The recreational vehicle industry is booming as the trend toward urbanization continues across the United States—and owners are running out of places to stash them.

RV shipments (or new RV sales) for 2017 surged 17.2 percent to a record 504,599 units, marking the eighth consecutive years of wholesale shipments growth, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Increased RV ownership has led to the problem of a lack of adequate storage for the vehicles.

As such, there’s been a rise in demand for both RV rental facilities as well as for-sale RV storage in the form of garages condos. Storage facility operators are also well positioned to manage the rental of consigned RVs as an incremental revenue source, notes Jon Gray, CEO of RVShare, an Akron, Ohio-based peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace.

“As the US becomes more urban, the desire to leverage RVs to get back out into nature and onto the road is higher than ever,” Gray said.

RV storage development hotter than ever

Caesar Wright, president of Carlsbad, CA-based Mako Steel, notes that RV self-storage “is about as hot” as he’s ever seen it.

“RV and boat storage interest is through the roof,” he said. “Demand is particularly high up and down the California coast where the supply of places to store RVs and boats is very limited.”

The biggest challenge for developers seeking to build RV storage facilities is that it’s more land intensive compared to conventional self-storage, Wright pointed out.

“The parcel sizes need to be bigger to accommodate a wider turning radius and drive aisle widths,” he added.

Standard drive aisle widths are usually about 50 feet wide for enclosed RV units while the standard bay width for traditional enclosed units are 14 feet wide according to Wright. With such large aisle widths, developers need at least five-acre parcels to make a project pencil. Also, prime locations won’t make much sense because land costs will cut into ROI.

“RV owners don’t have the ability to go around the corner and find a storage unit since it’s not as readily available as traditional self-storage,” Wright said.

All the bells and whistles

Because land is so expensive in California, many developers have built RV storage in nearby states such as Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, said Wright. Since RVs are typically luxury items, owners often expect amenities such as a dump station, wash bay and even detailing services, said Wright.

“Some owners like the idea of being able to call ahead and have their vehicle ready and waiting,” he said. “Clients want convenience and are often willing to pay for these amenities.”

In general, Wright warns that would-be RV storage developers need to be sure their architects consider proper building heights, drive aisle widths and unit sizes.

“They need to make sure when doing the layout, that they’re trying to maximize the parcels as best as they can and be efficient with turning radiuses and drive aisle widths,” Wright said. “Those things get overlooked too often and sometimes developers have to start over.”

To rent or to own

Other developers have come up with a unique way to address the lack of RV storage solutions.

In mid-May, a developer of traditional self-storage facilities announced plans to launch a relatively new concept in RV storage in Palm Springs called Monstore Garages, Garage Condominiums.

David Gandolfo has teamed up with Ted Deits, who developed another similar facility called the Eucalyptus at Beaumont in Beaumont, CA, to build the new RV storage garage condos.

The 107-unit Eucalyptus at Beaumont is sold out with a waiting list for resales to become available, evidence of “the demand and willingness” of RV owners to purchase storage rather than renting, noted Deits.

“Twenty-nine of the original owners later sold their garage condo all realized a significant profit,” said Deits.

Owners’ monthly payments totaled an average of $320, compared with a cost of $400 to $450 to store an RV, Deits said. Both Deits and Gandolfo said that as RV owners, they had a difficult time finding large enclosed storage. So they set about creating their own solution.

“It totally made sense but the initial challenge I had was getting consumers to understand the benefits of ownership versus rental,” Deits said. “My first clients were CPAs and other property developers. They were the first to put pencil to paper, and quickly discovered that owning their storage has significant financial advantages over renting.”

Monstore Garages garage sizes range from 650 square feet to 5400 square feet with prices starting at $97,250 and going up to $750,000. The garage condos are currently under construction with completion slated before year’s end. At a pre-sale event held in early April, the developers sold all 15 units that were eligible for sale within a four-hour timeframe, according to Deits. Amenities include a clubhouse, wet bar, refrigerator, lounge, TV, laundry room and a dump station.

“This way, owners can come back from trips and hang out and enjoy the facilities,” Deits said. “It works out very nicely for both the consumer, and for us. We’re making money and they’re saving money on rentals with the potential to make money themselves if they sell down the line.”

Local resistance

But not all RV storage facilities are welcomed with open arms.

A proposed development in Lady Lake, FL, is being met with opposition by nearby residents. Lighthouse Storage LLC wants to build an RV storage facility on 26 acres just south of a subdivision in the area.

“There’s no trees protecting me from what they are putting up. My house will go down 50 percent in value if they go in there. Thirteen years I have been here and there were horses there. Now there’s going to be containers,” Villager Andrew Hall was quoted by a local paper as saying.

Despite residents’ objections, the Lighthouse Storage LLC plan recently moved ahead on a 3-1 vote. Neither Lighthouse Storage nor city officials responded to requests for comment.

 

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Mary Ann Azevedo