Building Material Shortages Reaching Crisis Point

Published On
Jun 8, 2021

According to a May 2021 survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), shortages of materials for home builders are now more widespread than at any at any time since NAHB began tracking the issue in the 1990s.

NAHB noted that shortages are extremely widespread and broad-based. For example, 70% of the builders surveys marked 12 of the two dozen items in the survey as being in short supply, more than 60% of builders marked 16 items as being in short supply and more than 5% of builders marked 21 items.

The following comparisons from the last two HMI surveys on building materials, conducted in May 2021 and June 2020, further demonstrate how significantly the situation has changed since last year.

The second-most serious shortage reported in May 2021 is framing lumber, reported by 94% of builders as being in short supply—with 47% reporting a serious shortage and 47% reporting some shortage.

Of interest to electrical contractors in specific, copper wire was listed in seventh place, with only 7% reporting a shortage last year, and a whopping 77% reporting a shortage this year—with 23% reporting a serious shortage and 54% reporting some shortage.

In 13th place was HVAC equipment, with 11% reporting a shortage last year, and 68% reporting a shortage this year—with 13% reporting a serious shortage and 55% reporting some shortage.

Of particular interest is that the one item listed as being in short supply in 2021 that wasn’t even mentioned a year ago was appliances. According to the report, 57% of builders reported a serious shortage of appliances, while 38% reported some shortage.

“Historically, builders have not often complained about appliance shortages, but NAHB added the item to the latest iteration of the survey after fielding a volley of anecdotal complaints earlier this year,” stated the NAHB in its report on the survey.

In fact, it was a very necessary addition, as appliances were listed as the most serious shortage (#1) reported this year, with 95% of builders reporting a shortage of appliances in May 2021—the highest shortage percentage recorded on any item since NAHB began collecting this information.

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