Self Storage – One of The Best Real Estate Investments

Self Storage - One of The Best Investments 2012

Self Storage – One of The Best Investments in 2012

With cap rates at an all time low and a significant influx of new investment capital for commercial real estate investments, the Self Storage REIT sector is Booming! According to Wall Street Journal real estate analyst A.D. Pruitt,“Self Storage facilities are now one of the biggest ticket properties in commercial real estate.” Investors are like the fact that self storage properties have high margins, consistent cash flow, and the ability to perform well in economic downturns.

Self Storage Real Estate Investment – Strong Real Estate Fundamentals               Self storage property investments are now considered to be “anti-recession” type, with real estate income fundamentals that are strong. Self storage contracts are typically month to month, which allows landlords that unique ability to increase tenants’ rents fairly easily. Also, unlike other real estate assets, self storage operators do not need to pay leasing commissions and costly tenant improvements allowances.

For the year 2012, compared to 2011, rental income is up 6.6% and occupancies are up 1.6% industry wide, with occupancies around 85%.

Self Storage Facilities – High Occupancy Levels

  • Eastern United States, 2012 occupancy levels were at 85%, an increase of 3.5% over 2011.
  • The Western United States, 2012 occupancy levels were at 83.4 %, an increase of 2.1 % over 2011.
  • The Midwestern United States, 2012 occupancy levels were at 86%, an increase of 1.4 % over 2011- this region’s highest levels since 2008.
  • In the Southern United States, 2012 occupancy levels were at 83.2 %, an increase of 2.5% over 2011- the region’s highest since 2008.

The following metropolitan areas currently have occupancies at 90% or higher:

  • Boston, MA   92%
  • Columbus, OH   92%
  • Washington, DC   91.7%
  • Denver, CO   91%
  • Baltimore, MD   90.4%
  • New York, NY   90.1%
  • Birmingham, AL   90%
  • Philadelphia, PA   90%
  • San Francisco, CA   90%

Impressive Returns on Investment – Self Storage Investments                                  Last year, the four largest publicly traded self storage REITs brought in an average return of 19.11%.

2012 Self Storage REIT Returns

2012 Self Storage REIT Returns

Market Capitalization – Impressive                                                                                 The Self Storage REIT sector has a impressive market cap of $34.13 billion.

  • $25.84b      PublicStorage
  • $4.34b        ExtraSpace
  • $2.06b        CubeSmart
  • $1.89b        Sovran
  • $34.13b      Total

Investment Capital – High Demand and a Growing Market Sector                     Property sales have been very active over the past five years, with over $1.5 billion worth of self storage transactions per year. In 2012, over $2.1 billion worth of self storage investment properties sales occurred, the most since 2007.

Low Cap Rates = High Valuations                                                                                      A “capitalization rate” is considered the return an investor is willing to accept for the income stream from a real estate property investment. Investors are will to purchase some properties for low cap rates (or at higher prices) because they believe the property is likely to provide higher income streams in the future. Currently, self storage investment cap rates are at around 7% to 8% nationwide.

Cap rates for larger deals are 6% to 7.5% , whereas cap rates for smaller properties in secondary markets are 8% to 10%.

    • Cap rates in the Eastern United States are currently in the low 8% range.
    • Cap rates in the Western United State are currently in the high 7% range.
    • Cap rates in the Midwestern United States are currently in the high 7% range.
    • Cap rates in the Southern United States are currently in the low 8% range.

Cap rates for Class A storage assets in competitive areas, like New York City, are currently below 5%. These high valuations and low cap rates will likely continue until the next development wave

Self Storage New Development Activity                                                                           There has not been much development over the past 5 years.  In fact, there are less than 200 new self storage facilities currently under construction. This is an extremely low number considering that 2,600 facilities were developed through 2003 – 2007.

Graphs courtesy of The Wall Street Journal and Occupancy and Cap Rate data from Marcus & Millichap. Source: John Donegan, The Storage Facilitator March 20, 2013


History of Self Storage

According to the Self Storage Association, the self-storage industry generated greater than $22 billion in annual US sales in 2011, through more than 49,000 self-storage facilities in the USA. There are roughly 58,500 self-storage facilities worldwide, along with over 1,000 in Australia and more than 3,000 in Canada.
Storage Units 500
The total rentable space in the United States is now greater than 2.3 billion square feet, which is better than three times the size of Manhattan. One in ten US households currently leases a minimum of one storage unit (a increased from 1 in 17 in 1995 – or an increase of approximately 65 percent in the last 15 years), and self-storage facilities employ nearly 169,000 people. For each man, lady and child in the United States, there is 7.3 square feet of self-storage space.  So, with these amazing statistics, where did all of these storage facilities start from?

There is evidence of some concept of self-storage dating back 2,000 years to Ancient China. Apparently, thе Chinese would secure thеіr valued items іn clay pots, and consequently place these pots in an underground storage unit. Thеѕе underground storage unit facilities wоuld bе monitored tо ensure thаt nо оnе wоuld hаvе access tо these pots оthеr thаn thеіr owner. Thіѕ marked thе beginning оf Sеlf Storage facilities. Additionally, it seems that the British improved this idea by putting materials in dog crates inside of stables and had watchmen protect them.

In the late 1800’s, the Bekins brothers (John and Martin), established Bekins Business in Omaha, NE. The firm started with with 3 horse-drawn wagons and 12 employees. In 1895, Martin broadened the business and moved to Los Angeles.  In 1906, the first Bekins Warehouse was built, and was one of the first of its kind in Los Angeles with reinforced steel and concrete. Throughout the first fifty years of the century, Bekins established numerous fire-resistant warehouses throughout Southern California.

After World War II, Bekins continued its pioneering efforts in the moving and storage business, growing its business model to include: neighborhood storage and moving within communities; long distance product and household moving; worldwide moving and storage for army workers and civilians; and various other related services, such as the storage of company reports, documents management, film storage, and office and commercial moving. It was this Bekins business model that pioneered the modern concept of containerized storage.

It wasn’t till the 1960s, that self storage centers started to appear in the United States. The first appearing in Texas to meet the needs of the rapidly growing needs of Oil Industry that required quick access to devices and supplies. Consequently, the baby boom was in full force, causing significant family transition and relocation.   Thus, savvy real estate developers begin to development storage units facilities to meet the need of growing families and expanding neighborhoods. For example, In 1972, Public Storage was founded by Wayne Hughes and Ken Volk in Southern California. Public storage has actually become a multi-billion-dollar business along with 2,000-plus-locations spread throughout 38 conditions and several European markets. Essentially, Public Storage is considered the Sector Standard.

There are 5 public corporations operating in the self storage industry: Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, Sovran Self Storage, CubeSmart, and U-Haul International. These five companies operate over 5,000 self storage facilities or approximately 10% of the Business. Although the the industry has hundreds of mid-sized firms operating anywhere from 3-100 facilities; the substantial majority of owner-operators (72 %) run or operate 1-2 facilities.

Today, it is not unusual to see several self storage facilities found in most cities. As a result of consumers continuous demand for items and products, and their reluctance to get rid of them, our brand-new society of “pack rats” continues to fuel the rents for self storage  properties, making self storage property acquisition and investing one of the most favored real estate investments. The self storage real estate business has been the fastest expanding segment of the commercial real estate industry over the last 35 years and has been considered by Wall Street professionals to be “economic downturn resistant” based upon its good performance throughout the most recent economic recession (which started in September, 2008).

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