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Why does it take longer to build a home now?
No one likes delays. Unfortunately for more than a year, homebuilders like Kettler Forlines Homes have had to deal with plenty of them. So many things changed when the pandemic struck, and we’ve had our share of unexpected delays as a result. Many homebuyers ask, “Why does it take longer to build a home now?” Luckily, there’s good news and Kettler Forlines Homes has managed a difficult situation. Still, we thought you should understand what created the problem—and how we’ve overcome those obstacles.
#1. Everything stopped.
As you know, businesses were forced to close and people were sent home from their jobs and schools in March 2020. This worldwide pandemic was unprecedented. No one anticipated it and we’ve never experienced anything like it in our lifetime. So, every day was filled with adapting to a new and very foreign “normal”.
#2. People shopped from home.
What do you do when you’re sitting around your house? If you’re like many Americans, you (a) binge-watch shows and movies; (b) shop; (c) fix up your home; (d) learn a new skill or hobby; or (e) all of the above.
Somewhere within this mix of sheltering-at-home activities, people realized that their homes didn’t fit them any more, no matter how many DIY projects they attempted. This knowledge prompted an unexpected surge in buying a new home, made even more appealing with the low interest rates on mortgages. Because they were accustomed to online shopping, they applied that skill to homebuying. Builders (like Kettler Forlines Homes) who had websites with virtual tours and other ways to get an online view became inundated with inquiries from eager buyers.
#3. But the demand exceeded the supply.
No one expected that buyers would be so impassioned! Move-in ready homes and spec homes under construction sold faster than any of us expected. We were left with the dilemma of buyers who wanted a new construction home and no inventory to sell them.
#4. Building materials were in short supply.
In the early months of the shutdown, manufacturing facilities were closed, causing a break in the essential supply chain. That meant materials were not being produced. Like the inventory of new homes, supplies were depleted. This shortage of products like lumber and all things requiring lumber (cabinets, furniture, windows, doors, millwork) put the brakes on home construction. The price of lumber, when you were able to get it, spiked 377% in one year, adding considerably to the cost of building! Prior to the pandemic, we could expect windows to be delivered two weeks from when they were ordered. The production delays extended the wait to 14 weeks.
Production of appliances also stalled because the manufacturers couldn’t get the parts that came from overseas. In some instances, the weakened supply chain had delayed appliance deliveries as long as six months!
Even paint became a more expensive commodity. Chemical plants in Texas, which manufactured key ingredients, were damaged when a freak cold snap in February 2021 caused power outages that halted the operations. The plants had been trying to come back from 2020 shortages and this freeze pushed them back again.
#5. Labor was equally hard to find.
The construction industry had been in need of more workers for a long time before the pandemic. Younger people haven’t shown enough interest in learning these vital trades. As electricians, plumbers, framers, roofers, and carpenters retired, there has not been enough people to fill those open positions.
So, the construction industry was already struggling before 2020. Then, workers were furloughed. When residential construction went from being deemed a “non-essential” business to “essential”, some construction workers had found other work and were no longer available. Others chose to stay home and continue to receive the unemployment benefits paid by the government.
How is Kettler Forlines Homes managing the challenge?
If this appears to paint a bleak picture for homebuyers, don’t be discouraged. The Kettler Forlines Homes team has been in the business of building homes in the DC Metro area for more than 40 years. We’ve weathered many difficult times in the past, and we tackled this one with the same carefully planned approach.
When the pandemic turned everything upside-down, we sat down and strategized with our teams and partners to come up with solutions that would minimize or deflect the construction delays.
- While many builders struggled with finding skilled labor, we were able to rely on the relationships with our building partners. And our lead carpenter is so skilled that he was able to do more than finish a home. He stepped up and also built custom cabinetry.
- Dan Fraker, our purchasing expert, worked with suppliers, like lumber companies, where we also had long and solid relationships. In years past, builders would buy materials when a home was sold and ready to start construction. Because of limited supply and high demand, we committed to buying materials in bulk and in advance of the sale, in spite of the price increase. With this approach, we had guaranteed delivery and could schedule construction with better accuracy.
- George Neill, Kettler Forlines Homes’ Sales Manager, has also been a key member of this team. He stayed in contact with every homebuyer and prospective homebuyer. By keeping them updated on progress and delays, George maintained their confidence in Kettler Forlines Homes.
- To give homebuyers a quicker move-in date, we began construction of two new homes in 2020. We chose two of our most sought-after floor plans—the Kensington and the Montgomery.
Homebuilders across the U.S. faced a lot of challenges since early 2020. As we head into 2022, Kettler Forlines Homes is looking at more ways to give homebuyers the experience they want and deserve. Interest rates are still low, and we’re still building. We have homesites available—large ones! We’ve learned from the past, not just recent but a much longer one. We welcome the opportunity to customize and build your home with our personal approach that so many owners appreciate. Contact us when you’re ready and we’ll guide you through the process, one step at a time.