Builders: Material Shortages Easing


Lots and labor may remain in short supply, but building materials have become easier to obtain in 2014, U.S. homebuilders report in a new survey.

The relatively stable supply has also kept some prices in check, with building material prices this summer about the same as at the start of the year, according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders.

The survey, conducted in July, confirmed that "price increases this year are far less widespread than in 2013," the group's Eye on Housing blog reports.

In Short Supply

The survey asked builders about shortages of 23 materials, from HVAC equipment to flooring to steel beams and siding.

Fifteen percent of builders reported "serious or some" shortages of trusses or clay bricks—the highest incidence among the materials listed. Fourteen percent reported shortages of windows/doors, gypsum wall board, and cabinets.

Just five percent reported shortages in vinyl siding and plumbing fixtures and fittings.

Improvement Trending

For a number of key materials, NAHB said, the share of builders reporting any kind of shortage was lower in July 2014 than in May 2013.

Building Materials Cost
NAHB / Eye on Housing

For example, in May 2013, 18 percent of builders reported shortages of plywood, and 22 percent cited shortages of Oriented Strand Board (OSB). In July 2014, those figures were seven and nine percent, respectively.

The share of builders reporting a shortage of framing lumber went from 18 to eight percent during this period; for wall board, the share dropped from 20 to 14 percent.

Pricing Ups and Downs

Price increases this year are also far less widespread than in 2013, the NAHB said.

For example, 92 percent of builders reported price hikes for OSB in 2013; 68 percent did so in July.

For plywood, the drop was from 90 to 70 percent; for framing lumber, from 92 to 73 percent.

That's still a lot of price increases, though, NAHB notes.

Building materials costs
NAHB / Eye on Housing

Shortages are being reported most often this summer for trusses and clay bricks.

"Despite the declines, however," it said, "it is important to recognize that a majority (or large pluralities) of builders still reported price increases in all these materials."

Indeed, for a few materials, more builders are reporting price increases this year.

For hardwood flooring, 46 percent noted price increases last year; this year, 56 percent have done so. Cabinet price increases are now being reported by 63 percent of builders, up from 57 percent; for ceramic tiles, higher costs are now being reported by 40 of builders, up from 34 percent last year.

Labor and Lots

Meanwhile, construction jobs are still going begging, NAHB notes, citing the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

Creative Commons / Joe Mabel

About 127,000 construction jobs went unfilled in June. The labor shortage is worst in the South, the NAHB reports.

Although construction-sector employment posted a small increase in June, the 127,000 "unfilled construction jobs" that month "is tied for the fourth-highest monthly tally since the end of the Great Recession," NAHB reports.

Shortages also continue in buildable lots, an issue the NAHB has noted for the last year.

Both issues are worse in the South, the homebuilders say. And although that region is struggling, the rest of the U.S. is battling back.

“Take away the South, and nationwide housing starts would have been in positive territory this month,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said of the June figures.

“This sharp regional decline could be due in part to lots and labor shortages, which are particularly acute in that part of the country. However, the general direction of housing production is trending upward, and we expect 2014 to be a positive year.”


Tagged categories: Building materials; Cement; Concrete; Doors; Good Technical Practice; Labor; National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Residential Construction; Residential contractors; Windows; Wood

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