Supply costs may hurt housing market
Lumber, drywall much pricier than in 2011, and that could put a damper on recovery.
Prices for drywall, cement and lumber are outpacing inflation, raising concerns that the recovery could be hurt.
Just as the housing market seems to be on the mend, prices for drywall, cement and lumber are fast outpacing inflation.
At a time when inflation is running about 2 percent, lumber prices throughout the country are up 35 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
The cost of interior walls for new homes has increased more than 14 percent from November 2011, according to a report by Associated General Contractors of America. And suppliers of that drywall, also known as gypsum board, have put builders on notice that those prices may spike an additional 30 percent in the coming year.
“We did get notice the gypsum board would be going up a substantial amount, and we are seeing pricing pressure from other suppliers and from labor,” said Ken McDonald, president of David Weekley Homes’ Orlando division. “It’s a balancing act. We will be raising prices to cover the increases. We’ve been doing that this year.”
The pressure on prices is mainly the result of two things: rising demand from homebuyers eager to take advantage of record-low mortgage-interest rates, and supply problems because of the shutdown of manufacturing plants in recent years.
McDonald said the price increases also reflect a homeconstruction industry that is trying to rebuild its profit margins, which were decimated by the housing slump and the recession.
“Pricing all went to an alltime low, and now business is trying to get their margins back,” McDonald said.
Nationally, new-home prices hit a peak of $257,000 in April 2006 and a low of $205,000 in March 2009, according to the U.S. census.
Since then they have been creeping up; just this year, the median price has edged up from $221,700 in January to $237,700 in October.
Anirban Basu, chief economist of Associated Builders and Contractors, said he expects prices nationally to stabilize eventually, though the near-term effects of higher prices could dampen the recovery of the new-home market.
“I think it will slow the housing recovery, because new-home buyers are very price-conscious,” Basu said Friday. “What builders might do is move their product to be more upscale; affluent buyers are more likely to spend 5 (percent) to 10 percent more to get what they want.”
Greg Hardwick, president of Hardwick General Contracting Inc. in Maitland, Fla., said a lack of skilled labor is also going to affect the new-home market in 2013.
“The thing that may get us next year is the labor. There is a huge theme throughout the industry that not enough masons, drywallers and framers are available to meet demands,” Hardwick said.
“We’ve lost a lot of that labor and those resources. They’ve gone to different industries, and now the demand is going back up.”
A contractor works on a KB Home being built at the Vicino community in San Jose, Calif., last week. In addition to supply costs, homebuilders expect to be affected by labor shortages.
Costs for lumber, as seen at this Lowe’s store in New York last month, are up 35 percent from a year ago.