You need a safe place to stow some prized possessions-maybe your baseball card collection, Grandma’s antique dresser or that sweet leather sectional that won’t fit in your house. So, how do you choose a self-storage facility that will care for your stuff as well as you would?

Self-storage experts say that in addition to considering the size and price of a unit, you should look for these six attributes in a self-storage facility.

1. Super Customer Service.

The first time you contact a self-storage facility-whether by email, phone or in person- you’ll find out how customers are treated, said Moises Ojeda, a manager at BullsEye Storage, a self-storage company in the Houston area. A good manager should greet customers in a friendly manner and answer all questions thoroughly and efficiently, Ojeda said. Big no-nos: a failure to give straight answers and a lack of organization in the office.

2. Hands-On Manager.

Ojeda said you should see a manager at the facility who’s interacting with customers and solving problems. Ojeda said that having a manager who lives on-site, as he does, is ideal. “I tell people my apartment is directly above the office-and they’ll be dealing with me 100 percent,” Ojeda said.

Ojeda also said he gives tenants his cellphone number in case they get locked out of the facility after hours because of, say, a power outage that causes a gate malfunction. “You try to prevent problems as much as possible, but things can go wrong,” he said.

3. Squeaky Clean.

The state of the office at a storage facility should give you a clue about the overall cleanliness of the place. The office should be dusted, and have a clean floor, spotless bathrooms and a well-groomed, neatly dressed manager, said Lewis Pollack, managing principal of Reliant Real Estate Management, which manages 1.5 million square feet of self-storage space in the Southeast. A clean office shows the facility is well-maintained, he said, and the staff will care for tenants’ belongings in the same manner.

4. No Pesky Critters.

A good self-storage facility will contract with a pest control professional who visits regularly, Pollack said. It’s extremely important to prevent infestations because pests can do plenty of damage to tenants’ belongings. For example, roaches can invade boxes of household goods, Ojeda said, or moths can ruin rugs, textiles and upholstered furniture. Meanwhile, rats can chew up wood furniture and urinate and defecate in units, Pollack said. “Those animals are nasty.”

Facilities need must address pest issues not just monthly, but seasonally, Pollack said. His company manages some facilities in South Carolina where a pest control pro must come once a week during spring to get rid of nesting spiders. Ask any self-storage facility you’re considering how it handles pest control and whether it’s had any previous problems with pests, Ojeda said.

5. Tight Security.

You don’t want your stuff to get stolen, so make sure any facility you’re looking at has good security. A secure facility should have a gate with computerized access as well as security cameras and good lighting, Pollack said.

It also helps if an on-site manager is present, experts said. For example, Ojeda said he has monitors in his apartment so he can watch activity throughout the facility.

Furthermore, Pollack said his facilities screen prospective tenants, requiring them to provide a driver’s license and current address to ensure they’re not transients planning a break-in. “It’s common-sense things,” Pollack said. “If somebody is going to rob a mini-storage facility, it wouldn’t be ours.”

6. A Good Fit.

All self-storage facilities are not the same, so your choice should depend partly on your own needs. For example, if you’re storing things you almost left on the curb because you’re not sure you want to keep them, price might be your top consideration, Ojeda said. If you think you’ll want to retrieve items at night or on a weekend, you might want 24-hour access.

Photo courtesy of LongLakeStorage.com