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Self Storage Insight Blog

TOP 5 Self Storage Questions w/ Ritchey Johnston

Managing a self-storage facility can be a demanding yet rewarding business. In a recent interview, Ritchey Johnston, owner of Best Rate Rentals, shared his experiences and strategies in efficiently running multiple storage locations. From managing unit turnover to effective marketing, Ritchey provides valuable insights for anyone looking to succeed in the self-storage industry.


How Do You Manage Your Facility?

Ritchey Johnston operates multiple storage facilities as an off-site manager. He doesn't employ on-site staff, instead handling customer inquiries and arrangements personally. Customers typically contact him to inquire about available units and pricing. If they decide to rent a unit, Ritchey schedules a meeting to finalize the lease and collect the first month's rent. This approach has worked well for him so far, although he anticipates the need for a full-time manager as his business grows.

How Many Locations Do You Own?

Currently, Ritchey owns and manages five self-storage facilities located in Altoona, Duncanville, Lakemont, East Freedom, and Saxton. Balancing operations across these sites requires meticulous organization and a proactive management style.

How Do You Manage Unit Turnover, Like Move Outs?

Ritchey has streamlined the move-out process by clearly communicating expectations during the lease signing. Tenants are required to give five days' notice before moving out and to send a text message confirming their move-out date. They must also send a photo of the emptied unit to ensure it is clean and ready for the next tenant. This system helps Ritchey maintain smooth transitions between tenants without the need for a security deposit.

How Do You Handle Maintenance Inquiries from Your Tenants?

One advantage of managing self-storage facilities is the minimal maintenance required. Issues are rare, usually limited to tasks like cutting off locks for tenants who lose their keys or snowplowing in the winter. This low-maintenance nature allows Ritchey to focus on other aspects of his business without frequent interruptions.

What Advice Would You Give to Other Businesses Looking to Expand?

Ritchey's primary advice for businesses looking to expand is to thoroughly understand local regulations and zoning laws. Each municipality has different rules that can significantly impact the feasibility of a new site. Engaging with local authorities and engineers early in the process can help avoid costly surprises related to zoning and infrastructure requirements, such as stormwater management systems.

Do You Charge Late Fees, and If So, How Often?

Ritchey enforces a late fee policy allowed by Pennsylvania law, which permits a $20 late fee. He offers a one-month grace period for first-time late payments but strictly enforces the fee thereafter. Approximately 15-20% of his tenants incur late fees, which helps mitigate the impact of late payments on his cash flow.

How Often Do You Have to Auction Units for Non-Payment?

Auctioning units for non-payment is a rare and last-resort measure for Ritchey, occurring only a few times a year. He prefers to work with tenants facing financial difficulties, offering them extra time or negotiating to vacate the unit without an auction. This approach can be more cost-effective than the auction process, which involves additional expenses and risks.

What Has Been Your Most Effective Way to Fill Units?

Google listings have been Ritchey's most effective marketing tool. Ensuring his facilities are well-listed and reviewed on Google drives most of his business. He prioritizes building an online presence to attract customers searching for "self-storage near me," which has proven to be more effective than other advertising methods.

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