Supply Delays, Tight Workforce Shape Hot Housing Market in Connecticut
Tony Brodeur, owner of North Cove Construction in Old Saybrook, said that recently he’s had to wait as long as 23 weeks to get windows for a construction job. Usually, he said, windows would arrive in about 14 days.
“Appliances are just as bad,” Brodeur said. The appliances he ordered in March aren’t expected to arrive until October.
His experience isn’t uncommon, according to national industry data and reports from Connecticut and across the country about supply chain issues that have generated delays and price hikes for construction materials. These conditions are contributing to a jump in the cost of new homes, and could potentially tamp down the high demand for new houses in suburbs that began in March 2020.
Across the country, supply chain issues have generated delays and price hikes for construction materials, contributing to a jump in the cost of new homes, and potentially tamping down the high demand for houses in suburbs since March 2020.
Edward Noble, president of Noble Construction and Management in Essex, said that the delays have affected pretty much everything — reinforcing steel, plumbing fixtures, doors and lumber, for instance.
“Lead times on materials have doubled in many cases — nothing is in stock,” said Noble, who said his wait times have gone from 3 to 6 weeks to 6 to 10 weeks on average.
Jim Perras, the CEO of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut, said that he’d heard about seemingly random shortages, particularly of less common materials. He said he’s heard from suppliers that the cost of PVC pipes had tripled over the past year.
At the same time, demand for new homes and home improvements have increased. In Madison, for example, the number of permits filed with the town Building Department increased from 177 in June 2020 to 412 in June 2021. Old Lyme’s Building Department issued 58 permits in June 2020 and 109 in June 2021.
Vincent Garofalo III, the building official in Madison, said that the increases were a combination of new homes being built and people making modifications to their houses in light of newly discovered, pandemic-driven needs.
“Quite a few people had said that they needed separation from their children for home offices,” Garofalo wrote in an email. “Some just finish the basement for their kids to go play down there and away from them during the day.”
In contrast, Mark Wayland, the building official in Old Lyme, said that many of the permits issued in Old Lyme were for smaller scale projects like generators, electrical service upgrades and replacing windows.
The supply chain delays mean that contractors like Noble and Brodeur may be forced to postpone start dates and that unanticipated design changes can be a significant problem. Noble said the fluctuation in prices makes it hard to accurately estimate the cost of a job in advance.
“You bid a project at what the present value is,” said Noble. “It’s very difficult to carry the right number when the price is changing daily, weekly, monthly.”
According to Cuihong Li, a professor at UConn’s School of Business specializing in operations and information management, the shortages are the result of high demand and low supply. She echoed Garofalo’s observation — pandemic restrictions meant that more people were spending more time at home and looking at ways to make remote work easier. Restaurants have also constructed outdoor dining spaces. At the same time, pandemic restrictions forced the sawmills to shut down for three months, and have been slow to return to full capacity.
Li said there were labor shortages along every step of the supply chain — not just at the mills, but also shortages of truck drivers and workers at warehouses.
When “just in time” runs late
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