Wondering how you should choose a storage facility? What pitfalls should you avoid? It’s not as straight-forward as you might think, and there are hidden fees along the way. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the process using this checklist to do your research.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

This agency provides information that is self-reported from local businesses, via a questionnaire they mail out each year. While this info is not confirmed by the BBB, they also offer Accreditation to local businesses. If a business is Accredited, you can be sure that the BBB has done a more in-depth analysis of the company, and continually updates their records. Businesses are rated on a scale of A+ to F. Things the BBB keeps tabs on include:

  • Licensing
  • Business practices
  • Deceptive ads & marketing (if any)
  • Government actions
  • Bankruptcy
  • Client issues & resolutions

Angie’s List & SpareFoot

Anytime you’re trying to research a company, Angie’s List is a good place to check out. Real people leave detailed reviews, often times spelling out the specific situation. If there is an issue, Angie’s List intervenes and helps with a resolution. If there is one site other than the BBB that holds a company accountable, Angie’s List would it!Checking out a company on SpareFoot.com is not a bad idea – this site specifically caters to the self storage industry. You’ll find listings for nearly every facility in the US with detailed data and a company overview. If you can’t find a facility listed there, don’t be alarmed – it just means the facility doesn’t have any units listed for rent on SpareFoot, which is usually as a result of low storage unit inventory.

Online Reviews

Google – the easiest way to find a storage facility’s Google reviews/ratings is to just do a quick Google search for their name followed by the city/state they are located in. Their local listing will be featured on the right with the Google star review, along with ratings pulled from other secondary website such as SpareFoot and Facebook.

Facebook – Hop online and scoot around the company’s Facebook page. Read reviews to get an idea of what to expect when renting a unit. Also check out their “About” tab on the profile for business background info (if they’ve provided it).

Watch for tell-tale signs of “paid reviews”. Yes, unfortunately companies will hire people to leave them fake, 5-star reviews. They can be difficult to pinpoint, but here are a few things to look for when evaluating potential fake reviews:

  • Poor, broken English that is unintelligible
  • Lack of punctuation and spelling (although some people write this way all the time, so who knows nowadays!)
  • General reviews that really say nothing
  • Over-the-top, gushing reviews

As a general rule, if only a few reviews meet these criteria that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fake – you’re looking for an over-arching pattern across multiple review sites. If nearly ALL of a storage facility’s reviews fall into the above criteria, consider that you may be looking at fake reviews.

Ask to review their lease agreement prior to renting.

Look for these specifics:

  • Is the facility 24/7 access?
  • Check the late fee policy and other fees. You’d be amazed at the number of fees some facilities will levy against their tenants: reservation, booking, processing, administrative, move-in, deposit, cancellation, early move-out, utility charges and more.
  • Is it a month-to-month contract, or are you locked into a year or more?
  • What is the rate-increase policy? Are you guaranteed the current rate for a set amount of time? After that, what will the new price be?

Not sure what else you should be looking for? Check out this article – 7 Things to Ask Before Renting a Storage Unit

Reviewing the lease agreement and asking questions is probably the most important thing you’ll do prior to renting. This is where back-handed policies, hidden fees and more are tucked away and never discussed with a client until you’re on the receiving end of these unwelcome surprises. Do you research before you sign an agreement – otherwise you’re over a barrel and on the hook for whatever it might be, regardless of how unfair it might be. After all, you signed the agreement. Know what you’re signing beforehand!

Take a tour!

While you’re unlikely to see anything earth-shattering on a facility tour that might help you make a decision, it’s a good way to find out if you are dealing with a nationwide franchise or a locally owned & operated storage facility. It’s also the most interaction you’ll have with the office staff before renting – are they pushy and trying to sell you something, or listening to your needs and being helpful? Do they offer packing, moving supplies and locks? (Watch out for facilities trying to sell disc locks for $45! Retail should be about $10.)If other clients are present or the phone rings while you’re there, how are others treated? Is the facility well-maintained and secure (more on that below)? Is it well-lit and spacious enough to allow a moving truck access?

Security

While taking your facility tour, ask these questions:

  • How many cameras are on the facility? Are they infrared? (meaning they can record properly at night)
  • Are there functional cameras recording at all facility access gates?
  • Does each tenant have their own gate access code?
  • Is access recorded whenever a tenant comes or goes from the facility?

Taking the time to research a storage facility properly can take a little more time, but is well worth it in the end!