It happened after hurricane Katrina, and the expectation is that Sandy will prove no different.
"Demand for self-storage rises considerably as homeowners, contractors, and local suppliers set about preparing for reconstruction," note analysts David Toti and Gaurav Mehta of Cantor Fitzgerald.
That means self-storage REITs (real estate investment trusts) that have above-average exposure on the eastern seaboard could see a surge in demand ahead. Cantor Fitzgerald expects Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR, SELL), Sovran Self Storage (NYSE: SSS, HOLD), and CubeSmart (NYSE: CUBE; BUY) will see the bulk of the demand, and that will drive revenue growth in the first half of 2013.
Extra Space Storage which has relatively high exposure in New York and New Jersey, would see the biggest effect, perhaps as much as 33 percent of its portfolio. Sovran comes in second at 24 percent, according to Toti and Mehta.
The play will likely be short-lived, as happened after hurricane Katrina, and there could be a hangover afterward.
"The storage needs generated by hurricane clean-up can last from 6-18 months," the Cantor Fitzgerald analysts warn, "then recede, which can set the stage for declining occupancies and more competitive pricing."
The self-storage REIT sector is up 13 percent year-to-date, underperforming compared to the RMZ (overall REIT index), but poised to improve over the next several years. The economic and housing recoveries are a positive for storage demand, as more Americans move and companies begin to hire again. The stock of Extra Space is up 40 percent year-to-date, and Sovran is up 36 percent.