Valet self storage is a relatively new trend in the self storage industry which is proving its worth right now. Instead of you having to take your belongings to a storage facility, a company collects them from your home and delivers them back when you want them — they can even pack them for you. This can be very convenient and, importantly these days, staying at home means that social distancing and avoiding contaminated surfaces won’t be a problem.

The valet option had already become one of the hottest trends within the self storage industry — it appeals particularly to busy urban dwellers who may not own cars, and also to anyone needing to store very few items. But the arrival of the coronavirus may be making it more popular still. We look at the reasons for needing self storage in the current climate, what features distinguish valet self storage, and what advantages it has over regular storage services.

The increased need for self storage in changing times

The self storage industry provides flexibility for people in changing times, storing items they no longer have room for at home and helping them move in order to find work. For this reason, it is said to survive economic downturns better than other real estate sectors, and new facilities are popping up — or other buildings are being repurposed — to further supply clients’ needs. For example, although New York self storage offers comparatively little space per capita, just 3.1 square feet, it saw the largest increase in storage construction in 2019, when a whopping 3 million square feet were added. By contrast, Houston self storage has long provided plenty of storage space, currently boasting around 10 square feet per person, but many new storage facilities are still planned in Space City.

Some people who have been hit economically by the current pandemic have had to downsize to smaller properties. Many of them hope that one day they will earn enough again to return to spacious accommodation, so they want to keep their furniture somewhere safe for when that happens. Self storage is the obvious answer, and it also provides room for some clothes and toys, for example, which are not essential to have at hand all the time.

People also commonly rent a self storage unit, for example the popular 10×10 size, when they move house, and Americans have always been mobile, relocating for better jobs. This is particularly important right now, as companies shift their work online to ensure employees maintain social distancing. Some US states and cities are better than others at supporting this expanding digital economy and are attractive places to move to. A digital worker can relocate to a new town and put their belongings in a storage unit until they get set up with a good place to live.

Other reasons a self storage locker comes in handy right now include for people who are stuck at home and finally getting down to DIY projects they’ve been putting off for ages. Furniture can be shipped out for a month or two while a living room is totally redesigned, valuable paintings can escape the dust in a climate-controlled locker while walls are knocked through, or a car can be put into a lock-up while a new garage is built. In addition, some people like to keep certain types of food in a storage unit, and other essential supplies, in case of emergencies.

What does valet self storage look like?

Valet self storage is also known as “mobile,” “full-service,” “on-demand,” “private” or “bin-based” self storage, and sometimes the term “portable storage” is also used. But the word “valet” is often chosen for good reason, implying a quality delivery and pickup service for a small number of items. Unlike regular storage, valet services may let you store individual boxes — these will then be taken to a warehouse, so there’s no fixed unit size to fill. Businesses and busy people form the core of this subsector, as a lot of time is saved by never having to visit the premises where items are stored.

Valet self storage is understandably a bit more expensive than the regular service, pound for pound. The people who use it often prefer climate-controlled storage rather than skimp on protection for their stored items. And other valet storage options are becoming available, such as those with a contract where, for a small monthly fee, you can have your stored items delivered free up to twice a year.

Huge containers — sometimes self storage units in their right — are not generally a feature of valet storage, and instead an appropriate range of storage boxes can be delivered to a customer’s home, although larger ‘pods’ may also be available. In addition, special wrapping and packaging options are also often offered, which can be very useful for fragile items which require special treatment, for example.

If you’ve ordered containers delivered to your door and you take your time packing them up before the company comes to collect them, you should inquire when the rental period actually begins. Although retrieving your stored items may not be quite as immediate as driving to a facility and getting them yourself, companies generally offer guarantees that they will deliver them back to you within 24 or 48 hours of your request.

How valet self storage can really help out

Renting regular self storage involves travelling to the facility, unpacking your stuff, and then putting it in a locker. While such places as not nearly as full of people as retail outlets are, for example, you may meet other customers. Some facilities have made things easier by installing smart locks and kiosks where tasks can be done automatically and touch-free, allowing customers to rent, make payments, sign leases, purchase insurances, and much more, with a minimal risk of contagion.

But maybe your local facility doesn’t have so many features specifically intended to combat the spread of the virus, or maybe you still worry about infection from other places on route. Valet storage can therefore still be the better option, especially if you don’t have many items to store or if you need to retrieve them regularly. And don’t forget there is no reason why you can’t use more than one storage option: a simple, long-term lock-up you don’t visit much for larger items such as furniture, and then a valet option for other things.

The professional movers who come to your home probably won’t wear white cotton gloves like old-time domestic valets! However, they may well wear gloves to protect against transmitting the coronavirus, having been well briefed regarding safety issues. Self storage companies have remained operating during the pandemic, and so they now have plenty of experience and are often completely up-to-speed with the precautionary measures needed.

Anyone moving to a new house may find that the company helping them with that also offers valet storage, so they can be employed for both jobs. In stressful times, such convenience is welcomed. And companies supplying valet storage services are usually very technologically savvy, and will work with you using an app on your cell phone with which you can register all the items you’ve stored and then retrieve them again easily.

Delivery of a Package to a Door, Gloved Hands

Valet self storage — or whatever name you want to give it — looks like being a large subsector of this industry in the future. Although it will not completely replace the standard services, it has many advantages over them in terms of convenience, even if this means paying a little extra. And for people who only have a very small number of items to store, perhaps just a single box, it surely represents the better option. The coronavirus has understandably made people wary of social contact and has meant that many have had to economize and temporarily say goodbye to some of their belongings. Valet storage steps in to help, giving convenience and peace of mind when we need it most.


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

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