Home Buyers and Builders Face Pandemic-Related Construction Shortages
By Kenny Jones
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Builders finished more new homes in Travis County in 2020 than any year prior despite facing challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Home Builders Association of Greater Austin said contractors completed a record-breaking 21,500 homes, even though there were decreases in the supply of building materials and labor.
Many material and trade businesses halted production in March 2020 following expectations that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a prolonged market slowdown.
Those same businesses are struggling to match the increasing demand for new homes since the following month brought an unexpected boom to the housing market.
Michael Olguin, a realtor with Circle M Realty Group in Cedar Park, said home investors and buyers are offering up to 25 percent above asking prices for some houses.
“There’s lumber shortages, there’s appliance shortages, there’s every shortage you could imagine because of last year,” Olguin said.
“What I understand is they’re lacking the labor/”
More than 1.1 million workers lost construction jobs from February through April 2020. About 900,000 of them resumed their work since then, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over 3.4 million trade, transportation, and utility jobs went away during the same time period, with 2.7 million readded in the following year since.
Jonathan Zamora of Coventry Homes said some sellers tripled and quadrupled their lumber prices in an attempt to curb the high demand for construction materials,
Building costs have reflected that.
Chad Durham, the president of the Greater Austin Home Builders Association, said an increasing number of prospective home buyers want brand new houses for reasons including lower maintenance costs, better energy consumption, and increasing community amenities. Durham said the preference for new properties is in spite of high prices and housing shortages.
“A lot of the big builders have even stopped taking new orders,” said home inspector Casey Callais of Allstar Realty.
“They just have to build what they’ve already got on the books. I can’t think of a time when that has happened before.”
Callais said his inspections have shifted away from used homes and towards new ones, which often require multiple appointments throughout the construction process. He said many deficiencies he finds, including unhooked air conditioning vents and improperly installed joists, are due to rushed construction.
Problems like these highlight the importance of home inspections.
A photo Callais posted of a “shingled” over bath exhaust vent to the r/Austin subreddit in August 2020 collected over 1,700 upvotes. He now showcases other home deficiencies he finds fascinating in the subreddit weekly, along with helpful hints for Austin homeowners.
“The motive really is just to kind of share some of the silly things that I find and answer a lot of questions that people have,” Callais said.
“I really enjoy the interaction,” he said.