One in 11 Americans pays an average of $91.14 per month to use self-storage, finding a place for the material overflow of the American dream. According to SpareFoot, a company that tracks the self-storage industry, the United States boasts more than 50,000 facilities and roughly 2.311 billion square feet of rent-able space. In other words, the volume of self-storage units in the country could fill the Hoover Dam with old clothing, skis, and keepsakes more than 26 times.
The industry’s boom over the last few decades mirrors larger demographic and real estate trends: Americans relocating from the Midwest and Northeast to Sunbelt cities store old gear in self-storage units. Millennials moving into increasingly crowded, high-demand downtowns require extra space. A wave of downsizing baby boomers needs a place to put a lifetime of accumulated memories. Small businesses want room to store excess inventory.
The confluence of these trends has created a building spree. The last few years have seen record-setting investment in self-storage expansion, including $4 billion alone in 2017. This year alone, planned or existing warehouse expansion will add 40 million square feet, or about 800 facilities, to the market, according to Investing Daily.
Investors see abandoned malls as a candidate for conversion into self-storage consumer cubby holes, a true full circle of consumerism. Venture capital firms are even betting on high-tech storage startups, such as Clutter, an on-demand service which does all the packing, storing, and moving for consumers, and can even retrieve specific items and deliver them to your door.
The current boom has led some market analysts to predict the previously unthinkable: We may just be inching close to peak storage. Many see a slowdown coming, due to a glut of space in cities like Phoenix and New York City, and in Orange County, California. Sky-high stock valuations for many of the big players, like Public Storage and Extra Space Storage, have tapered off.
What happens when Americans, who see expansion and relocation as a birthright, get close to having enough room?