Homebuilders are seeing a tightening of the market in two key areas: the availability of labor, and materials.
Q: How much time does it take to build a home these days?
A: As a Seattle-area homebuilder, a question I hear from prospects and clients frequently is, “How long will it take you to build my new home?” It’s a legitimate question. Because I have a bit of history with this kind of activity, it’s generally been a question I don’t have too much trouble answering.
Of course, the answer will vary a bit depending on the exact size of the home and on the complexity of modifications to be made. But with a well-defined building process, we’re generally able to give clients a pretty accurate estimate of when their home will be done.
However, “The times,” as Nobel Prize-winning songwriter Bob Dylan once wrote, “they are a-changing.”
A while back, an NPR story with the headline “There’s a Home Renovation Boom, But Good Luck Finding a Contractor” talked about the impact that the renovation boom in the United States was having on being able to find good remodeling contractors. It seems to me that the impact has spread to the new-housing market as well.
In particular, we’re seeing a tightening of the market in two key areas: the availability of labor, and materials. Both of those are critical elements when it comes to building new homes. While we have a great team, we also use trusted subcontractors to perform specific tasks. When those contractors are tied up, that can slow down our progress.
The same thing holds true with getting the materials necessary for homebuilding. With companies keeping their inventories tight — and with increasing demand for materials — having to wait on building materials can also delay the process.
The result is that homes that used to be completed in four months are sometimes taking up to eight months to complete. What does that mean for you if you’re planning to build a new home?
While you don’t have control over labor or materials availability, there are some things you can do that can help with the process.
For example, you can do your homework upfront to make sure you’re comfortable with the design decisions you make on your home. That means taking the time to review floor plans so that when you finally meet with your builder, you’re ready to move forward rather than taking more time to deliberate. You don’t need to have every little detail nailed down, but you should have a good general idea of the layout you want.
Another thing you can do is to make sure you think about your selections (cabinets, lighting, flooring, countertops, etc.) ahead of time — and that you make your decisions and order those items with plenty of time to spare. That way your builder won’t be sitting around waiting for materials to arrive.
Once you’ve made your decision about what home you want to build (and who is going to build it), a good builder (who is keeping his/her finger on the pulse of the market) will be able to give you a pretty accurate estimate of your completion date.
Brooks Powell is the general manager of Powell Homes and Renovations and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the MBA’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.