StorSafe, a private self-storage investment firm, has entered North Carolina with the acquisition of Bonus Room Storage in Candler, a suburb of Asheville.

This venture into the North Carolina market signifies StorSafe’s strategic response to the region’s burgeoning population growth and escalating demand for self-storage.

It’s one of several growing markets around the country where the expanding firm has set its sights. With a portfolio now encompassing over 1.3 million sq. ft., StorSafe is looking to continue to grow—with two more properties in North Carolina under contract.

The Storage Beat sat down with StorSafe’s CEO, Tom Bretz, to talk about their latest deals and gain insights into the company’s vision for the future of self-storage.

Tell us about your role at StorSafe. What are you doing on a day-to-day basis?

Tom Bretz: On a day-to-day basis, our team is out there buying self-storage facilities. We now have 24 facilities in six states, and of course we are trying to improve those every single day. Many of the facilities we buy have expansion needs or have deferred maintenance or capital improvements that need to be done.

Are you doing development as well?

Yes, right now we have two ground up developments in Florida near the Space Coast in Rockledge and Palm Bay. Of course, we are taking advantage of that area in Florida near Cape Canaveral. We have additional full ground up expansions with three or four of our other sites there.

What is rate growth like in a market like the Space Coast compared to the rest of the country?

My general take is there was this two year crazy jump in rates post-Covid, and then it seems like what is happening now is that things are reverting back to a normal path of how they were before. So I don’t look at the market as being down, it is just not in this crazy blip.

In the Space Coast, with all the expansion, self-storage rates are holding steady and in fact have improved a little bit. Frankly some of the other storage developments that were planned there were cancelled as interest rates increased. Having out debt and equity lined up before interest rates got too high was a big advantage for us.

What is driving demand in that market, is there a lack of supply?

There is a little bit of a shortage of supply, but mostly growth is very strong here. As our various billionaires have decided to push into space, that entire Cape Canaveral area has become red hot with good job growth and people moving in and creating demand for storage.

What other growth trends are you seeing in your markets?

We are pretty active in Northwest Indiana. We have six stores there. Those who are not Midwesterners might not know that the region is having a nice little growth spurt. That is because of all the migration from the south suburban Chicago area to take advantage of lower property taxes. These micro migrations are going on all over the country, with residents jumping a border and getting inside of an area to get into lower tax areas.

What is your approach to technology?

We have generally taken a hybrid approach. We have people in all of our markets and we are taking advantage of tech where we can with online rentals and kiosks, and experimenting with artificial intelligence—all of it.

We have a hub and spoke and model, so about half our facilities are manned, but the unmanned facilities are covered from a store near by.

What percentage of your rentals are online?

Online is over 80 percent of rentals, it’s a strong piece of it. That is more common now than it was even three or four years ago when we got into the business.

And you just bought your first property in North Carolina last week. What attracted you to that market?

I think it is a combination of factors. We love Florida but the insurance rates are getting crazy. The Carolinas have similar growth patterns without the insurance property issues. In Florida right now people it is challenging to get flood and hurricane insurance. In many case that number has jumped 200, 300 to 400% over the last couple of years. The Carolinas are inland a little bit and much more reasonable. We love Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Asheville. Our new one is in a suburb of Asheville, and we have two more in North Carolina under contract.

Alexander Harris