Choosing a Storage Unit

The community I live in has over 20 storage unit facilities available. But, which one do I choose? Logic says the one closest to my home. But...that may not actually be my best choice. Finding a storage unit and its facility is not just a snap decision. I want one that is trustworthy, clean and has a front office that is available. Even though you rarely have interactions with the front office or the main company during your rental period, it is still comforting to know that you are giving your monthly rent payment to a business that has your best interests in mind. They are taking care of YOUR stuff after all!  So, while out there hunting for the best facility, I found that there are some warning signs to look for when making your choice.

Before you even leave the house, you have to decide on what type of storage unit you will need. What are you going to store? Furniture? Clothing? Paperwork? Electronics? Some of these items might be better stored in a climate controlled unit instead of a regular non-heated/cooled unit. Will you need the unit for just a short period of time or could your need be extended much longer? Will need access often because you are using it as part of your business? Then, you have to decide what size you will need. You don’t want to rent a unit and then find that it is much too small and you have to move your things again into a larger unit. Remember when answering these questions that you need to have a space that you can fit into but also gives you a little room to move around inside. If you ever want to be able to get your items out, you don't want to pack your storage space wall to wall, floor to ceiling. If some items you are storing are valuable, you will want a unit that has good security and monitoring. You should also make sure that your insurance covers storage units also.

Now that you have figured out what you are storing, the size of storage unit you will need and what kind of unit will work best, you need to find a managed unit within a decent building. Even though you would like a storage unit within your neighborhood, you may not be so lucky. But don’t get stuck on the facility that is closest. You want one that is the best. Look all around town for a unit in a facility that you feel both safe and comfortable storing your stuff. There are online reviews of storage units and their companies that you can check before you even go out to find a unit. If they are all bad or there is a recurring theme, you may want to steer clear. Check out the office hours and when the gate is open. If these don’t match your schedule, you are going to want to move on. The gate hours are the hours that you can access your storage unit, but the office hours are almost always shorter. If you have a problem or need to speak to someone, you'll only be able to deal with your issues during office hours.

Just like when you buy or rent a house, you go out and look at all the possibilities. The same goes for a storage unit. Before you sign the lease, check out several facilities so that you have a choice of options. Ask each manager if you can see a unit first and take note of what area of the facility it is located. You don’t want to rent a unit that you have not seen. It may not be in the same condition as the “model”. Make sure that you ask if there are any rental specials or discounts available. Most storage companies will offer you the first month free or for $1, which makes the transition from an old storage unit to a new one really easy. Even though it may be uncomfortable, ask the manage what happens if you miss or are late on a payment. Each facility seems to have a different way of handling payments and it is best if you get to the details before you sign a lease.Some places want the rent on the first day of the month, and if your rent is not paid until the next day, they classify your rent as automatically late. Grace periods vary by the company or even by the state, and in some cases even being a few days late with your payment means your unit's contents can be auctioned off to the highest bidder at an auction.

One thing that always impresses me is a company with super customer service. When you contact a self-storage facility by email, phone or in person, you want to take note of how they treat you. A good manager should greet customers in a friendly manner and answer all questions thoroughly and efficiently. If they seem to not give you a straight answer and things seem very disorganized in the office, move on! Problems sometimes, are very obvious!

Managers are very important to the overall operation of a storage unit facility and you want to look for one that is hands on and interacts with customers well and solves problems. If the manager also shows off a very clean and organized office, this should give you a clue about the overall cleanliness of the place. If the office is dusted, and has a clean floor, spotless bathrooms and the manager is  well-groomed and neatly dressed, then you will know that professionalism is the rule.

A good rule of thumb when touring storage facilities is to make sure that you don’t see any critters or their feces. You don’t want mice or bugs chewing up your belongings. Most storage facilities have a regular pest control company come in often. But, you should ask just in case. Ask how often they clean the entire area and what they are spraying for. Spiders alone can create quite a mess and moths can eat through rugs, clothing and furniture.

Of course, you want to ask all about the security of the entire facility premises. You are storing things that are precious to you and you expect to take them out when the time comes. You don’t want to have to worry about theft. Make sure that any facility that you are looking at has very tight security. It should have a gate with computerized access as well as security cameras and good lighting. It also helps if an on-site manager is present and even lives on the premises.Ask if they screen prospective tenants. Tenants can be as difficult in a storage facility as they are in an apartment complex.

Repeat this entire process with several storage units companies in different locations before you sign up for your own storage unit. After you have visited several places, reviewing all of the documents, and taking the time to consider which storage space is most convenient for you and best for your belongings, then you can sign a contract. Many facilities will offer a month-to-month agreement that lets you out at any time. A good fit for a self-storage facility is what you ultimately are looking for. Follow a few of these recommendations, and you should be able to store that antique dresser and last season’s clothing in a safe, secure and clean storage unit!

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