Ongoing supply chain and labor shortage issues are slowing the construction of new homes in Columbia, one of Tennessee’s fastest growing communities.
The issue continues to affect builders at the national and local level, causing increased home prices and slower build times, not to mention the frustration of homebuyers and construction companies hired to build them.
Randy McBroom, owner of the Columbia-based McBroom Home Builders, said paned windows, a seemingly small item for example, among other items, including home appliances and concrete, have become difficult to obtain amid the pandemic.
McBroom said ongoing issues in manufacturing, scheduling and delivery have led to a consistent two-month delay in the company’s projects, which average about 15 projects each year.
Homes that took three months to complete before the pandemic are now taking at least five months without any changes in the construction plan or any unforeseen circumstances.
“You end up with irritated home owners and a higher price,” McBroom said. “We are seeing increases every month. This is the new norm. Because of COVID and other issues, it is just taking longer to get materials, and we are all just having to work through it. We are getting through it, people just need to understand.”
A recent customer’s decision to change the window-style of their home during the construction process has delayed the project for more than a month, McBroom said.
“It is a different world now,” McBroom said. “It affects us all. It gets frustrating. We will all tell you the same thing. You have to really plan to be proactive, and still, it is hard.”
When the windows and other hard-to-obtain items like interior doors arrive, damage in shipping or installation could extend the project even longer.
“You can’t give true deadlines, and you are always pushing closing dates back,” McBroom said. “If anything is out-of-the-ordinary, it will push you back even further.”
McBroom said bathtubs have also become a precious commodity following the winter storm that devastated Texas in 2021, impacting the nation’s chemical and manufacturing industries.
“I have had to order my bathtubs immediately and some companies are making you pay for them before you get them,” McBroom said.
It has also become increasingly difficult for McBroom to hire subcontractors to complete specialized work, including pouring concrete, as the Middle Tennessee region continues to see a period of unprecedented growth.
“There is a lot of work in Middle Tennessee. We are all fighting for the same person. Everybody is doing the best they can,” McBroom said. “It gets frustrating because you can not get what you need to produce the home in a timely manner.”
Tennessee is short 200,000 construction workers across all trades, said Clay Crownover, president of the Tennessee Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade organization.
“I don’t know of anybody who hasn’t had labor issues,” said Glynn Dowdle of Dowdle Construction Group, serving Middle Tennessee.
Across the U.S. there were 70,000 more separations in the construction industry than the 347,000 hires, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from November 2021. Separations are the number of employees removed from the payroll during the month, including layoffs and retirements for example.
In the same time period, 307,000 jobs were open and unfilled.
National builders address supply issue
Earlier this month, the National Association of Home Builders issued statements, regarding the increase in home prices, which is directly linked to the supply chain shortage. Home prices in Columbia and Maury County are skyrocketing compared to just several years ago.
"Over the past four months, lumber prices have nearly tripled, causing the price of an average new single-family home to increase by more than $18,600," according to NAHB standard estimates of lumber used to build the average home.
"This lumber price hike has also added nearly $7,300 to the market value of the average new multi-family home, which translates into households paying $67 a month more to rent a new apartment."
The NAHB continues to work with the White House, the U.S. Congress and lumber producers to resolve the continued building supply issues to help lower material prices. It also recently met with top Canadian officials at the Canadian embassy in Washington to discuss key softwood lumber issues, including the urgent need to restart negotiations on a new softwood lumber agreement that would end tariffs.
"The NAHB advocacy team – Government Affairs, Communications, Economics and Legal – continues to work tirelessly on all fronts to find solutions that will ensure a lasting and stable supply of lumber and other building materials for the home building industry at a competitive price," the organization stated in January.
For more information about the NAHB's work in addressing the situation, visit www.NAHB.org.
Arcelia Martin contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Supply chain shortages stall build times, increase home prices