Self storage (a shorthand for "self-service storage", and also known as "mini storage") is an industry in which storage space (such as rooms, lockers, containers, and/or outdoor space), also known as "storage units" is rented to tenants, usually on a short-term basis (often month-to-month). Self-storage tenants include businesses and individuals.
The self-storage industry is primarily a United States-based industry: of the 58,000 storage facilities worldwide in 2009, 46,000 were located in the United States. In 2007, the U.S. self-storage renting and leasing market was nearly $6.6 billion.
Industry experts often refer to the 4Ds of life when explaining why consumers rent self-storage space. The 4Ds are death, divorce, downsizing and disolcation. Dislocation can refer to new jobs or marriage.
Self-storage facilities rent space on a short-term basis (often month-to-month, though options for longer-term leases are available) to individuals (usually storing household goods; nearly all jurisdictions prohibit the space from being used as a residence) or to businesses (usually storing excess inventory or archived records). Some facilities offer boxes, locks, and packaging supplies for sale to assist tenants in packing and safekeeping their goods, and may also offer truck rentals (or may allow free use of a truck for a new tenant).
Items are generally not covered by the facility's insurance; the lessor may be covered by his/her own insurance policy (if such policy has coverage for items stored off the premises of the insured) or may purchase insurance to cover the items (which the facility may offer as a service through a third-party carrier, and in some cases may require the lessor to purchase as a condition of rental).
The rented spaces are secured by the tenant's own lock and key. Unlike in a warehouse, self-storage facility employees do not have casual access to the contents of the space (and, thus, the facility is generally not liable for theft). A self-storage facility does not take possession or control of the contents of the space unless a lien is imposed for non-payment of rent, or if the unit is not locked the facility may lock the unit until the tenant provides his/her own lock.
Although there is historical evidence of publicly available storage in ancient China, modern self-storage facilities (in which the tenant has exclusive access to the storage space) did not begin to appear until 1958, when Lauderdale Storage in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (founded by the Collum family) opened for business. In the late 1960s, the first self-storage facility chains started to open in Texas.
Modern storage facilities grew slowly through the 90s, at which time demand outpaced supply and caused a rush of new self-storage developments. From 2000 to 2005, over 3,000 new facilities were built every year in America.
Self storage today
At year-end 2009, a total of some 58,000 self-storage facilities, owned by 30,235 companies, have been developed in the United States on industrial and commercial land parcels. There is more than 2.35 billion square feet of self-storage in the U.S., or a land area equivalent to three times Manhattan Island under roof. The five large publicly traded storage operators (four REITs and U-Haul) own or operate approximately 9% of self-storage facilities. More recently, in many metropolitan cities where competition among storage companies is fierce, better parcels of land near residential and commercial areas are being converted into self-storage once approved by zoning panels.
An emerging storage trend is the addition of Mailstorage or on-demand storage options, where customers' items are kept together in a warehouse rather than providing each customer with a storage unit.
Self-storage businesses lease a variety of unit sizes to residential and business customer/tenants. Popular unit sizes include 10x5 (10 feet wide by 5 feet (1.5 m) deep) which is about the size of a large walk-in closet, 10x10 (the size of a child's bedroom), 10x20 (one-car garage), 15x20 and 20x20 (two-car garage). As of 2015, 10x10's are the most common storage unit size, making up 16% of the distribution in the U.S. The storage units are typically window-less, walled with corrugated metal, and lockable by the renter. Each unit is usually accessed by opening a roll-up metal door, which is usually about the same size as a one-car garage door (smaller units may be accessed by a hinged metal door). A controlled access facility may employ security guards, security cameras, individual unit door alarms and some means of electronic gate access such as a keypad or proximity card. A few facilities even use biometric thumbprint or hand scanners to ensure that access is granted only to those that rent. Self-storage facility operators frequently provide 24-hour access, climate controlled storage, outdoor storage for RVs and boats, and lights or power outlets inside the storage unit as amenities to set themselves apart from competitors. Some storage facilities have open roofs i.e. a wire mesh roof which are not that secure, compared to ones that have full covered tin roofs that provide added security and privacy.
In rural and suburban areas most facilities contain multiple single-story buildings with mostly drive-up units which have natural ventilation but are not climate-controlled. These buildings are referred to as "traditional" storage facilities. Climate-controlled interior units are becoming more popular in suburban areas. In urban areas many facilities have multi-story buildings using elevators or freight lifts to move the goods to the upper floors. These facilities are often climate-controlled since they are comprised mostly, if not totally, of interior units. Warehouses or grocery stores are sometimes converted into self-storage facilities. Loading docks are sometimes provided on the ground floor. Also, complimentary rolling carts or moving dollies are sometimes provided to help the customers carry items to their units. Urban self-storage facilities might contain only a few floors in a much larger building; there are successful self-storage businesses co-located with manufacturing plants, office tenants and even public schools.
One in ten U.S. households now rent a self-storage unit. The growing demand for self-storage in the U.S. is created by people moving (some 40 million people move each year according to U.S. Census data), and by various lifestyle transitions, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, a death in the family, etc. Recent surveys of self-storage companies indicate a positive trend in market demand and occupancy rate.
Over 50,000 self-storage facilities currently exist in the U.S. ranging from companies with a nationwide presence to companies with regional footprints or even stand-alone independent "mom and pop" facilities.
Demand for storage space remains stable as of Q4 2015. The supply for self-storage is also relatively stable. Often, the process to build a new storage building is onerous and can take years. Additionally, this specific asset class often gets push back from communities, due to its nature.
The self-storage sector is highly fragmented, which is in contrast to other asset classes in the industry. 80% of self-storage facilities are owned by individuals or small investors. In recent times, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have demonstrated a healthy appetite for this asset class. There is a belief amongst investors that the self-storage industry is recession-proof. This belief is supported by the 5.1% total return the sector delivered to investors in 2008.
Self storage worldwide
Self-storage or variations on the business model are now found in many parts of the world. In 2014, FEDESSA, the Federation of European Self Storage Associations, published a report about the state of the self-storage industry in Europe. In this report, it was estimated that 975 facilities exist in the United Kingdom, 330 in France, 264 in The Netherlands, 210 in Spain, 131 in Germany, and 112 in Sweden. No other country in Europe has more than 100 facilities. Overall, the report estimates 2,391 total facilities in Europe, or about 75 million square feet of rentable storage space. This compares with over 52,000 facilities in the US (236 million square feet), and 1,100 facilities in Australia (39 million square feet).
In the United States, self-storage facilities may hold storage auctions or lien sales to vacate non-paying tenants according to their enforcement rights that are outlined within the lien law of each jurisdiction. Facilities owners are required to give public notice of the sale or auction in a printed periodical in most states, while other states are considering allowing public notice of sales to be done in the internet. However, a tenant in lien has the right to pay their outstanding bill until the moment the auction begins and thus reclaim his/her items; those units would be removed from the auction (which, in some cases, may result in the entire auction being cancelled).
These auctions/sales are open to the general public, with most bidders buying for the purpose of reselling for profit. Usually the terms of sale are cash-only. Once the auction for a unit starts, the door to the unit is opened and potential bidders are allowed to view the contents only by looking in from the doorway; they may not step inside, touch, or move any of the contents prior to the auction. The spaces are usually sold "as is". The purchaser of a unit receives everything in it (treasure and trash) and is responsible for removing the contents within a given time frame (usually a day or two, though a facility may allow a purchaser to subsequently rent the unit; the facility may also charge a cleaning deposit to be refunded once the unit is cleaned and made available to the facility). In some jurisdictions, the storage facility may confiscate controlled items (such as firearms) if they are immediately visible, while purchasers may also be required to return some items to the facility (such as business/personal financial records or family photos).
In the fall of 2010, two new television programs featuring storage auctions, Storage Wars and Auction Hunters were released. The popularity led to additional shows such as Storage Hunters, Storage Wars: Texas, and Storage Wars: New York which helped increase the visibility and interest of storage auctions. Storage Wars: Canada also debuted on the Outdoor Living Network in 2013.
Self Storage associations
Self Storage Associations have been created around the world in order to support the growth of the industry. These associations offer support in the way of information, education, networking, referrals, events, standardized agreements, data collection, marketing, advocacy, and publications for current and potential facility owners, managers, suppliers, and investors.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Self storage buildings.|
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