DETROIT – When Airbnb first came along, skeptics didn’t think the idea would work.
But it did, and now another company is using the concept to reinvent the storage industry to connect people who have extra space with people who have extra stuff.
“We allow you to connect with and store with a neighbor,” said Joseph Woodbury, the CEO of Neighbor.
Neighbor allows people to store their stuff in someone else’s house instead of renting a pricier storage unit.
“In university towns, we will have people put up a closet and students will store two or three boxes in their closet,” Woodbury said.
Bernice and David Cohen rented out a corner of their attic to a college student and her extra stuff. But it’s not just attics or basements. Residents are utilizing spaces such as parking spots in driveways or shelves in a closet. Some even rent out the truck of their cars or fences to lock up bikes.
“We’ll have people put up barns, their old barn, and they’ll store classic cars in their barn,” Woodbury said.
In the Detroit area, there are climate controlled basements, extra bedrooms, pole barns and yard spaces available.
Neighbor is barely two years old and has already seen a 500% annual growth. It’s available in 48 states and is going international.
“We’re not looking to rent out an RV with somebody Airbnbing their RV or living it,” Bernice Cohen said. “There’s a limit. We draw the line.”
There are rules written in the fine print. Homeowners are allowed to inspect anything they store. Neighbor insures them up to $2 million if the stuff could somehow hurt the house. Homeowners can also reject anything.
Neighbor also has terms in their its liability agreements that protect the people having their items stored.
“We definitely wouldn’t have, like, fireworks, explosives or animals,” David Cohen said.
Neighbor offers a much cheaper option than big storage companies. The average monthly cost of a storage unit is $88. On the Neighbor app and website, prices are typically about half of that.
Neighbor uses an algorithm that calculates a suggested rent amount based on the size, safety of the location and amenities available, such as security cameras. Then, the host can either stick with that suggested price or pick another. The payments are handled through a secure website, so personal information isn’t exchanged with anyone.