Supply-chain delays impacting homebuilding in Summit County
Though projects are taking longer to complete, the delays aren’t deterring demand for new homes
Building a home in Summit County was already tricky before the pandemic: The cost of land isn’t cheap, the High Country climate is much different than it is on the Front Range and a reduced labor pool means projects are more costly and time-consuming than building homes elsewhere. But since the pandemic, the cost of certain materials have skyrocketed, and it can take a couple of months longer than expected to wrap up development, making the building process even more tricky.
The aches and pains of this new reality are all too familiar to developers and homebuilders over the past year and a half, but that’s not to say the hiccups are deterring demand.
“It doesn’t seem right now this is deterring people from wanting to build,” said Paul Steinweg, construction manager for Iron Forest Building Co. “We get more calls on a weekly basis than we ever have as a company, and it’s shocking, to be honest, the interest in building right now.”
It’s safe to say the pandemic threw a wrench into the construction and manufacturing industries. Summit Homes Construction Project Manager Kevin Berg said this is because many industry experts predicted the economic repercussions would be similar to the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, consumers decided to throw themselves into do-it-yourself projects and some even decided to ditch their current houses and purchase or build a new home. In the meantime, suppliers and manufacturers are trying to play catch-up.
“The demand went the exact opposite of what the industry thought it would do, and so they still are not caught up,” Berg said.
The result is that projects are taking longer. Berg said materials are constantly in short supply, and when asked which materials, he said “it’s something different every week.” So far, flooring, appliances and fixtures have all had longer lead times and require more proactive ordering. Case in point: Berg said he placed an order for refrigerators in July 2020, two of which he’s still waiting to be delivered.
Steinweg is seeing the same thing. He said it’s recommended that orders for appliances be placed 10 to 12 months in advance and that windows are now in the 12- to 17-week lead time, whereas it was six to seven weeks last year. Prefabricated trusses used to take three to four weeks to be delivered, and now they’re taking 14 weeks from some suppliers.
It’s not just developers, either. Suppliers like Breckenridge Building Center are also struggling to keep up with the constant changes and delays.
“We have a window order that we ordered in December 2020 that’s not scheduled to get here until November of this year,” said Nick Black, operations manager at Breckenridge Building Center. “Imagine being the homeowner or, even worse, the contractor that’s stuck in the middle and trying to have a conversation with the homeowner and also have a conversation with us who is supplying the material and trying to just meet that middle street.”
To help mitigate some of these issues, both Steinweg and Berg said they’ve been trying to order materials as early as possible.
“We can still get the materials and keep our projects on schedule, but we’re having to look way further out than before in order to get the same materials on-site,” Steinweg said. “It’s definitely a challenge. You’ve got to be on your game.”
Though both Steinweg and Berg have said they’re doing what they can to stay ahead of the curve, some of this is out of their control. Summit Homes Construction focuses on production building, meaning the company doesn’t build spec or custom homes. Berg said usually the team can wrap up a project “pretty quickly” but that right now, they are seeing a two- to three-month delay.
Iron Forest Building Co. does work on spec and custom homes, which Steinweg said typically takes 13 to 20 months to complete depending on the size of the home. Since the pandemic, Steinweg said these projects are now taking an extra month, if not more, to wrap up due to the delayed deliveries.
Luckily, the pricing for many materials has started to stabilize. Berg noted that the cost of lumber was up 300% earlier this year, dramatically driving up the prices of new homes. Data from the National Association of Home Builders confirms that staggering figure. According to its site, the cost of framing and lumber prices peaked in late May but have continued to stabilize and decline since then. Prices currently are lower than they were in mid-March.
Even with all the challenges of the past year and a half, both Berg and Steinweg said it’s not swaying people from building a property in the county. For now, the two said they’re focused on communicating as much as possible with clients to ensure that projects can stay relatively on track and within budget as much as possible.
This story previously published in the September/October edition of Summit County Home magazine.
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