In an economy that appears to be heading into a recession and investors preparing for another jumbo-sized rate hike next month, why should one consider investing in self storage today – especially given that the S&P 500 fell 2.9%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.2%, or 669 points, and the Nasdaq slipped 3.7%?1 While not necessarily the sexiest asset class in commercial real estate, self storage is still seeing a continuum of strong growth and still appears to be the most recession-resistant sector in commercial real estate.
The good news for self storage owners is that history has proven the recession resilience of the self storage industry. During the Great Recession of 2008, all commercial real estate segments experienced a net annual loss from 25 to 67% with the exception of self storage, which posted a gain of 5%. In addition, this sector had the least number of foreclosures.2
Even with all of the recent price increases in construction materials, energy, and wages, self storage is staying ahead of inflation with rent increases. The higher rental rates paid by tenants are offsetting the rise in new-construction and operational costs while allowing self storage owners to reap financial gains during these current economic times.
Americans, in general, tend to accumulate and hold on to a lot of stuff. With the craziness of the real estate market, many millennials are being priced out of owning a home. In addition, many baby boomers are downsizing, opting to rent and live in apartments and smaller rental homes, which have much less storage space than the homes they are moving from. Thus, the biggest demand for self storage is created by people moving from one place to another.
With recession also comes job loss which may also force a homeowner to sell their home, or they may lose their home through a foreclosure. Changing jobs, relocation, divorce, death, college students moving back home for the summer, and many other events also create a demand for self storage.
Another reason that self storage continues to perform well is that self storage has one of the lowest break-even occupancies in the commercial real estate market, often as low as 60%. Self storage owners can also quickly and legally evict non-paying tenants. The contents of a storage unit can also be auctioned off to cover any unpaid rent.
Like any investment, there are always risks. Because self storage is a great investment, there is now an increasing number of properties being built and more competitors coming into the market.
Like other industries, inflation and the current economy has hit the self storage industry in two areas – operations and new construction.
Operation and life cycle costs such as marketing, utilities, property taxes, insurance, and routine repair and maintenance are definitely on the rise. And with the current economic environment, qualified labor is also becoming harder and harder to come by.
The cost of doing business coupled with rising interest rates could slow the pace of construction even more as financing for projects becomes more expensive. However, while some developers are pulling back from new construction projects as a result of the skyrocketing materials and labor costs, others have recently discovered self storage as being resilient during hard economic times and are now dynamically reallocating money into this industry, pursuing acquisitions and new development deals.3
While the self storage industry has its risks, many investors and developers are still seeing it as being very attractive as a recession-resistant investment in a time of uncertainty. And according to Mordor Intelligence Research, the self-storage market is expected to grow to $115.62 billion by 2025. This puts the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 134.79% over the forecast period of 2020-2025.4
1. Ebrahim, Y. (2022, October 7). Investing.com. Retrieved from Investing.com: https://www.investing.com/news/stock-market-news/sp-500-slips-as-strong-jobs-report-puts-hawkish-fed-bets-back-in-focus-2907596
2. Mainstay Global. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mainstayglobal.com: http://www.mainstayglobal.com/is-self-storage-recession-proof
3. Fitzgerald, J. (2021, December 14). Storable. Retrieved from Storable.com: https://www.storable.com/storage-beat/self-storage-inflation/
4. Meyers, S. (2020, December 1). Forbes.com. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2020/12/01/a-look-at-self-storage-growth-trends-now-and-post-pandemic/?sh=1e5675912165