Real estate news items were rare last week, drowned out by the din of election and pandemic-related developments. Yet, true to form, Memphis area readers could rely on The Wall Street Journal to come up with a startling real estate feature. ‘Startling’ might be the wrong word—at first glance, at least, perhaps ‘baffling’ would be a better fit for—
“Startup Aims to Be the Airbnb of Storage Space for the Covid-19 Era.”
Since Airbnb is a notoriously successful online vacation rental marketplace, the headline was mystifying. Was the new enterprise one that hoped to target people looking for places to send their hard-working belongings off on vacation? Or declutter, but just for a weekend? And what did this have to do with Covid-19, anyway?
The details did clarify the mystery. The pandemic has created a heap of newly vacant restaurants, parking garages, and offices with, for the moment, few tenants seeking to fill the void. The entrepreneurs see that as an opportunity and are offering to convert the vacancies into storage units. Since another unfortunate offshoot of the pandemic is a bunch of younger professionals “fleeing cities, temporarily moving in with relatives” or downsizing, they need space to store their excess belongings for the time being. The Utah-based firm, “Neighbor.com,” has added several million square feet to its inventory.
Another somewhat pandemic-related startup is targeting antsy city-dwellers. As the “trapped at home” feeling wears on and on, this business (“Pacaso”) hopes to offer them a timeshare-modeled opportunity for weekend getaway homes—not in exotic vacation destinations, but in suburban residential neighborhoods like Austin, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Memphis area readers would probably agree with a caveat about such “Covid-19 Era” ideas. Since sooner or later (last week, the ‘sooner’ seemed increasingly likely), the lifestyle changes will probably revert toward more recognizable norms. If your own Memphis area real estate goals are less temporary, I hope you’ll give me a call!