The difference between a self-storage condo and a traditional steel self-storage unit is the same as that between a condominium and an apartment. You buy and own a self-storage condo as opposed to renting it.
Another difference is that most self-storage condos are built with RV storage in mind. Also known as a “garage condo,” this real estate venture is a niche within the self-storage industry. A client buys a specific unit, pays a fee similar to a homeowners association, and can sell the unit anytime, just like a house or a condominium.
Newer residential housing developments no longer have large outdoor storage space. In some communities, homeowners are not allowed to park an RV, boat, or other recreational equipment to the front or side of the house. Most cities do not allow street parking for these huge homes on wheels.
Self-storage or garage condos fill a niche that has been looking for convenient, safe, covered storage for expensive toys.
Sizes and prices of metal self-storage condominiums
Since they are designed mainly for RVs:
- The units typically come with a 14-foot high door and a depth of 35 to 50 feet.
- The width can be 11 to 26 feet with insulated doors about 10 to 20 feet wide.
- Some developments will offer to combine units to provide 100 feet of storage length.
- Depending on their location and size, units are priced from around $55,000 to $200,000.
They attract mostly higher income clients in comparison to rental self-storage, and the units reflect it. Few are simple steel self-storage spaces; many have epoxy floors, insulation, lighting and many other amenities.
Why people want steel storage condos
RV and boat self-storage isn't that difficult to find, but there are certain downsides to self-storage rental:
- Limited access times
- Potential increases in rent
- Not cost effective in certain markets
Self-storage condo facilities also offer a sense of community. RV owners like to tinker, so they spend a lot of time at the facility, talking and hanging out with other RV owners. Access is 24/7. Such surroundings increase security because everyone knows their “neighbors.”
Many facilities provide other amenities of interest to RV and boat owners, some similar to RV resorts:
- Dump stations
- Wash stations
- Private electricity and water
- Automatic openers with an integrated alarm system
- A clubhouse
That’s right; a clubhouse is often part of the facility. Also:
- Some places provide desks and high speed internet
- Others have couches and areas to hang out
- Bathrooms are a typical addition
All these amenities are paid for by storage unit owners because they are bundled into the unit purchase price.
It wouldn’t be surprising to find a Starbucks or FedEx store as part of the layout. With so many owners visiting their units throughout the week, there is a ready-made customer base for small retail aimed at the travel set.
Ideal site location
As we mentioned before, RV and boat owners like to tinker. Other items stored in these condo arrangements may get frequent visits from the owners. The ideal location is a neighborhood, which makes it easy to visit. However, land prices and zoning may be an issue.
The next best location is one that is on the way to popular destinations. People find it more cost-effective to drive their cars the first short leg of the journey, then switch to their RVs nearer the open road. They may store clothes and other necessities in the unit or the RV and keep the batteries charged and ready to go.
Not just for RVs
Besides RVs and boats, people buy self-storage for cars, planes, large hobby items, large amounts of seasonal items or clothing. At least one person put in a batting cage.
These oversized units may look like metal garages on the outside, but inside the owners can finish them any way they want. They don’t even need to be storing vehicles.
Like the batting cage example, one owner finished the walls and hung an art collection for display. Some owners use them as second garages or play areas. The additional amenities of garage condos lend themselves to people who want a place to gather and have fun when their neighborhoods do not provide the space.
Challenges in storage condo construction
You definitely need to do your market research if you decide to build a self-storage condo. You need the right customer base with the right income and the right toys to make it work. Economic ups and downs definitely impact your ability to obtain a construction loan and for your potential clients to get financing to buy the units.
Zoning boards can be problematic. There can be a perception that garage condos will not provide sufficient residual revenue for a city and little employment. Many board members will be unfamiliar with the concept and not receptive to education. The same is true of potential customers who are unaware of the existence of such a facility.
Changes in building codes can scuttle some plans.
If you are thinking about going into the high-end self-storage business, building garage condos may be the thing for you. You can provide extremely durable steel units with a clubhouse built of steel, designed to appeal to well-heeled RV owners.
Metal self-storage condos or garage condos have become quite popular in vacation destinations where snowbirds spend the winter or those looking for cooler climates stay in summer. (Houstonians understand the desire to escape the heat and humidity in August.)
On board with storage condos
Everyone has stuff to store, and they don't always have room for it at home. Lack of an over-sized garage or simply the desire to store the expensive toys out of the weather have people looking for alternatives to renting RV and boat storage spaces where the rent could go up and any moment or they are limited in the hours they can visit their toys.
If you build it in the right place with the right amenities, they will come. The appeal of a nice place to put the RV, a community of like-minded friends to hang with, and a comfortable place to do it can be a strong draw for storage condo ownership.