Page 32 - BusinessWest January 20, 2021
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 presence to generate a successful, if unusual, year for the home-building and renovation industry.
Slow-building Issues
Keeping work crews and homeowners safe was only one challenge builders faced due to COVID- 19. In a normal year, the process of getting a per- mit for a new home or addition is fairly straight- forward. Builders bring plans to the appropriate municipal office and pick up the permit a week or two later. As COVID-19 shifted city and town busi-
“When you go down the street to the local lumber yard to pick up a pressure-treated two-by-four and they don’t have any, it throws you for a loop.”
ness to e-mails and Zoom calls, it delayed the per- mitting process — in some cases, for months.
Meanwhile, supply-chain shortages of com- mon consumer goods such as toilet paper and cleaning products marked the early days of the pandemic. The manufacturing supply chain around the world was disrupted for many build- ing products as well. Riley said appliances and electrical components such as circuit breakers were often delayed by as much as three or four months. As another example, Crane learned that window companies were having trouble getting
“As a result, we were only getting three-fourths
of the windows we ordered for a job,” he said. “This created a delay that frustrates the home- owner and puts a big dent into our profit margin.”
In short, COVID-19 kept people at home, they wanted to improve their space, creating high demand for building materials at a time when many manufacturers were already experienc- ing delays due to the coronavirus, resulting in shortages. And in the wake of those delays, price increases followed.
“We saw a 45% spike in the cost of building materials,” Laplante said. “That was difficult to deal with because we had jobs that were already under contract.”
Shortages of special-order or custom materi- als were no surprise to the builders, but everyday items were affected, too.
“When you go down the street to the local lumber yard to pick up a pressure-treated two-by- four and they don’t have any, it throws you for a loop,” Crane said.
While they acknowledge that delays, shortages, and price hikes will be here for the near term, all three builders are optimistic about 2021. Because mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, Riley does not expect a slowdown anytime soon. “For 2021, our company is operating full steam ahead for both new construction and remodeling projects.”
One challenge going forward, he noted, is find- ing property in Western Mass. to purchase at a reasonable price where he can make a profit on new construction.
For 2021, Laplante has plenty of new construc- tion and renovation projects in the pipeline both
Bill Laplante says the more time people spend at home, the more they think about how to improve their homes.
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