Where Innovation and Experience Meet


Growth in Des Moines metro accounts for half of Iowa’s recent population increase

The booming Des Moines suburbs account for half of Iowa’s total population increase since 2010, according to newly published 2019 population estimates from the State Data Center.

Waukee is the state’s fastest-growing city of more than 20,000 people. The expanding western suburb grew by more than 74% since 2010 and is nearing 25,000 residents.

Ankeny grew by nearly 48%, attracting nearly 22,000 new residents since 2010. And with a current population of 67,355, it’s close to overtaking West Des Moines (67,899) to become the metro’s largest suburb.

The Des Moines Register reported in January both Waukee and Ankeny set new records in 2019 for the value of building permits issued.

Construction continues on Waukee's new high school, Northwest, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 in Waukee. The school is slated to open in the fall of 2021

Construction continues on Waukee’s new high school, Northwest, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 in Waukee. The school is slated to open in the fall of 2021 (Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)

According to the new population estimates, the next fastest-growing cities with at least 20,000 people were Johnston and West Des Moines. Johnston grew nearly 31% (up to 22,582) and West Des Moines grew by 20% from 2010 to 2019.

Some smaller central Iowa cities are also experiencing massive growth. Two of them, Bondurant and Grimes, were among the fastest-growing cities of any size. Each grew by about 80% since 2010. Grimes now has a population of 14,804, and Bondurant‘s is 6,958.

Panorama Park — population 319 — takes the crown as Iowa’s fastest-growing. The tiny Scott County town, which is completely surrounded by Bettendorf, grew 147%. 


This story was written for the Des Moines Register by Shelby Fleig.

WHEN IT COMES TO REAL estate investing, profits and losses track to market cycles.

Many residential real estate investors shy away from dealing with tenants and maintenance. As a result, they’re seeking other real estate asset classes to invest in.

After more than a decade of flipping single-family homes, licensed Realtor and general contractor Scott Mednick is looking at an alternative asset class that is less hands-on but still has high profit potential: self-storage facilities.

“I’m looking for something that in a bad economy does great, and in a good economy does great,” says the broker-owner of Marblehead Real Estate Partners in San Clemente, California.

“The bottom line is that if we go into a bad housing market, people have to put their stuff somewhere,” says Mednick, who is also president of the Orange County Real Estate Forum investors club. “When the economy is good and people buy too much stuff they have to put it in storage. You’re winning as the market goes down, and winning as the market goes up.”

By the numbers. The Self Storage Association estimates there are about 49,000 primary self-storage facilities, totaling 2.6 billion square feet of storage space and generating approximately $32 billion in revenue annually.

The association estimates the national average for units per facility is about 540 units, and that facilities nationwide are about 90 percent occupied. The percent of U.S. households accounting for that occupancy is estimated to be about 9.3 percent.

Asset class works for passive and active investors. Whether an investor wants to buy and own a facility outright, or just wants to benefit from the long-term economic benefits the asset class has demonstrated, self-storage facilities stand to serve both types of investors well.

For the investor who wants to park his or her money and let someone else handle the day-to-day operations, a number of real estate investment trusts specialize in this asset class. These may be good sources of passive income over time.

“In general, self storage has been on a great run,” says Ryan Burke, an analyst for Green Street Advisors in Newport Beach, California. “Growth has outpaced any other real estate property type for the past seven years. Self-storage properties are about 75 percent higher from the prior peak in 2007, whereas apartments, industrial and other commercial properties are only 25 percent above the prior peak.”

This means that private and mom-and-pop investors now have a good opportunity to delve into the self-storage arena.

“As an asset class, self-storage has the potential to generate more income streams than just monthly rent, such as packing materials and truck rentals,” says Rick Sharga, executive vice president at online real estate marketplace Ten-X. “Still, whether you buy and manage a facility yourself or purchase a portfolio and have managers running them for you, self-storage is very much a retail business that is very hands-on.”

Storage development Partners

Steady cash flow. For investors looking to buy and hold self-storage for the long run, Burke says they can expect a good steady cash flow to result.

Burke warns that self-storage properties are a lot more difficult to run than people typically think. Tenant turnover is high: 7 to 8 percent of customers move out every month, making it a very operationally intensive business.

A “safe” investment. For individual investors looking for an alternative to being a landlord, self-storage is considered a relatively safe real estate asset type with many positive characteristics.

Chief among them is the fact that self-storage is basically the monthly rental of various-sized interior spaces made up of steel walls and a concrete floor – nothing more. Once a renter vacates, the owner or manager can just blow out the space and rent it out again. If the lessee doesn’t pay the rent and doesn’t move out, the contents can be seized under the state’s lien laws and auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the owner of the facility.

“For the small investor, it’s a safe investment,” says Mark Helm, a self-storage investor, author and coach based in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s the asset class with the lowest foreclosure rates.”

Long-time investor and coach Scott Meyers, who is based in Fishers, Indiana, switched from single-family homes and apartments to self-storage for several reasons: ease of financing, overall profitability potential and opportunity to increase cash flow and value.

It’s all about location. Helm estimates that for roughly 64 percent of all owners of U.S. self-storage facilities, it’s the only commercial property they own.

The market for self-storage facilities relies on a number of factors, and chief among them is, of course, location. Helm’s advice for small investors interested in self-storage properties is to look in areas outside the radar of the REITs: 25,000-to-30,000-square-foot properties with room for expansion. Alternatively, he suggests seeking out underutilized or vacant commercial space and repurposing it.

Meyers recommends that investors start out by looking at facilities in their own backyard.

“You’ll never know what you’ll find until you begin to look,” he says. “Also, consider places you vacation and places you’ve lived before.”

Helm has changed his investment strategy for future purchases.

“Initially we were in the larger cities,” he says. “Now we’re going into some of the second-tier markets, because that’s where the opportunities are.”

Storage Development Partners approach is grounded in our deep experience and knowledge of self-storage, real estate and financial markets.

We focus on value creation that is in line with market dynamics and the client’s risk profile. Each engagement undergoes intense scrutiny to make sure the capital needs are met in the most economically efficient way to optimizes returns. For more information, or to set up an appointment, contact Dave Fegley or Josie Hart.


Office: 561-235-5734
Mobile: 770-880-5309



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Fax: 563-594-5202


Joel Cone Profile

This article was written by Joel Cone, writer for The Smarter Investor and contributor to many business periodicals.

While Joel initially worked as a real estate sales associate and appraiser. In 2006, he joined the marketing staff at RealtyTrac as a senior staff writer and was a member of the creative team that published the Foreclosure News Report, an online newsletter named Best Real Estate Newsletter by the National Association of Real Estate Editors in 2009.

If you’re thinking about building a self-storage facility, you might have some preconceived notions about the process. The author busts some common misconceptions and shows you what to really expect.

The self-storage industry has been experiencing a construction boom over the past few years, with many new projects being built all over the county. The thing is, those who are new to the industry have a lot of misconceptions about the development process. Let’s talk about what they are and what you should really expect.

Misconception 1: I’ll Fill It in 12 to 18 Months

There are always factors to consider when calculating demand for a new storage facility, and it can be challenging to predict how many months it’ll take for the property to lease up. The 12- to 18-month timeline is almost unheard of with a facility of 50,000-plus square feet. In this case, I advise you to prepare financially for it to take three or four years to reach 85 percent occupancy.

Misconception 2: I’ll Build Small, So It’ll Cost Less

It’s just not as cost-effective to build a self-storage facility of less than 40,000 square feet. This is because of items such as storm-water management, property management and other fixed operating expenses. A small facility just can’t deliver acceptable returns.

One exception is if the site will be built in phases and the total buildout will eventually exceed 40,000 square feet. Another would be if it’s a conversion of an existing building that was purchased at a reasonable cost, or if the site is in a high-rental-rate market with a low cost of acquisition.

Misconception 3: I Can Build Anywhere, Because I Can Just Market It Online

It’s a nice thought, but you still can’t hide your property at the back of an industrial park, in a residential neighborhood or on a tertiary road. If you do, lease-up will be notably slower, regardless of marketing. Remember, there’s only so much you can spend on digital marketing before it becomes wasteful.

One of the most powerful tools you can use to promote the business is visibility. Build along a main road with storage doors visible to everyone, not on a weak, flag-shaped site or one that’s obscured from the street. Large signage, no matter how catchy or attractive, won’t compensate for not having those storage doors visible when a potential customer drives by at 45 miles per hour.

Misconception 4: I Already Own the Land, So It’ll Be Cheaper

Ask yourself, “Would I buy this parcel from somebody else to develop self-storage?” Just because you own a piece of land doesn’t mean it’ll work. If there’s no demand in the market and it takes you five years to lease up, you’re losing money and could potentially go bankrupt due to costs. That may be rare, but the more important thing to realize is you might be missing out on more lucrative opportunities to sell the land for another use and purchase a site to build your self-storage facility where demand warrants.

Misconception 5: Housing Units Were Built Nearby, So It Makes Sense

Just because a new housing development is being built doesn’t mean that a self-storage facility is going to work. There are several reasons it’s best to ignore that development in demand calculations. Subdivision development is historically risky, and it can take years to fill a neighborhood with homes or home buyers. Even if that development fills up quickly, for every 250 homes, there’s only 4,000 square feet of storage demand. Considering that most storage sites start at 50,000 square feet (to be economically sustainable), you should be cautious of including demand from housing units.

Misconception 6: I’ve Developed XYZ, So Storage Will Be Easy

Commercial real estate isn’t all the same, and that’s especially true for self-storage. It’s unique because it’s also an operating business. To simplify operation, you need to consider many things, such as site design. This might include gates at the end of driveways to push out snow from the drive aisles, or large windows that showcase interior units facing the main road. Even if you’ve built offices or high-density housing, you need to invest in general contractors, architects and suppliers who specialize in self-storage and have the portfolio to back it up.

Misconception 7: Self-Storage Doesn’t Work in Rural Areas

That isn’t necessarily true. You should cast a wider net when looking to develop outside of your area. Many storage properties are built by investors who live close by because they know the community and understand the opportunity of their personal networks. Rural areas can be successful if the site is on a heavily traveled road and has great visibility with the appropriate zoning. Many profitable facilities have been built in rural areas.

Misconception 8: The More Temperature-Controlled Space, the Better

Temperature-controlled is great, but though it’s been a dominant trend in new development over the last few years, it isn’t always better than standard drive-up units. It can make a lot of sense in urban areas, as it’s typically the best way to maximize square footage on a small piece of land. In suburban and rural areas, it’s added because operators can charge a 25 percent to 30 percent premium.

As enticing as that might sound, I recommend you stay around 35 percent of your total square footage for temperature-controlled units. Some customers want the simplicity of drive-up access and don’t want to pay that extra. Plus, if you can’t fill those units, you end up renting them at a lower rate and your HVAC expenses eat up your profit. Any feasibility study you’ve completed for your site should include a unit-mix suggestion that addresses the demand in the market (if any) for temperature-controlled storage.

Misconception 9: I Don’t Need a Feasibility Study

It can be tempting to bypass a feasibility study if you’re developing a self-storage facility in your hometown, because you feel you know it better than anyone else—the people who’ll become your tenants, their price sensitivity and the general zoning laws in the market. However, developing without a study is risky. There can be any number of pitfalls you may not see.

Calculating demand for a storage facility is difficult and best done by a consultant who has reviewed the lease-up results for many facilities and can evaluate your market dispassionately. Beyond the risk-mitigation element, a qualified consultant can recommend modifications to your site that may expedite lease-up, increase rates per square foot and lower costs. The small price you pay for a feasibility study will certainly outweigh the expense.

While building self-storage might seem simple, it’s actually complex. Before diving in, understand all facets of the development process so you’re not caught unaware and unprepared.

This article was produced by Kevin Bledsoe , VP of brokerage for Investment Real Estate LLC 

At Storage Partners LLC we believe that a successful self-storage project is a blend of innovation and experience. Take advantage of our 100+ years of combined experience. We will be with you every step of the way.​


Office: 561-235-5734
Mobile: 770-880-5309


Education about storage investment construction myths