professional systems and expertise. We like to say, "You're in business for yourself but not by yourself." If self-storage is on your mind, don't hesitate to reach out to Drew Case at Direct: 513-582-0125 or to learn more about the Storage Authority Franchise opportunity. Your self-storage journey awaits!

If you would like to learn more and start your journey to self-storage ownership click the link here:


Your success story begins with Storage Authority!


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