Self-Storage Supply and Demand for the Passive Investor

Storage is a local business. Oftentimes, you hear people talk about the 3-mile radius of a storage facility. What they are talking about is the local demand area for that storage business. Now the radius for the property could be 4-miles, 5-miles, or even 10-miles depending on where the property is located. Heck, in Manhattan it could be 1 block!  The point is 3-miles is a general radius and I will use it here for simplicity.

If you’re a passive investor you might be asking, “why is supply and demand important to me?”  Well, it’s of critical importance to the investment.   If the investment is in an oversupplied local market, then your investment will suffer.  Your sponsor’s stated returns might not pan out if they miss this critical metric when analyzing the self-storage investment opportunity.   Questions to ask the sponsor of a self-storage syndication:

  •       What is the market radius per/capita maximum threshold?
  •       What is the market radius per/household demand threshold?
  •       What are the total square feet of unmet demand in the radius based on population?
  •       What are the total square feet of unmet demand in the radius based on households?

A good sponsor should be able to answer those questions for the given radius on the property.  Also, the unmet demand should be positive numbers.  If they are negative numbers, I would not invest.  The sponsor should also have purchased a professional feasibility study prior to closing on the property.

There are two primary methods I use to determine supply and demand in a 3-mile radius.  One is based on households and one is based on population.


Households’ method

I picked this one up by reading Mark Helm’s book, “Creating Wealth through Self-Storage”.  I highly recommend the book. The household’s formula goes like this: Number of households multiplied by 10.2%, multiplied by 1.3, multiplied by 120, plus 20% (Households*10.2%*1.3*120+20%).  Here it is in an example:

  •       Number of Households in the 3-Mile Radius: 15,968

o   10.2% of households use storage

  •       Households that use storage = 1629

o   1.3 users per household

  •       Number of Users of Self-Storage = 2118

o   120 average sq. ft. size of storage unit

  •       Total SQFT demand for households: 254,160

o   Plus, commercial business use adds 20%

  •       Total SQFT demand in the 3-mile radius = 304,992

So, it mathematically it looks like this: (15,968*10.2%*1.3*120) +20%

Now you have to find the existing total rentable square feet in your 3-mile radius.  You can do this with various tools (listed below). Once you get that number, in this case 158,058, you subtract that from your number above to get 146,934 square feet of unmet demand.  This is a good number!


Population method

The second is based off population in your radius.  It’s commonly referred to as the supply/person or sq.ft./Capita.  You often hear that equilibrium for storage is 7 sq.ft./Capita and this isn’t true.  That number is the national equilibrium.  You have to remember storage is a local business.  That’s why we use a 3-mile radius in most cases.   

The first thing you have to do is find the equilibrium point of your given radius.  We do this with the Self-Storage Alamance (link below) to find the US, four states including the state in which the property you buying and then 4 to 5 metro areas near your property’s metro area (or including) to get the average.  For example, in the 2020 Self-Storage Almanac, if I am looking at a property in Grove City, Ohio:

  •       US sq.ft./person = 5.70
  •       Ohio = 4.99
  •       Indianan = 5.81
  •       Michigan = 4.66
  •       West Virginia = 3.32
  •       Columbus, OH Metro = 6.99
  •       Dayton, OH = 7.46
  •       Cleveland, OH Metro = 6.97
  •       Cincinnati, OH Metro = 6.83
  •       Akron, OH = 7.30

Now we can average all these to get: 6.00 sq.ft./capita for Grove City, Ohio.  Now that we know that, we get the population for the radius to calculate the current demand for the area:

  •       Population: 30,520
  •       Saturation Ratio (SF/person): 6.00
  •       2020 Demanded SF = 183,120 sq.ft.
  •       Add: Commercial 20%: 36,624
  •       Total sq.ft. Demanded in 2020 = 219,744 sq.ft.

So, if your current market has existing storage of say 184,502 then there is 35,242 of unmet demand in that 3-mile radius. 

By the way, these two examples were of different areas. If you get different numbers for the same area that’s okay too.  Just average the two or take the lower numbers to be on the safe side.  Again, I encourage you to get a professional feasibility study done on every purchase. I’ve included references below.  

I also want to mention that my Self-Storage Syndication Deal Analyzer has a calculator with these two methods built-in!


Smart Storage Group:

Radius+: Self Storage News, Development and Analysis • Radius+ (

Self-Storage Almanac: 2021 Self-Storage Almanac – Mini Storage Messenger


Jason started learning and actively investing in real estate in 2014 and has a goal of being a passive investor by 2024.  He is focused on self-storage as an investment and is currently an owner and operator of 15,500 sqft of storage.  He also currently owns and operates his own social media site which offers free self-storage training and paid content like the Self-Storage Syndication Deal Analyzer and a Preliminary Self-Storage Feasibility/Market Study. He leveraged his 21 years of Information Technology, Lean & Six Sigma, and Project Management experience to rapidly improve the Net Operating Income of the properties he’s invested in by implementing cost saving technologies and operating practices.  Jason attended Golden Gate University, graduating in 2007 with a BS in Computer Information System and then a Master’s in Business Administration in 2016.  He has worked in the Information Technology (IT) field for the past 21+ years with Project Management, Data Analyst, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, and Continues Improvement projects. He is a Dad of two wonderful kids and enjoys pro sports and hiking. Jason can be contacted at

Nothing on this website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial and tax advisors regarding any investment.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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