Maybe you are moving and you need to store household items for a short period of time, or maybe you have items that you want to keep, but do not have room to store these at your home. Whatever your reasons, if you are thinking about storing items in a self-storage facility, take time to do your research before you sign on that dotted line. Here are ten important questions to ask when selecting a self-storage facility.
- Consider if items are worth storing. Really think about whether or not you want to pay a monthly fee to store items that you may or may not want to keep. The last thing you want to do is pay for storing items that are really junk – things that you think you might need someday, but maybe you haven’t used the items in years. Wouldn’t it be better to sell or donate the items rather than pay for storage for months on end, possibly ending up paying more than the items are worth?
- Decide exactly what you want to store. The larger the storage unit, the more it is going to cost. Is there another option for storing your items, such as at a friend or relative’s house?
- Do you need a specific environment in a storage unit? (e.g., climate controlled, significant security, etc.) All storage units should be clean and dry and free from mold and insects. Sometimes, you may need a storage unit that has a specific environment. For example, if you are going to store old print documents or photos, you may need a storage unit that is climate controlled. This means that the temperature and humidity remains constant, so that the documents or photos do not deteriorate, grow mold, etc. Also, are your items of such value that they require extra security? You may pay more for these types of storage units.
- Decide on how large a unit you need. Storage units come in all sizes. There are guidelines that can help you decide on how large a storage unit you need to rent. A 5’ x 5’ storage unit gives you 25 square feet of storage space. This is a good size to store office boxes, holiday items, garden tools, and other smaller items. A 5’ x 15’ unit is 75 square feet of storage space. Here you can store a couch and chair, small dining set, bikes, sporting equipment – most items that you will find in a one-bedroom apartment. One hundred square feet (10’ x 10’ unit) is a good size for a 2-bedroom apartment. If you have a large house, a 200 square foot unit (which is 10’ x 20’) should work.
- Think about the location of the storage unit. You want the unit within a few miles of where you are living. Of course, if you are relocating, consider storing items near your new home as opposed to your old residence. This will make moving into your new place a lot easier.
- Understand when you can gain access to your storage unit. For example, are there no restrictions so that you can access the unit twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Or does the storage facility have specific times that they are open?
- Learn all you can about security of the facility. You will not only need to know all about the security of the facility, but also how you access your unit. Ask if there is 24/7 security onsite, are there security cameras, is access by key or key code, do you need to provide your own lock to lock the storage unit, does the facility have gated access with passcodes or security cards, is the facility well-lit, is it alarmed, and is there a manager on-site at specific times during the week?
- Are your items insured? Here you want to check on your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if items stored at a storage facility are covered or if you need to obtain a rider to your policy. In addition, ask the storage facility about insurance. Typically, the storage facility will charge about $10 per month (in addition to the monthly storage fee) for insurance up to a certain dollar amount.
- Shop around for cost. Storage fees can range widely within just a few miles. Search online for deals. Also, ask what happens if you miss a payment or your payment is late. At storage.com you will find charts that compare the cost of renting an apartment per square foot per month to the cost of storage facility rental per square foot per month for top ten cities in the United States. Sometimes it is cheaper to store items than rent a larger apartment.
- Finally, get references, read reviews, and search the business on the Internet. Sometimes people get into the storage unit business thinking that they can make a fast buck. A secure and reputable self-storage facility will be open to providing you with references.
Your goal, in the end, is to store your items securely and safely until such time as you need to retrieve them. Walk around the storage facility. Check in the storage unit that you might want to rent. Look for rust, mold, and water leakage. Make sure that the unit is secure. The entire facility should be very secure with a high perimeter fence and/or a secure way to enter the facility as well as to enter your storage unit. Listen to your gut. If it is telling you not to store items at that site, then move on and find another. It is also recommended that you share information on how to access the storage unit should someone close to you require access if you are not available.