November 28, 2021

The remodeling boom

Despite higher costs, demand for work is up

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Mike May, the project consultant for Crown Construction Inc. in Dryden, shows a cabinet in the business’ showroom on Friday. Despite the increased cost of housing materials during the pandemic, local construction and remodeling businesses face a high demand for projects.

Project consultant Mike May walked around the Crown Construction Inc. showroom in Dryden on Friday, showing off cherry-colored cabinets and a walk-in shower with glass walls, two popular items.

While the cost of lumber and other housing materials has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, home construction and remodeling businesses in the greater Cortland area have seen a large demand for projects.

Between April 17, 2020 and July 8, the increase of price for softwood lumber products used for construction added $29,833 to the price of an average new single-family home, and $9,990 to the market value of an average new multi family home, states a July 19 report by the National Association
of Home Builders.

The cost of the typical U.S. home reached $287,148 in May, Zillow reports.

There have also been increases in the cost of lumber, up 67% in 2021 and 340% from 2020, reports Random Lengths, a wood products industry tracking firm.

The increase in project costs for May’s business are up, but only about 10% to 12% of what they were pre-pandemic, he said.

“It’s not scaring people off,” May said.

May attributed the rise of lumber costs to a few reasons.

First, there is a high demand for remodeling work this year after people delayed work last year because of the pandemic. Lumber plants and factories closing, and then re-opening along with a lack of workers has also contributed to the rise.

Yet even with these factors, May said Crown Construction Inc. has projects booked into next summer.

People who skipped their vacations last summer because of the pandemic are instead using that money for home remodeling, covering the rising costs, he said.

It is also a way for people to regain some normality after 2020.

“They’re saying, ‘I’m normal, I want to enjoy my home,’” May said. “COVID is a reminder of the fact that they’re not going to live forever.”

People who might have put off home construction work last year are still deciding to go ahead with it this year, said Eric Barden, the president of Hamilton Building Services in Cortlandville.

Increases in material costs for components such as windows or sidings have added about 30% to 40% to total construction costs from 2020, he said. Adding to the struggle has been delayed delivery because of shortages.

Still, only about 10 projects have been held off into 2022, Barden said. The business typically does between 40 and 50 projects a year.

“People for the most part have decided to go ahead with it,” he said.

Barden said the rest of 2021 and 2022 will be busy years for the business. The question comes when 2023 rolls around. The time between when a consumer starts the conversation and plans for building a home to the time when the work gets started is generally about two years, Barden said.

That means 2023 will probably be the year when the business will start seeing project effects dating back to the pandemic.

“Either in a good way or bad way,” he said. “It’s yet to be foreseen.”