Rising lumber, material costs putting Columbus-area home builders in a bind

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The Columbus new home market has hit a snag in recent months as prices for lumber and other materials have soared.

Don Bowles has built more than 400 homes in the Columbus area since the mid-1990s. The local home builder has never encountered a situation like this one.

There is high demand from buyers but great difficulty in getting the product finished.The supply chain has been disrupted and prices driven through the roof by the COVID crisis.

“A piece of plywood has gone up 300 percent and they claim by the end of September it will be up 400 percent from April pricing,” Bowles said.

What does that mean?

“We are looking at a $7 piece of plywood costing $23 and it’s set to go to $30 by the end of September,” Bowles said.

It has driven the cost of a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home from $250,000 to $266,000.

“It is not that the builder making any more money,” Bowles said. “It is just the builder trying to cover his overhead.”

Ask Bowles if it’s frustrating and laughs nervously.

“Absolutely,” he said. “To try and honor a commitment has been extremely challenging. And there’s nothing I can do about it. We got houses here framed up, and have been for two or three weeks. We are waiting on windows. We are waiting on siding. The house can’t proceed until I get those materials.”

Two local  building supply companies declined to talk about what was happening.

Bowles builds new homes in Columbus. His wife, Clare, is a local Realtor and she lists and sells many of the homes, She is dealing directly with the customer.

“We have so much interest in this neighborhood and agents calling me daily,” she said of Midland Downs. “We have had to turn away five or six contacts in the last few ways just because we can’t guarantee a closing date. We can’t guarantee a price.”

The reason for that is the rising cost of lumber and other building products. And it’s not just lumber,

“For instance, they have run out of windows,” Don Bowles said. “They have run out of siding. The shingle manufacturer we were buying from, they have run out of shingles. We went with a second brand. And of course, it’s just a matter of time, I believe before they run out of material because everybody is now buying that material.”

Many of the homes Bowles have that are for sale are no longer on the local real estate listings.

“People need to know when they are going to move in,” Clare Bowles said. “They can’t go under contract for a house and have no end-date in site.”

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