Self storage fared better than every other commercial real estate sector during this past recession. However, the sector was not recession-proof, rather it was recession-resistant. After two years of losses (nine consecutive quarters), the four publicly traded REITS turned the corner and now have reported eight consecutive positive quarters. Occupancies are up; concessions are down; and rental rates are finally climbing back to pre-recession levels. REITS, in general, have outperformed the S & P and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) for all of 2011 and 2012.
The self storage industry has finally begun to consolidate as the number of new construction starts diminished each of the last five years from their peak in 2006. The industry doubled in size from one billion to two billion square feet from 1995 to 2006. The top twenty operators in the USA control less than 20% of the total market. That will change as the REITS, flush with investment cash, acquire and increase their market share in select markets. Similarly, other new sources of institutional monies have been watching the sector and have concluded that self storage returns are as dependable, or even more secure, than the other traditional commercial real estate asset classes. These new funds/buyers are very competitive with the REITS and have forced Cap Rates down to the 5.5-6.5% range for stabilized, class “A”-good quality facilities located in the top 10 markets. Cap rates in secondary and tertiary markets remain in the 7-10% range depending on the age of the facility, location of the property and its demographics.
In terms of financing, self storage continues to enjoy the lowest default rate of any other sector in the CMBS market. While banks and life insurance companies are more conservative in their underwriting than they were pre-recession, interest rates for refinancing are in the 4.50% to 5.75% range, with an expected 30-35% equity contribution.
Banks and Special Servicers are beginning to foreclose on borrowers that can’t make their mortgage payments or meet new debt/equity requirements. We should see more lender sales of under-performing assets and notes later on in 2013. Or, the lenders may decide to package their bad loans and sell them via auctions to get them off their books and leave the buyers of the notes to proceed to foreclosure and/or re-sell the notes to the original borrower or the open market. At the end of 2009, the Sperry Van Ness National Self Storage Team participated in a bulk sale when Key Bank was selling a construction loan portfolio with a face value of $32M.
As we look ahead to the remaining half of 2013, we should see industry performance continue to improve; increased consolidation from the larger operators; and financing from the CMBS market become an option for smaller deals; all factors which will narrow the spread between the amount buyers are willing to pay and the amount sellers are willing to accept.
Chair of the Self Storage Product Council
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