NEW YORK (Main Street) -- Summer isn't only about hot dogs, baseball and apple pie, it’s also prime moving time for home sellers, apartment dwellers, and wanderlust compellers.
If you’re on the move and you need to stuff some of your, well, stuff in a storage unit, it’s not the straightforward process it might seem to be.
First, know that you’re dealing with a huge industry, and one that is growing unrestrained by chain link fences and pull-down metal doors.
According to the U.S. Self-Storage Association, there are about 46,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S., with 2010 revenues clocking in at $20 billion.
Expect those numbers to grow.
“The industry has been the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the last 30 years and has been considered by Wall Street analysts to be 'recession resistant' based on its performance since the economic recession of September 2008,” the SSA says on its web site.
Hidden in that language is a message from storage unit companies that “you need us more than we need you.” After all, business is brisk, so don’t be surprised if a storage business holds better cards than you do when negotiating a deal.
How to turn the table?
Some good answers come from north of the border, courtesy of the Toronto-based Canadian Association of Movers.
Its new list of tips for consumers looking at storage options center around doing your due diligence, being pro-active (you don’t want to wait until after a problem occurs to discover you hired a 20-foot by 20-foot lemon), and finding a storage company you can trust.
Here’s a glimpse:
Know the skinny going in to the deal
The highest priority when hiring a storage firm is to deal with one that’s reputable and that has a history of low-or-no claims against it. The Better Business Bureau does a good job tracking storage facility performance, noting that there were about 1,000 complaints about U.S. storage units in 2011. A thorough check of your local BBB should be a first step in hunting down a storage firm.
Read the fine print
Most failed claims come after the customer failed to read (and re-read) the storage contract. Pay attention to the liability language in the contract that pertains to how the company responds to damaged goods. If you’re unsure, run it by a lawyer. The $150 or so you’ll spend doing that could come in handy if a claim needs to be filed.