The current homebuilding environment is a tough one. Builders and homeowners like us are dealing with historically high prices and historically low availability in building materials and labor. In this week’s episode, I’ll tell you about a May 2021 survey done for the National Association of HomeBuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The survey outlines the percentage of builders in the US that have ordered building materials and who experienced significant shortages in those materials.
Scarcity of building materials is now more widespread than at any at any time since the National Association of HomeBuilders began tracking materials in the 1990s. The shortages are affecting most the US and a very wide range of materials.
Okay, let me tell you about the materials asked about in the survey. I’ll give you the list of products and materials that builders said were in short supply. I’ll list the materials in order of those suffering the greatest shortages to those with lesser shortages. In other words, those things listed first are hardest to come by. But to be clear, everything on the list is in short supply according to builders as compared normal pre-pandemic conditions.
So, here’s of list of products with shortages according to builders:
Appliances, framing lumber, oriented strand board, and plywood. 95-90% of builders said they experienced shortages in these items.
87% said there are shortages in windows and doors.
78-70% reported shortages in trusses, copper wiring, plumbing fixtures and fittings, vinyl siding, millwork like moldings and trim, drywall, and lightweight steel framing components.
68—62% say they’ve encountered shortages in HVAC equipment, hardwood flooring, roofing materials, cabinets, structural insulated panels (SIPs), and insulation.
Finally, 57%-43% of builders reported shortages in steel beams, brick, ceramic tiles, concrete brick and block, cement and ready mix concrete.
In my personal project, I have felt the effect or been told of shortages and delays in most of the materials I just listed. I’ve been waiting on my roof, for example, for more than a month now. My roofing contractor said the roof should be here any day now, but he can’t tell me exactly when. My HVAC contractor said that the HVAC equipment would be delayed 2-3 weeks longer than normal.
Custom cabinets from some companies, I’ve been told, are taking 15-20 weeks to be fabricated. And appliance orders are also taking extra months, not extra days or weeks, but extra months to be delivered as compared to pre pandemic orders.
As a result of such severe shortages in appliances, many builders and homeowners are having to forgo their first choices of appliance brand and finishes and selecting appliances that they can get the fastest. And some of the more unique finishes, like black stainless steel, can’t even be ordered at all right now in some brands.
Several appliance brands have focused their finish and model offerings to just the most popular options so they can manufacture fewer products more efficiency. This is not great news for those of us who want to include unique design selections in our homes. We’ll have to just add distinctive style into our homes in other ways.
Building right now is pretty frustrating. Progress for my project and others around the country has been incredibly slow. Even when the subcontractors and the weather cooperate, delays in materials deliveries will likely add months to our total build time.
Honestly, if you haven’t started construction yet and there is no rush to build your home, you might strongly consider postponing your project until the supply chain starts working closer to normal. This is especially true if you are someone who gets particularly stressed and upset by unpredictable circumstances and things not going as planned. You may not want to wait until things get completely back to how they were before the pandemic, but maybe consider waiting until the shortages are not as severe and not as widespread as they are now.
Although nobody can accurately predict what might happen in a year or two, but I have to warn you that if you do wait, there’s a chance that the incredibly low interest rates we have at the moment might increase. And since materials and labor prices have increased for contractors, they are passing that increased cost onto homeowners. That increased home price might make the actual price of your newly built house higher than its appraisal price. And typically a bank will not lend you more than the appraisal price for a house. So keep this all in mind before signing a contract with a contractor or deciding to wait.
Whether to build now or later is a difficult decision. Weigh the pros and cons and think about what would give you the most peace of mind. If you decide you do want to start your build soon, that’s fine. Just be prepared to take 2 steps forward and then wait a few weeks before you can take 2 more steps. While you wait, do what you can. Declutter and start packing whatever makes sense. Episodes 229 and 230 will help you with a decluttering plan. Work on your electrical and lighting plan. Listen to episode 125 if you need help with that. Think through your cabinet layout and finalize your furniture layout. Consider your landscaping plan and meet with landscape artists and interior designers while you wait. Make your selections for furniture, lighting, electronics, window coverings, flooring, tile, whatever you will eventually have to choose. Start narrowing down your selections so you can order things sooner rather than later.
You may want to invest in an onsite or offsite storage unit so you can order things early and store them as they come in. That way your products and materials will be waiting on you, instead of you waiting on them. Storage units may cost you $100-$200 per month, depending on where you’re located and how large the storage unit is.
It’s not really advisable to store materials and appliances inside the house while the the bulk of your construction is incomplete. I thought I could save money by ordering homebuilding materials early and storing them in my garage if we boarded it up with plywood. But even if you put stuff in an out-of-the-way area like the garage and board up the area, plywood can easily be cut with a saw. Stored items are at great risk of being stolen. I think the risk of theft is especially great right now since building materials and appliances are so hard to come by. If you want to order materials early, it’s probably best to invest in a storage unit.
The bit of good news in all of this is that in real estate it’s a sellers market. There just isn’t enough inventory on the market for buyers who want to take advantage of the low mortgage rates and move into an existing home. If you are in a position to sell your current house right now, you will likely sell your house fast and for a good price. But because the market is so hot, be careful not to put your house on the market unless you are really prepared to move fairly quickly— moving either into your newly built house or into an apartment or moving in with friends or family members while you wait for your house to be finished.
Well, that’s all I have for you this week. Not the best news, but I want to give you the facts, so you can make informed decisions. And if you’re in the middle of your build like I am, we’re going to to make it. We just have to be patient and remind ourselves of how blessed we are to even be able to build a house, even if it takes us many months longer than we had hoped.