Launching a new self-storage brokerage: Q&A with Cameron Vale

Al Harris
Published July 6, 2023

A self-storage brokerage team has parted ways with a national real estate firm to launch a new company.

After three years as part of Berkshire Hathaway Commercial, Cameron Vale said the time felt right for the group to go out on their own. Vale is the founder and president of the newly launched Oakside Companies.

“It is a combination of believing in ourselves and a business decision,” Vale said. “We were running into some limitations with branding and marketing. We know the Berkshire name carries a lot of weight, but we feel like we can provide more value to our clients as an independent brokerage.”

Vale, along with Parker Sweet, launched Berkshire’s self-storage division in June 2020. Prior to that, Both previously worked together at a national self storage brokerage and bring that experience with them in addition to the Berkshire team. Oakside Companies is based in Tampa, FL and Greenville, SC.

Also joining Oakside is Eric Jones, an Atlanta-based broker previously affiliated with Marcus & Millichap. That addition brings the new firm’s headcount to nine employees.

“We feel like we have a great team of industry veterans that embody the traits, qualities, and skillset to execute in this space,” Vale said.

Not only are they self-storage veterans, but Vale points out that nearly half of the team are actual military veterans—including Vale himself. Vale served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force working in cyber operations before embarking on his real estate career.

“We’re also hungrier, because you have to be. All those things made us feel like this is a smart move,” Vale added.

As Oakside kicks off its business, the Storage Beat asked Vale more about their decision to hang out their own shingle and his overall view of current industry trends.

Where are you operating, is there a regional focus?

Cameron Vale: “We have a strong track record and presence along the entire East Coast, but we are national. We go coast to coast. It’s no secret self-storage typically trades with a national buyer pool. This past year we had our first California opportunity that sold to a 1031 buyer above list price which closed in 30 days. We will continue to create brand and team awareness across the country.”

Why make this move now?

“From a culture stand point, the team felt strong about that it was the right move. We pride ourselves on our culture and team approach where you do not feel like you are working in a factory. It is still competitive of course, because our space is competitive. But when you take pride in your team and respect each other, you get better service from them and they provide better service for the clients.”

“We are not the biggest group nor do we want to be. Sometimes you can get too big where you lose focus on providing top tier service. We would rather be highly effective and efficient and provide a strategic tailored approach rather than just taking on every client.”

What does the summer look like for self-storage investment sales?

“I’d say on the transaction side, volume is absolutely down. But it has a lot more room to pick up than it does to go down further.  There are still clients that have life events happening to them that makes them want to sell. The question for them is: ‘How close can I get to what I thought I could get a year and half ago?’

“A lot of our recent deals it comes down to one or two groups in a unique situation. On the other side, you need a seller who has a clear motivation other than price. Also, because of the debt market both sides are more open to creative/structured deals.”

What are you seeing on the buyer side?

“The capital is still very much there to acquire self-storage properties. Over the last few months many groups have been reloading their equity buckets and recapitalizing to get ready for what is going to come—a change in the market when more buying opportunities become available.”

“Some groups have to go back to their investors and re-strategize since we are in a different environment than 18 months ago or even six months ago. All the buyers chasing storage really believe, its not going anywhere. Its a resilient asset class and they still want to own it long term.”

“Among individual investors storage is gaining notoriety. Deal flow is even making it to social media sites, multiple groups with members looking to get into the space or just ask questions. These groups have thousands of members with one pushing 20,000 members. These are typically smaller opportunities, but it shows you really have to look everywhere.”

Any other trends that that you’ve noted recently?

“I will say the operational advantage for institutional operators is widening. We would describe the last three years in our space as a period of exponential consolidation. Look at the data and see how much volume traded in last three years. The years 2020 through 2022 far surpasses anything we have seen prior.”

“Now that interest rates increased talks of recession linger, that party is over. Properties are still getting absorbed and consolidated, but not at the same rate. As the institutional operators take over more market share, they can improve revenue management, marketing, overall operations, and achieve other economies of scale. With more of these institutional sites already consolidated it further widens the gap between institutional operations and local mom and pop making it even harder for them to keep up.”

Al Harris

Alexander Harris is a reporter covering the business of self-storage. He obtained his degree in journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University. He loves reading Elmore Leonard novels and listening to classic country music. You can call him Al.

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