Self-storage broker Cameron Vale is helping a multibillion-dollar conglomerate gain ground in the storage industry.
Vale recently joined the newly formed Berkshire Hathaway Storage Group as senior vice president. The Greenville, SC-based group is affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment juggernaut led by billionaire Warren Buffett. The group represents Berkshire Hathaway’s entry into self-storage real estate.
Vale most recently was senior vice president of Tampa, FL-based self-storage brokerage firm SkyView Advisors. He worked at SkyView for nearly three years.
“Cameron has a track record of success and an impeccable industry reputation. He is a top broker in our field, and we are proud to have him join our team,” said Parker Sweet, founder and president of Berkshire Hathaway Storage Group.
Vale, an Air Force veteran who lives in his hometown of Tampa, discussed his new role at Berkshire Hathaway Storage Group and his take on the self-storage sector in a Q&A with the SpareFoot Storage Beat.
This Q&A has been edited for style and clarity.
SpareFoot Storage Beat: What made you decide to join Berkshire Hathaway Storage Group?
Cameron Vale: The group’s president, Parker Sweet, and I have worked together for years. We started in this industry at the same time, at the same company, and have remained close friends. We had discussed the possibility of working together for quite some time. I saw it as an opportunity to join a fast-growing team with a strong brand and an exceptional reputation. Overall, it was the team approach and culture of the organization that really inspired me to join the firm.
SpareFoot Storage Beat: Some folks might be surprised to learn that Berkshire Hathaway now has a self-storage group. What’s the motivation behind Berkshire Hathaway getting into the self-storage sector?
Cameron Vale: Berkshire Hathaway has long been a household name for residential real estate, but back in 2012, they made a decision to enter the commercial space. Since then, Berkshire Hathaway commercial offices have been popping up in cities across the U.S.
Our group is based in Greenville, SC, and we are growing like wildfire. Parker Sweet has grown the company from two employees to 10 in the past six months alone. We are actively looking to hire new storage brokers as we extend our reach from coast to coast.
SpareFoot Storage Beat: Tell us about your goals and strategies. What kinds of opportunities are you looking for? Which geographic areas are most attractive to you?
Cameron Vale: Our goal is to continue to excel locally, regionally and then nationally. At this time, we have the capabilities and relationships to provide services nationwide. We are getting our name out there.
Generally, we are seeking individual opportunities with a minimum of 25,000 net rentable square feet all the way up to large multistate portfolios. The sector is still under intense consolidation from REITs, private equity firms and regional operators looking to capitalize on economies of scale.
SpareFoot Storage Beat: What’s it like to try to close deals during the coronavirus pandemic and the recession? What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Cameron Vale: The sector continues to feel strong operational pressure from new properties coming online and existing lease-up properties struggling to push rates and occupancy. These concerns were already at the forefront of every transaction prior to COVID-19. With self-storage remaining open throughout the pandemic, the sector has performed better than most other asset classes. Most operators have reported decreased rental activity across the board. In times of crisis, the sector has historically done well.
On the transactional side, the biggest question is: Will things continue to pick up in the lending market? Banks are under intense pressure to service existing borrowers and PPP loans, so they are slow to acquire new business from customers without a strong balance sheet and a pre-existing relationship. Most transactions have seen longer timeframes.
SpareFoot Storage Beat: What’s your sense of where the self-storage market is headed the rest of this year and in 2021?
Cameron Vale: It is no secret that for the last three to five years, there has been a wealth of new and aggressive capital chasing self-storage acquisitions across the country. The money that was earmarked for self-storage is still very much there. Many national players are still reviewing opportunities with cautious optimism.
As operators quantify their existing operational impacts, no one wants to do a bad buy. There have been numerous occasions where groups have walked away from deals because of risk exposure, financing difficulties and flat-out uncertainty in the market. This creates opportunities for groups that can execute and close deals.