Make Sure You Ask!

Top 10 Things to Ask Before Renting
By Shaila Bringhurst
Picture by Jcomp -

There are approximately 58,000 storage facilities in the U.S.1 which, to give you perspective, almost triples the number of McDonald's restaurants.2 In essence, you have a lot of choices when it comes to storage facilities, and price isn't the only thing you should consider when signing a contract. Before making a decision, be sure you know these ten things:

1. Do you have 24-hour access? Many facilities have electronic gates with keypads which make it easy to access you unit at any time. However, this is not the case with all storage facilities. If you may need access after normal working hours, this is a very important question to ask!

2. Are there onsite personnel? You'd be surprised how many facilities are owned and managed by people who live cities or even states away. With call-answering services and automated gates, there isn't a "need" for onsite management. However, things happen, especially with gate softwares, and there is nothing more frustrating than waiting outside a facility for hours before help arrives. Make sure you are renting from a facility that can get someone there quickly if you need onsite assistance.

3. Do they spray for bugs regularly? Few things can destroy your storage more quickly than an infestation of bed bugs or something similar. Keep your eyes open as you tour the facility, and be sure to ask how often they spray for bugs and if they've ever had a bad outbreak.

4. Do they offer insurance? The need for insurance depends on where you live, honestly. If you live near the coast and are at risk of floods, or if you are in a city where crime is high, insurance might be a good idea. Many facilities offer optional insurance plans for low monthly premiums.

5. How much are their late fees, and how often do they charge them? Sometimes life happens, and it is nice to find a facility who is flexible and understanding. That being said, many facilities charge multiple late fees beginning on the first day past due. Know what you are getting yourself into before your rent!

6. Do they provide a lock? Unit keypads are more secure than many locks, but if you are renting from a facility that uses padlocks, be sure to ask if the lock is provided. Many facilities provide a padlock, but others will charge you $20 for a lock you could have bought elsewhere for $5. 

7. Will your price increase over time? I love a facility who promises a flat rate no matter how long you rent with them. If the facility you are considering doesn't promise a flat rate, you might consider asking how often they've had price increases. If they are a small business, they might increase prices regularly just to stay afloat. 

8. Do you need a climate controlled unit? If you are storing documents or artwork, you really need to see if you can get a climate controlled unit. At the very least, ask if the ceiling is treated to prevent drips. Wall insulation is more common with newer units, and you should ask if they have that as well.

9. What are their lockout policies? I know a facility that locks their customers out if they are one day past due. They have every right to do this, but it can be straining on you as a tenant if you are, like many of us, forgetful at times. Another facility places physical locks on "past due units" with the disclaimer that the lock will not be removed (even if payment is received online) if you are trying to enter outside office hours. Again, know what you are getting yourself into!

Baby Boomers and the Self Storage Industry

By Shaila Bringhurst
Photo Used With Permission

If you are part of the real estate industry, the topic of baby boomers reaching the age of 65 and downsizing is old hat. However, it is not something discussed as much in the self storage industry. While the effects of 10,000 baby boomers reaching the age of retirement each day for the next 15 years1 are still under debate, it is clear storage facilities will benefit from the change.

In a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch study, 3 out of 4 baby boomers said they plan to downsize their homes. Surprisingly, 47% of total subjects said they would highly consider moving into an apartment, foregoing home ownership altogether.2 These statistics are encouraging for the storage industry as downsizing typically requires storage space.

Retirement States
Additionally, the big retirement states can expect an influx of market. Of the western states, Oregon has the greatest percentage of inbound movers, with 1 or 4 who move west generally do so for retirement purposes.3 Florida, however, is most popularly know as the retirement state since the state government does not tax individual income.4

A Good Time to be in the Business
Whatever your current situation as a business owner or prospective owner in the self storage industry, expect great things to come within the next several years.

Handling Negative Customer Reviews

By Shaila Bringhurst

Have you heard the saying that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it?1  While online, you only need one negative review to trigger customer doubts, no matter if the review is true or not.

When it comes to dealing with degrading comments on your website, fight your natural instinct to either write a scathing response or immediately remove the comment. How you respond to such a situation will reflect much more on your business than the customer's review ever will. If you immediately jump on the customer over the internet, onlookers won't be impressed.

The first thing to do is to call the customer and kindly address his/her concerns. Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj—marketing professors—explain if you can resolve concerns with a disgruntled customer, he will be more loyal to you than before.2 Don't allow yourself to become irritated or defensive over the phone. There are two types of people in the world: those who react and those who respond. People who "react" are slaves to the demeanor of others as their mood is entirely connected to how they are being treated. However, people who "respond" are in control of every situation; they don't let a few negative moments sour all twenty-four hours of a day. Let your response be independent of your environment.

When speaking to the customer, don't feel pressured to fix things that are irreparable. Listen to the customer and say things like, "I can see how that would be frustrating."  If they pause, ask them, "What would you like me to do?"  You'll be amazed at how quickly this question can dissipate anger. It pulls the customer's focus back to the present. 

Most people, especially after speaking with an owner or manager, will alter their negative reviews or remove them entirely. However, if you can't reach the tenant (or if the tenant is unreasonable), you are welcome to respond to the review online. Don't make excuses or try to address the concern over the web. Instead, assert your regret that the customer feels the way he does, and offer to make things right if he will contact you.  See below for an example of an appropriate response:

John Smith could easily have been locked out of his unit because he was late paying rent. Rather than argue about it online, however, Jamie responds in a professional manner. Anyone looking at this feed assumes John Smith is overreacting. Also, it shows Jamie is a caring owner who will do what it takes to make things right with her customer. 

Embracing the Holiday Spirit

By Shaila Bringhurst

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and with it is coming the season of food, family, and gratitude for most people.  Let's not forget it is also the season of giving. There are many who won't have food, family, or much to be thankful for this season, and you as an owner or manager can encourage a lot of good from your storage facility. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Don't Forget the Animals: There are many homeless animals left alone in shelters over the holidays. Set up a box for donated toys, and if you love animals, enjoy a few hours with the forgotten creatures at your nearest shelter.

Food: Collecting food for local charity pantries is probably the easiest way to donate over the holidays. As an owner or manager, you could even provide a rental discount of five or ten dollars to anyone who donates a certain number of cans or food items. Coordinate your efforts with food banks, charities, or local churches to help your community.

Hurricane Victims: The massive hurricanes that ripped through Texas and Florida recently led thousands to donate time, energy, and money to assist the many victims. However, as is often the case, those service efforts rose and fell with the media.  As we hit the holiday season, consider contributing to a Sub-for-Santa drive for the people of Texas and Florida. Again, invite your tenants to donate to the cause as well.

The Lonely: We often think of the elderly during the holiday season. Many have been left in care centers and are not visited by family over the holidays due to distance or inconvenience. Consider organizing a group to go visit the elderly who live either alone or in care centers.  Also, don't forget the college students who have to stay on campus over the holidays, who have no family close by, and who don't have money for a nice meal. You'd be surprised how many spend a Thanksgiving meal alone in their apartments with cereal bowls in hand and homework spread out over the table.

Our Military: Have a stack of stationery in your office for tenants to write a quick note to our service men and women. Consider sending a gift box full of fun items such as Nerf guns, paddle-balls, rubber bands, holiday candy, card games, drawing supplies, and movie action figures. In nostalgic times, it's nice to have simple objects that remind us of our childhood and connect us with others through friendly banter.

Toys/Clothing: Set up a box at your facility to collect toys and clothing for Christmas donations. There are a number of national charities such as Toys for Tots, Make-a Wish Foundation, and Angel Tree to which you could donate the items, but your local community might have one established as well. If you want to collect items for a specific family, consider contacting the schools to see which children are in need (with permission, the schools can give you that information). 

Miss Plum. "Random Sledders in a clark park."

Safely Storing Artwork

By Shaila Bringhurst