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Professional or Self-Storage?

Maybe your new home isn't ready when you have to move out of the old one. Or for whatever reason you are traveling and need to store your things until you return. When looking at storage options, first decide whether you want professional storage or self-storage, then choose the best storage facility.

One of your first considerations should be easy access to your belongings. If you're considering self-storage, tour various facilities in the area. Here are some things you should look for:

  • What size storage unit will you need? Most storage facilities have guidelines for the size of space you'll need. About eight different sizes are available, ranging from 5'x5' closets to 10'x30' garages with rollup doors. Some facilities even have units as large as 500 square feet.
  • Is the size you need available? If it’s not available in the size or time you need it, you might find what you need at a facility farther away. If you can't get 100 square feet of storage, you might be able to rent two 50-square-foot units. Just be sure you're not paying more than you would have for the one unit.
  • What is the total cost per month? The manager can give you a quote for the size you want. Depending on your locale, rates can run $33-$47/month for a 25-square-foot space, and $156-$325/month for a 300-square-foot space.
  • Are there any discounts? A company might have a discount for beginning a storage rental in a particular month. Or they might take a percentage off the first month's rent. If they have a Web site, check for any Web specials.
  • Do they offer a free truck move? Some companies offer a free truck to move in when you sign up for storage rental. Others offer a discount on the first month's rental if you rent a truck.
  • Are there any added fees or deposits? Know how much money you need to pay upon signing the rental agreement.
  • Are there minimal rental time requirements? Be sure to find out how flexible the facility is when it comes to how long you'll be using their storage. If you're planning ahead, you can also ask if they reserve units in advance.
  • Is there climate control? Some self-storage facilities have heated and cooled units.
  • What kind of security is available? Typically facilities have electronically controlled access gates. When you rent a unit, you are given a personal code that allows access to the facility. Check for 24-hour lighting, security fencing, and periodic patrols.
  • Can you access your belongings 24 x 7? Some facilities are accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Others have specified hours.

Check your homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance to learn whether your policy covers stored goods. If not, see about a rider or underwriter to cover your stored belongings. Most self-storage facilities can refer you to insurance companies that provide such coverage. For insurance purposes, keep a detailed record of what you have in storage. This record can be a list, photographs, video or a combination of the three.

Professional Storage for a More Secure Choice

Professional storage is often the better choice when you someone else to do the moving, and have added security with environmental controls. Tour and compare two or three different facilities. Here are some key questions you should ask:

  • Get a written estimate. If you're thinking about professional storage, you're probably also considering professional moving services. If you already have a moving company’s estimate of the weight or volume of your belongings, they can use those figures to determine your storage costs.
  • Are there any discounts available? It's possible that you could get a few months discounted or even free if you pay for a full year in advance.
  • Do they pack into Storage Pods or Trucks? A big advantage of professional storage is that your items are expertly packed and stacked in their own container. When you're ready to move, the container is loaded onto a moving truck to be taken to your new home. This means less handling and fewer chances of damage.
  • Are the warehouses climate controlled? Professional storage facilities are typically temperature-controlled and sometimes humidity-controlled as well. This is especially important when you're storing valuable artwork, antiques, or electronic equipment.
  • What type of security is provided? With professional storage, your belongings are stored in a sealed container, which is stacked with other containers in a warehouse. The premises are also protected with security gates, surveillance cameras and alarm systems.
  • What about accessibility of your goods while in storage? Although you can't typically expect access to your possessions until they're unloaded in your new home, you can ask about possible exceptions.
  • Do they provide insurance coverage? Typically, the insurance you buy through the moving company covers your belongings for the move as well as for storage. Your insurance premiums will probably be added to your monthly storage fee.

    Once you have all this straightened out, it’s much easier to determine which type of storage facilities will work best for you.
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