Q&A: StoragePro’s Steve Mirabito on the rise of RV storage
Last month, StoragePRO Management snagged a contract to manage Gecko RV & Boat Storage in Roseburg, OR.
The 120,276-square-foot storage facility is the company’s 92nd facility operating on its third-party management platform and its first location in Oregon. The Gecko property offers 171 storage units and 161 spots for vehicles. Features include 24-hour access and free to use dump and wash stations.
RV sales have surged since the pandemic, with the industry recently reporting its best May on record. So far this year sales are up 11.8%. That’s been a boon for RV storage operators and it most likely will be for a time to come, even as RV sales are expected to level off as the year goes on compared to the record sales enjoyed in 2021.
To find out more about the appeal of RV storage, we spoke to Steve Mirabito, founder and president of Walnut Creek, CA-based StoragePRO about the new portfolio addition and his view of the industry overall. An edited transcript of our conversation is below.
How does the Gecko facility fit into your overall portfolio?
Stephen Mirabito: “Gecko is a large operation with a couple hundred RV units, and it seems to be a great fit for us. The owner recognized there were opportunities to add value and become more competitive in the self-storage market there.”
“There is very strong demand for RV parking. Purchases of RVs over the last couple years have been phenomenal. We’ve got four other locations that have that component. So we got experience and understanding of the DMV lien laws and best practices.”
RV sales are surging. How are RV storage facilities keeping up with demand?
“Owners are commanding strong rents and strong pricing because of the demand for parking. I look at the RV part of the business as about 30 to 40 years behind the rest of storage and quickly coming to age. The self-storage industry has evolved over that time, [for example] the way we used to look for sites and how it has evolved towards more retail locations with the third and fourth generation. I’d say RV parking is still in its first generation and quickly moving into the second generation.”
“There is a big disparity between rents in covered space and open spaces, as well as the tenant profile that is interested in uncovered and covered lots. The industry is quickly jumping from being 40 years behind self-storage to probably 10.”
What are the main differences between first generation and second generation RV facilities?
“It amazes me to see all these RV storage facilities that are built behind industrial parks with no visibility, hard to get access to, and no onsite management on a regular basis.”
“The newer generation are more present in terms of location, the accessibility is much more logical, the entire lot is surfaced with asphalt, and the majority of them are covered with a carport-type structure. Gecko is more of a second generation facility, with substantial security features, security walls, electronic security, and on-site management.”
Are you currently pursuing any other opportunities in the RV storage space?
“There are a lot of properties where storage operators have extra land that they have decided to build RV parking on. Right now we are assisting in designing and adding four acres of parking at a large self-storage facility we manage.”
What is the biggest mistake RV storage operators make?
“There is not much revenue management going on in the RV storage space. That is probably one of the biggest weaknesses. Revenue management in the self-storage industry is absolutely necessary, whether you have your own modeling or algorithm or using a third-party vendor to perform that.”
“I don’t believe that the RV industry has caught up to that model. I think we are seeing most operators raise rents maybe once a year. There is substantial capacity to raise rents on a normal basis.”
There is much talk of a coming recession. How would that impact business for RV storage operators?
“What typically in a recession is the first thing to get liquidated? Dad’s toys, right? This is going to be a new paradigm shift for the industry to experience if it happens.”
“Will people continue to covet the half a million dollar RV, or will there be a softening in the market? If so, will that impact rental demand for parking spaces? That is a very big unknown because the RV industry has never seen such pent up demand for units and that has translated to parking for us. It may be possible that those who can store RVs at home will go back to that. That may have an impact.”
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