What you need to know about renting a storage box

You don’t have to look far to find a storage facility these days: In 2021, there were 50,523 in the United States, up from 44,149 in 2017, according to the 2022 Self-Storage Almanac. which tracks industry statistics. And self-storage is popular, with a record occupancy rate of 94.5% last year.

“People turn to self-storage usually because of some sort of life transition, like a move or downsizing. It’s not just that you have too much stuff,” says McKall Morris, spokesperson for Extra Space Storage, one of the largest self-storage companies, with more than 2,000 properties in the world. national scale. “Our typical customer is new to self-storage, rents for two years or less – usually around three months – and stores their belongings. We also see small businesses renting space for additional storage of inventory or equipment. »

If you need extra elbow room, here’s what to consider when selecting a self-storage setup.

Interior vs exterior storage. An indoor unit is like a large dressing room. You will typically bring your items to a loading area, transfer them to a cart, and move them to your unit. Many facilities have multiple floors, so you may need to take an elevator. Some locations are designed for you to drive to your unit. Interior spaces are protected from the elements, but there may be downsides. “Self-storage facilities typically have nice wide hallways and large individual unit doors, but you may still need to squeeze through one or more standard-sized doorways to access your unit hallway,” explains Mark Aselstine, who used multiple storage units for his former business, Uncorked Ventures in California.

An outdoor unit is similar to a garage. You can drive to the door and load items directly into your unit. “You’d think buying a drive unit would be amazing,” says Aselstine. “While it is often more convenient and accessible for loading, I have often found my unit blocked by trucks, and it seems like people are still moving around outside the outdoor units.”

Customer service. The store manager should be professional, knowledgeable and familiar with the property. If they can’t answer your questions, keep looking, Morris says. Note that some independent facilities are not staffed. With these, you can rent a unit online or contact a call center and work with an agent to select and rent space. There should be a property manager on call if there is a problem, but he is not working on site.

Cut. Morris says the biggest mistakes tenants make are either overestimating or underestimating the space they need, so they pay too much or have to rent two units. “Know what you’re going to store,” she says. “Create an informal list and take pictures that you can show the facility manager.” Look online for size guides to get an idea of ​​what a unit can hold. For example, a 10 foot by 10 foot unit can typically store the contents of two bedrooms or an entire living room.

The unit itself. While it may be tempting to rent a unit out of sight, it’s a mistake, says real estate agent Ken Pozek, who rented space for a year while waiting for his home to be built in Orlando. Pozek advises his clients to do their research and visit the establishment. “You need to see the exact unit you intend to rent: what it looks like, what it smells like, does it live up to your standards,” he says. Assuming there is more than one option in your area, it may also be beneficial to compare prices.

Access. Evaluate your schedule to determine how often you will need to access the unit – and when. Is the property open 24/7 or do they have limited hours? A place that is only open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. may not suit your schedule. For example, Aselstine chose an establishment open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Climate control. Surprisingly, a number of self-storage properties do not have air conditioning or heating. If your location becomes extremely hot, cold, humid, or dry, you should consider upgrading to an air-conditioned facility. Clothing can withstand temperature changes, but an antique table cannot. By moderating the temperature, air conditioning can prevent your items from molding, rusting, freezing or disintegrating. Some self-storage brands also offer specialized temperature-controlled options for art, electronics, and wine.

Security. A facility should be equipped with 24-hour video surveillance, door alarms, and keypad entry doors. Is there someone on site most of the time, or is the facility unprotected? Look for adequate lighting and perimeter fencing. High-tech sites can use an app to open gates and doors. Also check the type of locks used on the units. The best is a cylinder lock that is completely recessed in the door, so that it cannot be cut.

Price. Pricing for self-storage is location-specific and based on the number of units available, size, whether it is air-conditioned, and whether it is a walk-in facility. According to the Self-Storage Almanac, in 2021 a 10-by-10-foot unit without air conditioning rented for an average of $111.67 per month; a unit with air conditioning was $146.72. With a few exceptions, the contracts are monthly. Although you may get a tempting introductory offer, be prepared for a rate increase every few months. “It’s the most boring thing ever,” says Aselstine. “After that good introductory rate, they raise the price, thinking it’s more work for you to move than to pay the raise.” Be sure to ask about the company’s rent increase practices. To save a few bucks, upgrade to a smaller unit once you start moving items.

Assurance. Although the contents of your unit may be covered by your home insurance policy, it is advisable to purchase self-storage insurance. This way, if something happens to your belongings – a fire or a burglary, for example – you receive money to replace what is damaged or lost. The easiest way to purchase this insurance is to do so when you rent out your unit, as self-storage companies typically sell it as an add-on to your lease. The price can be as low as $9 per month for $2,500 of coverage, says James Appleton of MiniCo Insurance Agency, one of the largest self-storage insurers. Because customer storage insurance (sometimes called “renter”) is a term policy, anyone can buy it, regardless of their credit score; there is usually no deductible; and losses are not reported to your regular insurance company, so you do not incur a rate increase.

Restrictions. For the most part, self-storage businesses prohibit food, perishables, inoperable vehicles, and anything flammable or combustible, such as car batteries, propane tanks, or gasoline. And, adds Morris: “You can’t store yourself. You cannot live in a unit or use it as a recreational facility.

Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategy. Find it on dailywriter.net.

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