At year-end 2019, there were 47,539 self-storage facilities in the United States on industrial and commercial land parcels. There is more than 1.9 billion square feet of available self-storage in space in U.S. The six largest publicly traded storage operators (four REITs, and U-Haul own or operate approximately 18% of self-storage facilities. The industry is worth $38 billion in 2018. 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. Companies are becoming more adept at manufacturing these modular storage units, allowing operators to get up and running quickly. To support the need, businesses like PODS are expected to enter the modular construction effort as well.
Mailstorage or on-demand storage is 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 (with width shown first and depth shown second) include:
- 5 ft × 5 ft (1.5 m × 1.5 m), about the size of a large Telephone booth
- 5 ft × 10 ft (1.5 m × 3.0 m), about the size of a large walk-in closet,
- 10 ft × 10 ft (3.0 m × 3.0 m), about the size of a child's bedroom (as of 2015, 10x10's are the most common storage unit size, making up 16% of the distribution in the U.S.),
- 10 ft × 15 ft (3.0 m × 4.6 m), about the size of a living room,
- 10 ft × 20 ft (3.0 m × 6.1 m), about the size of a one-car garage,
- 15 ft × 20 ft (4.6 m × 6.1 m), about the size of a large master bedroom, and
- 20 ft × 20 ft (6.1 m × 6.1 m), about the size of a two-car garage.
The storage units are typically window-less, walled with concrete cinder blocks or 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 54,000 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.
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 during The Great Recession. The self-storage industry reported strong results during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to the fact that self-storage is considered to be an "essential business" in many jurisdictions so during a lockdown many facilities never closed and many people were reportedly panic buying storage units to keep valuables safe from contamination.
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