Last month, W. P. Carey Inc. announced it hired industry veteran Brian Boulter as its new director of Self-Storage.

W. P. Carey ranked as the 8th largest owner/operator of self-storage assets in the United States, according to Inside Self-Storage.

Boulter will be responsible for overseeing the management of the firm’s existing self-storage portfolio, which is made up of facilities owned by one of two of the company’s non-traded managed REITs.

Prior to joining W. P. Carey, Boulter served as vice president of business development at Wasatch Storage Partners LLC; director of real estate acquisitions at Extra Space Storage Inc.; and senior asset/property manager at Westfield Properties Inc. in Salt Lake City.

The Storage Beat caught up with Boulter to talk about some of the key trends impacting self-storage operations and his plans to hit the ground running at W.P Carey.

Brian Boulter, W.P. Carey's new director of self-storage.
Brian Boulter, W.P. Carey’s new director of self-storage.

What is the current size of W. P. Carey’s self-storage portfolio?

Our managed non-traded REITS, CPA®:17 – Global and CPA®:18 – Global, own 106 self-storage operating properties.

I realize it is still early days for you in your new position, but do you have any specific goals or areas of the business that you plan to focus on improving?

My focus is largely on overseeing the management of our existing self-storage portfolio on behalf of W. P. Carey’s managed non-traded REITs. Working closely with our third-party property management teams, I will continue to look for new ways to efficiently manage our self-storage portfolio, while maintaining occupancy levels and enhancing the long-term performance and value of our self-storage assets. I will also be focused on identifying value-add opportunities and implementing those strategies.

As it relates to self-storage management in general, or W.P. Carey specifically, what do you think are some of the biggest opportunities to improve management and operating efficiencies?

Continuing to build strong relationships with trusted third-party property managers is critical to improving overall management and operating efficiencies. W. P. Carey has been working with industry-leading, self-storage REITs to manage our storage assets across the U.S. for over a decade. Our partners are leaders in the storage industry, equipped with sophisticated data and reporting capabilities that provide us with real-time sector insights to inform our ongoing operating decisions.

How do you think technology is changing the business for self-storage operations?

Without a doubt, technology has forever changed the way we look at revenue management. In today’s market, potential tenants are hypersensitive to rates, promotions and discounts. We rely on our third-party management partners to monitor trends within each submarket and to act accordingly. Technology has also changed marketing, which is now so reliant upon data.

As one of the largest owners of self-storage in the U.S., W. P. Carey is able to collect our own data, as well as collaborate with our management partners, which will help us to better attract potential tenants. I would also add that with the use of sophisticated reporting technologies, we are not only able to identify opportunities for operational synergies, but also to best execute on these opportunities to create value for our tenants.

What are some of the biggest challenges self-storage operators face in today’s market, and how are operators addressing those challenges?

While it’s beneficial to have the in-depth data and reporting capabilities provided by our third-party managers, this information is only as helpful as it is used. In order to successfully leverage this greater understanding of what’s happening in the larger self-storage sector and the local markets, owners must have the proper reporting systems and management teams in place.

Is the increased competition due to new construction in many metros putting more pressure on the operations side of the business?

Yes, today’s self-storage environment remains competitive, thereby increasing the importance of access to real-time data through third-party managers on the self-storage industry and local markets. This information will allow us to continue fine-tuning our operations and to remain competitive.

Last year, through its managed non-traded REITs, W. P. Carey completed self-storage transactions totaling approximately $385 million. Can you shed any light on the company’s strategy for self-storage acquisitions/dispositions in 2017?

We do not have any specific examples or stats yet, but essentially our self-storage strategy continues to focus on finding opportunities for growth, revenue enhancement and bottom-line improvements to maximize the long-term value of our self-storage portfolio.

Beth Matson-Teig