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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Self-Storage Rules the REIT Roost

By Teri Lanza Comments
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Self-storage shined a superstar at this week’s REIT rendezvous in New York, and it has caused a surge of optimism to radiate through the industry. But some ask if REIT performance really means anything to independent operators, and if good news for "the big boys" means good news for all self-storage owners.

The National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) launched its annual REITWeek on Tuesday, an investor forum with participants including Extra Space Storage, , Public Storage, Sovran Self Storage and U-Store-It Trust. What we’ve learned since follow-up coverage in outlets such as CNBC and The Wall Street Journal is REITs as a whole are performing well, but self-storage is out on top.

In its June 8 article “REIT Week’s Reason to Party,” WSJ reported that nearly all property types posted double-digit gains in the first five months of 2011, but self-storage led the pack with an 18.4 percent return, followed by offices (17.8 percent), apartments (16.9 percent) and industrial (16 percent). As of May 31, the total return of the FTSE NAREIT All Equity REITs Index, which tracks 120 REITs, was up 14.1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 7.8 percent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 9.8 percent during the first five months.

CNBC Real Estate Reporter Diana Olick seemed a little flabbergasted, as reflected in her headline, “And the REIT Winner Is — Storage?” She commented, “But when I read down the fact sheet to the winners and losers, imagine my surprise to see the least sexy of the bunch at the top of the list: Self storage.” How’s it make you feel to be dubbed “unsexy,” self-storage? Are you bristling? Sexy or not, you’re in the lead. Let the pundits put that in their pipe and smoke it.

But then self-storage companies are a very small slice of the REIT pie, comprising only $23 billion of the $413 billion equity REIT industry. So while the performance is there, some would say that in relativity, it pales in comparison to that of other commercial sectors.

The real question is what this means for our industry as a whole. At the upcoming Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Tacoma, Wash., Oct. 4-6, XPS Solutions owner and CEO John Traver proposes to share a new growth strategy for independent self-storage owners based on a working formula applied by industry REITs. But can such a strategy truly work for smaller companies?

In an interview with Matt Bechard of REIT.com, the official website of NAREIT, Public Storage President and CEO Ron Havener said there has been little new development of self-storage facilities in the past 18 months, but consolidation continues. He pointed out the ability for public REITs to access capital is superior to that of the local owner/operator; public companies can continually build their market share, because there’s no new supply being added. So while the REITs continue to grow, your average operators struggle under the status quo, in some cases battling more with the “big boys” than with other independents like themselves.

Does the recent performance of self-storage REITs make you sanguine? What do you think this truly reflects in the real estate market and our industry specifically? Does the success of super operators mean good things for you independents out there? Or does it spell more and fiercer competition in smaller markets? Let me know your thoughts here on the blog, or participate in the discussion thread on Self-Storage Talk.

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