How To Invest In Self-Storage Facilities

How To Invest In Self-Storage Facilities

Self-storage facilities are places where you can store your stuff, whether personal belongings or business inventory, for a short or long-term period. These facilities usually have significant buildings with different-sized units to rent out and lock with your padlock.

Why Invest In Self Storage Facilities?

The allure of self-storage facilities as an investment opportunity has been steadily growing among investors for many reasons.

Firstly, it’s worth noticing the recession-resistant nature of self-storage. Economic downturns often see people downsizing, moving, or consolidating their households, heightening the need for storage space. In times of prosperity, this need doesn’t diminish either, as people tend to accumulate more possessions, again requiring storage.

Another appealing factor is the steady demand that characterizes this sector. Life events like relocation, marriage, divorce, or downsizing create a consistent need for self-storage, rendering it almost indispensable.

Then, there’s the attractive aspect of low overhead costs. Compared to other real estate investments, self-storage facilities usually have lower operational and maintenance costs. They don’t necessitate a large staff, and the cost of building and maintaining units is generally less than that of residential or commercial spaces.

Moreover, the potential for high profits is hard to overlook. Once a facility hits a certain occupancy level, the income can significantly outstrip the operating costs, leading to substantial profit margins.

The scalability of the self-storage industry is another enticing feature. Investors can start small with a single facility and gradually expand their portfolio. This scalability extends to both the size and number of facilities.

A diverse customer base is another advantage. Serving a broad spectrum of customers, ranging from individuals to businesses, self-storage facilities provide a diversified revenue stream.

Owners also enjoy considerable flexibility in rate management. They can adjust rental rates relatively easily to align with market demand, which is more challenging with residential or commercial leases.

Like other real estate, self-storage facilities can appreciate over time, particularly in areas of high demand.

There are also ample opportunities to add value and boost revenue. For instance, investors could introduce climate-controlled units, enhance security measures, or offer additional services like moving truck rentals.

Lastly, the fragmented nature of the self-storage market opens up exciting prospects. With many facilities owned by smaller, independent operators, investors can seize the chance to consolidate and professionalize operations, thereby increasing efficiency and profit.

The Self Storage Facility Ecosystem

The ecosystem of self-storage facilities is dynamic and composed of various integral players.

At the forefront are the facility owners and operators, who might be individual investors with a handful of facilities or large corporations like Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, and CubeSmart, operating an extensive network of storage units across various regions.

Then we have the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), a significant part of this industry. Many large self-storage operators function as REITs, owning, operating, and providing investors with an indirect investment pathway into the industry.

Professional property management companies play a crucial role. They ensure the smooth operation of self-storage facilities, taking care of everything from customer service to maintenance.

The customer base, consisting of individuals needing personal storage space and businesses requiring inventory storage, is varied and dynamic, adding to the market’s vitality.

Technology providers are the backbone of modern self-storage facilities. They offer everything from management software and security systems to online platforms and automation technology, ensuring these facilities stay up-to-date and efficient.

The industry’s profitability hasn’t gone unnoticed, attracting diverse investors and developers interested in constructing new facilities or refurbishing existing ones to capitalize on the burgeoning market.

And lastly, we have the brokers and consultants, the industry’s specialists. They provide advice on buying, selling, and operating storage facilities, playing an indispensable role in market analysis and strategic development. Each of these players contributes uniquely to the thriving self-storage industry.

Opportunity In A fragmented Niche

The self-storage facility industry is considered fragmented, comprising many small operators who own only a few facilities.

Unlike other real estate sectors dominated by a few big companies, self-storage includes a wide range of owners, from individual entrepreneurs and family businesses to more giant corporations and REITs. Regional differences exist in ownership, operation, and customer base, benefiting smaller, local operators.

The industry offers opportunities for consolidation as larger companies acquire independently owned facilities to expand. Self-storage facilities also vary in quality, from state-of-the-art buildings in urban areas to more basic units in rural locations.

How To Generate Income

Investing in self-storage facilities offers a myriad of income streams and high return potential. The primary source of income is, of course, the rental income. Customers pay a monthly rent for their storage units, giving the owner a consistent income stream. The rental rates fluctuate based on factors such as the unit size, its location, and quality.

The facility’s occupancy rate also plays a crucial role in income generation. Successful self-storage facilities lure a diverse customer base, including individuals and businesses, by providing an array of unit sizes and types.

But that’s not all. There’s more income to be made through value-added services. These can range from selling packing and moving supplies to offering rental insurance, truck rentals, or even moving services. Some establishments even provide climate-controlled units at premium rental rates.

Revenue isn’t just about rent and services, though. Late fees, administrative fees, and charges for special services like 24-hour access or exclusive unit locations also contribute to the overall earnings.

Efficient management is another crucial aspect that significantly increases a facility’s profitability. This involves cost-effective marketing strategies, top-notch customer service to keep clients returning, and efficient expense management.

Investors also have the opportunity to scale their operations and increase their income. They can expand their portfolios by acquiring more facilities or enhancing existing ones, benefiting from economies of scale and implementing successful strategies across new acquisitions.

Rate management is another critical strategy used by astute investors. They adjust rental rates based on market demand, seasonal trends, and occupancy rates to optimize revenue.

Moreover, some facilities have additional income streams, such as cell tower leases, billboard rentals, or offering RV and boat storage.

Lastly, apart from operational income, investors stand to benefit from capital appreciation. The property’s value can appreciate significantly over time if it improves the property or the area’s economic conditions get a boost.

How To Lose Money

Much like any real estate investment, investing in self-storage facilities is not without risks.

A poorly chosen location can be a significant downfall. A facility located in an area with low demand, poor visibility, challenging access, or high crime rates could be plagued by low occupancy rates, subsequently affecting revenue.

Overestimating the market demand for storage in a specific location is another common pitfall. This miscalculation could lead to overbuilding or investing in more extensive facilities than the market can sustain.

Management challenges can also take a toll. Ineffective management can escalate operating costs, deteriorate customer service, result in inadequate maintenance, and eventually cause a loss of tenants and income.

Even though self-storage is often deemed recession-resistant due to the tendency for downsizing during tough economic times, it’s not entirely immune to economic downturns. In a severe recession, demand might dwindle as customers seek to cut back on expenses.

Underestimating competition can put you in a precarious position, potentially leading to pricing wars, reduced occupancy rates, and dwindling revenues. The entry of new facilities into the market can swiftly tip the supply-demand balance.

Failing to keep up with market rates is another risk. If rental prices aren’t adjusted in line with market trends, it could result in revenue losses, mainly if the market rates rise.

Regulatory and zoning issues can be tricky. Encountering zoning problems or failing to comply with regulatory changes can lead to expensive legal battles, fines, or operational constraints.

Natural disasters and climate risks pose a significant threat, too. Facilities in areas prone to flooding, hurricanes, or other natural disasters are at risk of property damage and business loss during recovery periods.

Poorly maintained and insecure facilities can lead to tenant dissatisfaction, increased turnover, and even legal liabilities if theft or damage to tenant property occurs.

Inadequate insurance is another potential hazard. If you don’t have sufficient or appropriate insurance coverage, you could face hefty out-of-pocket expenses in incidents like fire, theft, or natural disasters.

Changing consumer behavior can also impact your investment. Shifts in consumer behavior, such as increased minimalism or declining home sizes impacting storage needs, can alter demand dynamics.

Lastly, interest rate risks must be noticed. Rising interest rates can inflate borrowing costs and erode profit margins for leveraged purchases.

Positives & Negatives of Self-Storage Facilities


Recession Resilience: Self-storage investments have shown resilience in economic downturns. During hard times, people often downsize or relocate, increasing the need for storage space.

Low Tenant Turnover Costs: Compared to other real estate sectors, self-storage has lower turnover costs since there are no extensive renovations or repairs needed when tenants leave.

Steady Demand: The demand for storage remains stable, driven by downsizing, moving, and temporary storage needs, regardless of economic cycles.

Scalability: Investors can start small and scale up as demand and capital increase.

Diversification: Self-storage provides diversification within a real estate portfolio, following different economic patterns than other sectors.

Operational Flexibility: Month-to-month leases allow owners to adjust rental rates quickly in response to market demand.


Management Intensive: Successful self-storage operations require effective day-to-day tasks, marketing, and maintenance management.

Market Sensitivity: Self-storage is sensitive to local market conditions, and oversupply can lead to high vacancy rates and lower rental incomes.

Economic Vulnerability: In prolonged economic downturns or areas with decreasing population, demand for storage can diminish.

Competition: Intense competition, especially from larger companies with better amenities and security, is present due to low entry barriers in some markets.

Location Sensitivity: Success heavily depends on location, with areas of low visibility, accessibility, or low demand being challenging.

Zoning and Regulatory Challenges: New developments or expansions may face strict zoning laws, environmental regulations, and community resistance.

Capital Intensive: Building or buying facilities requires significant upfront capital, and maintaining and upgrading facilities can also be costly.

Technological Changes: Adapting to technological advancements, like automated security and digital payment systems, is crucial but may require substantial investments.

Risk of Natural Disasters: Facilities are prone to natural disasters.

Investment Opportunity Filter™

The Investment Opportunity Filter™ evaluates an investment opportunity based on cashflow, tax benefits, appreciation, and the leverage it provides.

Self-storage facilities score a 4/4 with The Investment Opportunity Filter™.

Self-storage facilities can produce excellent cashflow, have significant tax benefits, and the asset can appreciate since you can increase the value through operations and management. It also allows for leveraging of skillsets, capabilities, networks, and capital of others.


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