Hundreds of investors in real estate investment trusts are hunkered down at the Waldorf Astoria, touting tremendous returns and talking tactics for the next great play. It's "REIT Week," in New York, or for those of you less excited about it, it's the annual conference of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT).
REITs overall are on a tear, with the FTSE NAREIT All Equity REITs Index up 14.13 percent on a total return basis in the first five months of the year.
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.
Forget the run on multi-family in the new rental age, forget the trophy office properties in the big metro markets, it's those giant, brightly colored, enormous metal container communities just out beyond the mall that are reaping REITs rewards.
It's simple, and it's about housing. As fewer people choose to buy and more people lose their homes, that's where all their stuff goes. It's also a product of overall downsizing. I realize that's not a very highbrow explanation, but it just so happens to be the case, and it's behind an 18.4% sector gain in the first five months of the year. In the last 12 months, self storage REITs returned 29 percent.