self storage investing

Investing In Self-Storage? An Introduction

Updated 2022-12-06: A 10-minute read to reintroduce ourselves, the self-storage industry, and its investment opportunities.

Who we are and what we do:

Mason Equity Partners is a second-generation family-owned and operated commercial real estate investment firm with 30-years’ worth of experience in the industry. We purchase and develop assets in and around tier-1 cities across the US. We focus primarily on self-storage, but are open to other opportunities in tier-1 cities where we can leverage our development expertise.

Top 3 Reasons to invest in commercial real estate?

Our job as investment managers is to manage risk and invest capital at an attractive rate of return for our investors and ourselves. Here’s why we like to invest in big cities:

  1. Hard Assets: in a worst-case scenario where rents and sales prices decline, CRE investors still own buildings and land that have value and cost money to replace. Well-located urban sites tend to hold value over the long term, and provide some downside protection in the event things don’t go to plan. 
  2. Barriers to entry: It requires certain know-how to operate in major cities. These tier-1, tier-2, cities don’t feel like they need your business in a way fresh suburbs do, and the result is things take way longer than they reasonably should. This turns many developers away, creating a moat around those who are able to succeed in this environment.
  3. Stable cash flows: Rents tend to go up over time, and in down years they go down, but not by much. 

Why We Invest in Self-Storage (and think you should too!)

Sticky tenants on month-to-month leases: People don’t like to move.

Once their stuff is in storage, many customers don’t come back to look at it more than a couple of times per year, if that. Month-to-month leases mean we can mark rents to market in near real-time, and most tenants prefer to pay the increased rents over dealing with the hassle of moving.

Regulatory barriers to entry: Cities make it difficult to build new storage facilities.

Storage doesn’t pay the same occupancy taxes that retail and office do, and it doesn’t generate housing. Savvy operators who understand how to navigate these barriers can reap the benefits of decreased competition and higher long-term rent growth. 

Recession resistance: Storage demand is a function of population migration and population growth.

During good economic times, people migrate for new jobs and upgrade their living situation. During bad times people migrate to lower their cost of living or because they got laid off. In either case, people need a storage unit when they move, once the move is completed, it is often easier to just keep paying to leave stuff in storage rather than spend the day – many days – at the facility getting rid of junk and cleaning out the unit.

No TIs or Toilets: Once the storage facility is built, no major capital investments are needed for a long time.

When a unit turns over, we auction any abandoned belongings then sweep the unit clean and it’s ready to rent. Contrast this to apartments or offices, which need anything from a fresh coat of paint up to a full gut renovation after they turnover in order to get them occupant-ready again.

A fragmented industry with growing institutional interest: The majority of self-storage facilities are small one-off businesses.

Furthermore, there is a growing pool of professional investors managing hundreds of billions of dollars who are eager to buy multiple facility portfolios. We see a significant opportunity to amass multiple facilities, drive efficiency through economies of scale, and create a large enough portfolio to interest institutional buyers who are willing to pay a premium for scale.

Do Not Invest In Commercial Real Estate If…

Self-storage is not for everyone. Commercial real estate investments differ from residential property investments in many ways (subscribe to our newsletter for more on this). It is operationally intensive, cash-hungry, and location sensitive. A self-storage facility has a lot more moving parts than a mutual fund investment or a single-family rental home. Please do not invest with us if you are: 

  • Looking to park all of your life savings in one investment – Commercial real estate investments are meant to be held for a certain amount of time until the business plan is completed. These investments cannot typically be bought or sold as easily as stocks or bonds. We ask that you only invest with money that you can afford to lose, and we highly recommend that our investors diversify their holdings amongst other types of investment. 
  • Interested in only a quick flip – Some of the best investments take time to mature. We are open to both quick flips and longer-term holds, depending on the deal. A flip can be a great strategy for an underpriced deal where we do not want to be exposed to the property for the long term – we just take our profit and get out. A hold is a preferred strategy for deals located in strong neighborhoods that are difficult for competitors to enter, where we expect above-average rent growth over the long term. In these types of deals, we refinance as quickly as possible to return investor capital and then distribute increasing amounts of money to our investors year over year. 

An overview of our investment strategy

Now that you have a better idea of why we choose to invest in an industry with a relatively longer investment period, here’s a brief overview of how we go about choosing where to invest:

  • Build to Core: New developments typically produce higher yields than purchases of existing buildings in the same market because investors are willing to pay a premium to purchase something that is already built. We build in 30% or larger gross margins and sell or refinance our projects upon completion or stabilization. As lucrative as development might be, developing real estate is a bit like throwing darts at a board that you can’t see until several years in the future. We strive to build well-located projects with healthy margins and sufficient reserves so that we can survive whatever economic conditions there might be when we deliver.
  • Value-Add Conversion: Self-storage lockers are relatively inexpensive to install in functionally obsolete buildings. There are an increasing number of big box retail stores and class B office buildings that are defaulting on their loans and being given back to their lenders. We believe many of these properties are located in strong self-storage markets and we are actively studying the feasibility of converting them to self-storage. 
  • Buy Adjacent: We supplement our build-to-core program with acquisitions of existing cash-flowing assets located in secondary markets within a reasonable driving distance of our core developments. We add value by building additional square footage, streamlining operations, and raising rent. Acquiring secondary locations allow us to rapidly grow our brand while driving property management efficiencies across the portfolio.

Ready to Invest?

Whether you are an accredited investor or just getting started on your investment journey, we welcome you to subscribe to our newsletter for updates and opportunities to co-invest with us. Our investment opportunities are not frequent – so we don’t spam – but by the time they are presented to you, they will have already been through our extremely rigorous selection process. All investors are welcome to join our Investors’ Circle for a listing of past, current, and future offerings. 

1 thought on “Investing In Self-Storage? An Introduction”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top