7 Better Questions to Ask a Storage Facility before Renting

Amy Daniels |
If you Google “questions to ask a storage facility before renting,” you’ll find plenty of results from many different kinds of sources: storage facility websites, self storage industry blogs, and even life-hacking organizational sites. So, why bother with another article on the same subject? Some of the advice you’ll find out there is pretty solid, but too much of it is unrealistic. Chances are that you’ll find much of the basic information (like available unit sizes and access hours) on the facility’s website. And you definitely won’t call up an office and spit off a round of 20 questions – particularly if you plan on calling multiple locations. When you’re on the hunt for the perfect storage unit, it’s a good idea to take time to ask meaningful and revealing questions. But unless you want to dig out pen and paper for a formal interview of the company, it’s best to have a short series of concise questions at your disposal. If you choose your inquisitions wisely, you can find answers to all your pressing inquiries in one brief phone call. Skip this: “What security features do you have?” Ask this instead: “How does your facility prevent criminal activity?” From unit break-ins to personal assaults, security is an important facet of any storage facility. It’s important that you feel at ease in the very place where you entrust the care of your things. It’s also important that you get those things back. What to listen for: Listen for indicators of a proactive attitude toward security. Safety is much more than installing surveillance cameras or bright lights; it requires attentiveness to digital footage and a watchful eye from staff members. The best facilities out there will have a lot to tell you here, like nightly security patrols, detailed gate logs, and a lack of inconspicuous hiding places for intruders. When to be hesitant: If a facility simply runs off a list of security features, you can’t be sure that the staff is doing everything in its power to protect you – or your belongings. Skip this: “What special features do you offer?” Ask this instead: “Why should I choose your facility over the competition?” Shouldn’t every facility have the answer to this question? The good ones will. No matter where you live, remember that you have the customer advantage because there are plenty of other options available. What to listen for: Listen for an enthusiastic response! Whether you ask this question of a lower-level employee or a manager, you should hear a reply that the staff member truly believes in. Smart facilities recognize that your decision should be based off much more than proximity and price. They will have plenty of special characteristics that set them apart, and they’ll be ready to defend these to you. When to be hesitant: Watch out for a reluctant or apathetic tone; if the facility won’t fight for your attention now, who’s to say that it will once you’ve dropped some cash there? Skip this: “Do customers leave positive reviews?” Ask this instead: “What do past and present tenants have to say about your facility?” No staff member should lie to you about this. But when you pose a question such as “Do customers leave positive reviews?” the only smart reply is something very similar to “Of course!” Plus, you get so much more information when you ask what, specifically, renters have to say about the company. What to listen for: Listen for feedback that matters to you. What do you find most important in the self storage experience? Pay particular attention to positive experiences in that area. Bonus points go to facilities that eagerly send reviews and/or references your way. When to be hesitant: Don’t necessarily discredit the facility if you’re told that it doesn’t have any reviews just yet. Instead, raise an eyebrow if your request is deemed ridiculous, either explicitly or indirectly. Skip this: “Do you charge admin fees or deposits?” Ask this instead: “How much, exactly, will I pay for my unit both upfront and per month?” This is a great question to ask because many facilities do tack on modest fees, or require a security deposit that you can earn back upon move-out. If you ask for the exact dollar amount that will be charged, you can accurately compare the price of local options. What to listen for: It’s your call if you want to rule out a facility based on whether or not it adds fees to your rent. Either way, you should be able to get a straight answer. If not, try asking again and explain that you want to get the most accurate quote possible. An understanding staff member will likely oblige, or will at least share as much information as possible. When to be hesitant: Some employees may be instructed to hold out until you’re actually in the office (it’s easier to sell in person), but you should be concerned when you receive a purely vague or roundabout answer. Skip this: “Are staff members friendly, helpful, and professional?” Ask this instead: “What qualifies this facility’s staff members to assist me with the storing process?” Be careful not to sound too critical here. By simply asking about the staff’s qualifications, you can cover experience, personality, and accomplishments all at once. What to listen for: An ideal facility has a manger with plenty of experience in self storage or a related industry. But you may find yourself interacting with lower-level employees on any given day. Make sure that even the person you’re talking to is warm and friendly. When to be hesitant: While this question may very well catch the staff member off guard, you’ve got yourself a big red flag if he or she draws a complete blank. Skip this: “Are the units clean?” Ask this instead: “What steps do you take to keep my belongings in the best condition possible?” While you do want to make sure that your units are clean, you’re probably trying to dig deeper with this question. Many facilities out there work hard to keep your belongings perfectly preserved; from pest prevention to climate control and regular quality inspection, you may be surprised at just how diligent some companies can be. What to listen for: The bottom line is that you want to ensure the wellbeing of your things while in storage. There are many different approaches to making this happen, so keep your ears open for any way that a facility goes beyond the most basic tactics. When to be hesitant: This question should be pretty tough to fail. Either the facility takes steps to stay in great shape, or it doesn’t. Skip this: “Do you offer a discount for ______?” Ask this instead: “How can I get a discount on my rent?” It never hurts to ask about discounts, but there may be some options you hadn’t thought of. When you word your question this way, you open the door for the staff member to detail every discount available. What to listen for: Depending on the different programs available, you may hear several specials or a few current promotions. You've got a promising facility so long as the staff member asks about your situation and works hard to find something that works for you. When to be hesitant: A big thing in self storage is to offer deals like “1st month is $1”. If you’re being sold on a promotion like that, make sure you understand what will happen to your rent after the special ends. These questions are what most renters want to know when they call or visit a facility. Depending on your situation, there may be some particular areas that you want to ask about, as well:
  • Special accommodations
  • Late payments
  • Moving truck availability
  • Restrictions on what can be stored
  • Types of locks used
  • Insurance options
When you’re fishing for an elaborative answer, there’s one simple rule to help you out: ask “how”, “why”, and “what” rather than “do”. When you pose a closed-ended question (one where the answer is simply “yes” or “no”), you may end the conversation feeling like you missed something. By figuring out exactly what you’re wanting to know and being smart about the way you ask it, you can significantly cut down on the time it takes to choose the right storage facility for you!