“Self-Storage Is A Really Bad Idea,” Rebutted and Debunked

By    October 9, 2012

While reading Kentin Waits’ recent article for Wise Bread, 7 Reasons Why Self Storage is a Really Bad Idea, I found many of his claims to be both misguided and misleading. So I want to offer a quick rebuttal on behalf of the self-storage industry.

1.  “Most Stored Objects Depreciate in Value” 
Whether stored or not, almost everything decreases in value over time. This is not a valid reason to malign self-storage. I can think of dozens of items that actually increase in value over time, such as wine, antiques, some liquor, artwork and collectibles, all of which are often kept in self-storage.

2.  “Extra Offsite Storage Promotes Acquisition”
Waits’ claim that “storage units enable hoarding tendencies” is hyperbole. Self-storage units are a great resource when you are in between homes, moving, renovating, subletting, or need to store supplies for your business.

3.  “Storage Fees Can Be a Financial Drain”
Storage isn’t free, but if the alternative is to sell items that you will ultimately have to buy again at a later date, then self-storage makes good financial sense. Should you sell antiques, wine, and priceless family heirlooms, or pay monthly fees for storage? Depending on where you live, 5 x 10 climate-controlled units can go for as little as $40 per month. That’s a lot cheaper than the additional cost of rent on a larger apartment or house in most cities.

4.  “Storage Facilities Often Lack Adequate Security”
Waits asked: “For an industry that’s basking in the riches of a society on the move, why is there no self-governance, no rating system, and no standardized security?” I will refute each of these points in turn.

  • “No self-governance” – The Self Storage Association is a non-profit formed in 1975 as the official trade organization of the industry, and is its voice as the registered lobbying entity representing storage in U.S. courts. With active state-level associations in the majority of states, storage operator conferences occur nationwide throughout the year. These conferences – plus myriad online resources and certification programs from the state associations, SSA, Inside Self Storage, MiniStorage Messenger, and The Storage Facilitator – focus on legal concerns and education around operations, marketing, security, and beyond. The SSA and most state associations are governed by an elected Board of Directors and officers.

That said, self-storage isn’t like the film industry, which self-regulates to avoid government intervention. Nor is it like the food service industry, which is subject to health codes and FDA regulations. We’re talking about a real estate industry here, and an extremely competitive one at that. Only about 10% of all U.S. storage facilities are owned by publicly traded real estate investment trusts, and the rest are small mom-and-pops or medium-sized operators.

  • “No rating system” – The storage industry is subject to online consumer reviews and competitive search engine ranking just like any other business. These are both fair rating systems that judge storage businesses based on their legitimacy, service, security, pricing and value, among other considerations. Find your local facilities rated by customers on Yelp and SpareFoot self-storage finder. Google search results for “self-storage” in your city will give you an indication of different storage business’ effectiveness and consideration of modern consumers.
  • “No standardized security” – Again, self-storage is a real estate industry, and its facilities are predominately privately owned. Would every mom-and-pop retail store have standardized security systems? Would every nail salon have standardized security? Every car dealership? Locally owned grocery store? Barber shop? It’s wise to be concerned with security— check online reviews and ask facility staff about their security systems, which they’ll happily show off. Simply don’t settle for a storage business with subpar security.

5. “If You Can Store It for Years, You Can Live Without It”
Sure, practically speaking, we can live without anything other than food and water. But it’s often more affordable to keep possessions in temporary self-storage than to buy replacements. More importantly, some items are priceless – family heirlooms, photographs, gifts from deceased relatives – and if you don’t have space in your home to store them, self-storage is the perfect solution. It’s also often utilized by small businesses or freelance workers needing space for excess or bulky equipment and supplies outside the office. Again, a monthly storage bill is cheaper than the additional cost of rent on a larger office space.

6. “Unpaid Storage Bills Equal Secured Debt”
To quote Waits, “is it worth the risk to potentially have your items held captive or sold to the highest bidder?” This rhetorical question is misleading, as it suggests self-storage facilities want to see you default on your rental payments so they can auction off your valuables. In reality, it is not in a facility’s best interest to see their renters default on unpaid units. When a default occurs, facilities rarely recoup the money they are owed. Self-storage facilities do everything in their power to reach out to tenants and remind them their payments are due. A storage auction is a definite last resort for all parties involved. Pay your storage rent, and you won’t run any risk.

7. “Storage Services Are a Questionable Value”
Waits’ final listed reason is more of a summary than another point, so I’ll summarize as well. His main argument is that self-storage is a risky and expensive proposition that encourages hoarding. He suggests people are better off downsizing and selling their stored items via yard sales. He attacks self-storage.

What he fails to dwell on is the fact that self-storage can be an incredible resource for people in need of space. Ultimately, it’s easy to check online reviews to ensure a facility is reputable. Self-storage is a cost effective way to store things you don’t have room for at home or work, temporarily or long-term. Simple month-to-month leases mean you can move out any time. Self-storage can be a life-saver if you are moving, working from home, undergoing home renovations, staging a home for sale, or storing wine, antiques and heirlooms.

  • Jake Alexander

    Very informative blog post. I like the part where you talk about selling items you may store. I agree that your going to purchase them later so you are not saving money. Content definitely makes the case for storage units.

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