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What to Consider Before Renting a Storage Unit

An open medium-sized storage unit filled with boxes.

You’ve closed on your dream home (congratulations!) and your move-in date is quickly approaching. It’s time to start thinking about loading up the moving truck.

To bring, or not to bring-that is the question as you look at your child’s toy chest (that you still have even though she’s a teenager now) and your favorite — albeit worse-for-wear — recliner.

Worry not. Before you resign yourself to getting rid of your things, renting a storage unit might be just the answer you’re looking for.

Here are the things you need to know and questions you need to ask when finding the storage facility that’s right for you:

1. Location, Location, Location

If getting to the storage unit means maneuvering down one-way streets or crossing multiple lanes of traffic, you might want to reconsider — especially if you’ve elected to move yourself and it’s your first time behind the wheel of a lumbering moving truck.

Take into account the facility’s distance from your homes (both current and new). A storage unit may be perfectly priced, but if it requires an extra half hour to reach, the added gas expense may cancel out the savings. But you also don’t want to store your belongings in a sub-par facility just because it’s only a few blocks away.

2. Easy Access to the Storage Unit

Most facilities offer 24-hour access, but not all. If you’ve found one that’s nearby at the right price, but it’s only open during regular business hours, be absolutely sure you’re okay with limited access. You never know when you’ll need emergency access to your things (or when interior design inspiration could strike), and waiting for access could be annoying.

You’ll also want a unit that’s easy to get to within the facility. In multi-storied facilities, first-floor units cost more and are often the first to go, but if you expect to make frequent visits to the unit, the extra cost might be worth it.

3. Safety and Security

You wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) trust your belongings to just anyone. “Security of belongings” is a major concern for most individuals looking for a storage unit. Before renting, check the crime rate in the area and research which security measures the facility employs.

What to look for:

• Determine how your belongings will be protected. Common theft deterrents include keyed entry, security lights, video monitoring, electronic security codes, and even guards.
• Is there video surveillance, and, if so who monitors it after business hours?
• Are there alarms on individual units, or at entrance and exit points?

4. Natural Hazards and Pest Protection

We’re guessing you don’t want your belongings chewed up, soaked, or set ablaze. For an added sense of security, look into each facility’s protective measures against natural hazards such as fire and water damage and rodent intrusion.

Inquire about fire prevention methods such as smoke detector locations, sprinklers, and fire unit response times. It is unlikely a fire will occur, but it’s a calming peace of mind knowing these precautions are in place if one does.

Water damage and mildew are also concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask about previous water damage incidents from storms, and how these issues were resolved. Additionally, items such as bedding, mattresses, metal, books, and photos can be susceptible to mildew or condensation damage — which a climate-controlled unit will most likely alleviate.

Rodents, roaches, ants, and other pests can be a problem in some storage units. Most facilities will have some sort of monthly pest control service, but we recommend you verify this with management, as infestations quickly spread from one unit to another.

Most importantly, find out if your belongings are protected with insurance should anything you own be damaged or stolen.

5. Get Answers! (To These 6 Questions)

Armed with your newfound storage space search knowledge, you’ve shopped around and narrowed down your faves. Now it’s time for the most important step of all: visit every facility on your shortlist. We’ve put together a list of key questions to ask management before signing on the dotted line.

  • What size units are available, and what is the cost for each size?
  • Can I see the exact unit I’d be renting?
  • Are there any discounts available?
  • How does the payment schedule work?
  • Is there a minimum lease length?
  • Is the price being quoted final?

Visit. Ask. Repeat, until you find the facility and storage unit that perfectly fits your needs.

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