When it comes to the race for space in Montana, it isn’t just about where to live, but where to keep your stuff. And right now, that storage space is hard to find.
Tara Werner, who owns South Hills Storage in Montana City with her husband Ryan, said that since last September, only a few storage units have become available to rent each month, and they aren’t available for very long. “When the unit comes available it is usually rented that day. We have a waiting list of tenants needing a unit.”
Werner has noticed an uptick in demand recently, which she attributes to the Montana housing market. “I am finding that locals are mostly looking for units to clear out their current homes so they can take advantage of the seller’s market.” In other words, people are putting their belongings in storage so they can sell their homes.
At Elkhorn Storage, also in Montana City, owner and president Kim Waltee also says she has noticed heightened demand recently.
Units at Elkhorn Storage range in price from $65 a month for a 10-foot-square unit to $185 for a 10-foot by 45-foot tandem garage unit. Waltee said she hasn’t increased her prices despite the increase in demand.
There are approximately 10 storage facilities in Jefferson County. Four are in Montana City, serving both local customers and overflow from Helena. “Storage units seem to be popping up everywhere you look,” observed Waltee, who attributes growth in the business to “the influx of people moving to Montana and the real estate market.”
Werner says that many people moving to the area are looking for a safe place to store belongings while they build a home or find one to buy. “I have had a couple of tenants need to store their belongings because when they moved here they couldn’t find a home to rent large enough for the belongings they have,” she said.
The Montana housing marking has been on a tear, with the median list price of a home in the Helena arena increasing by 27.3% from April of the previous year, according to Realtor.com.
Another factor driving demand for storage is regulation in Helena. The city’s snow code prohibits trailers, recreational vehicles, boats, and other stored items parked on city streets from November 1 to April 15. This means many Helena residents need places to store their summer toys for the winter.
Werner says South Hill Storage plans to add new units this summer, in response to the demand. “We are hoping to have our new units available for rent end of August or the beginning of September,” she wrote in an email. “At the moment we plan to still offer outdoor parking for RVs as well.”
Waltee has no current plans to expand. Her facility began with forty units in 2001, but over 20 years has grown to over two hundred. “Probably the biggest reason I haven’t added additional units is the high increase of property taxes and huge expense of liability insurance, which has doubled versus the additional revenue and debt I would incur.”
Neither Waltee or Werner foresee the demand for storage slowing down anytime soon — unless the housing market does.