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Storage units saw unprecedented business due to the pandemic

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Self-storage has boomed since the onset of the pandemic, resulting in higher rent, less empty space, and rising stocks, per The Wall Street Journal.

The industry’s four largest companies — Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, Life Storage and CubeSmart — have reached 95%+ occupancy. The average monthly rent hit $155.65 in November — the highest in five years.

Meanwhile, Extra Space Storage’s shares are two times more valuable than they were pre-pandemic.

What’s causing this?

Several things, including:

  • People who want extra space for home offices, gyms, etc.
  • Remote workers who moved
  • Businesses with extra inventory
  • Businesses that ditched offices to save on rent

In addition to five public companies, there are also 30,000+ storage owners operating 55,000 facilities in the US, per The New York Times.

The business is appealing due to its low overhead and tenants who often stay put, even when rent increases by 10%.

And when tenants don’t pay, their units’ contents are auctioned off

While bidders typically don’t know what exactly is in a unit, flipping units can be a decent side hustle — hence the premise of the “Storage Wars” franchise.

Some of the weirdest buyer finds include:

  • A 1976 Lotus Esprit used in the Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me.” The unit was purchased for $100 in 1989. Elon Musk later bought the car for ~$1m.
  • The 1st Superman comic, which someone stole from Nicolas Cage in 2000.
  • A mummified leg, which turned into a legal drama between the leg’s original owner and the buyer who wanted to keep it. Yes, there is a documentary about this.

How Storage Unit Auctions Work

When storage locker renters fail to pay their monthly rent for a certain period of time, the storage facility will auction off the contents off the box to the highest bidder.

For side hustlers, that means an opportunity to score inventory to re-sell on the cheap.

Usually there will be a notice in the newspaper or the storage auction facility will have an online listing of when the auctions will be. 

For online listings, you can start here. 

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