Home Construction

By Lew Sichelman
July 26, 2014

If your builder is late delivering your new house, don’t be too upset. You are not alone. New home buyers almost everywhere are probably experiencing the same thing.

Ditto if you’re having trouble getting your builder to come back and fix those sticky doors, loose floor tiles or the dozens of other little nuisances that always crop up in new homes.

Builder tardiness is not occurring because they’ve gone on a massive, countrywide strike to achieve some legislative goal in Washington. Rather, it’s simply because they are unable to move as quickly as they once did.

The culprit: labor — or more precisely, the lack thereof.

The economic downturn has driven hundreds of thousands of craftsmen and laborers away from housing and into other industries, and they have yet to come back. Indeed, according to the latest survey from the National Assn. of Home Builders, the labor shortage has become “substantially more widespread” since last year, when the housing recovery took hold.

“The incidence of reported shortages is now surprisingly high relative to the current state of new home construction,” NAHB economist Paul Emrath says in the report.

But “the most distinctive aspect” of the survey results is not that there is an uptick in the share of builders reporting labor shortages, Emrath adds. It’s “how widespread these shortages are relative to historical experience … and to the current state of the home building industry,” which is still struggling to regain its full stride.

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