Construction Crunch

You may soon be feeling the effects of Hurricane Charley even if you do not live in one of the counties hit by the storm. The cost of home building in Florida has been steadily increasing, and thanks to Charley, many folks may soon be priced out of the market.

Before Charley wrecked havoc, homebuilding materials were already in short supply. A building boom in China, reconstruction in Iraq and growth here at home all sent construction costs soaring over the past several months.

Home builder Robby Hartsfield expects Hurricane Charley will only make it worse. Hartsfield says market pressure from rebuilding efforts could drive new home prices up for everybody, thanks to an existing shortage of steel, lumber, concrete and even sheetrock.

Robert Hartsfield says, “Say a 2,000 square foot house, we’re looking at between a four and $7,000 increase just for the materials and stuff. The bigger houses, you’re going to have more of an increase than that.”

Builders have already seen big price increases this year even before Hurricane Charley. Steel prices alone have gone up 82 percent since January, and even a $5,000 increase in the price of a home could mean the difference in the ability of some people to get a mortgage.

Edie Ousley with the Florida Homebuilders Association says even people who aren’t in the market for a new home could be affected.

Edie says, “As they talk with their licensed contractors, they will quickly discover it’s likely going to increase the cost of rebuilding, repairing or remodeling any homes in that area. Right now Florida is not anticipating a labor shortage, but builders may have to appeal to construction workers in other states if that changes.”

Home builders and contractors have launched a new website to get assistance to people in hurricane-affected areas. The Disaster Contractors Network is matching donated construction supplies and labor to people and businesses needing help.