COVID-19 has had an undeniable effect on the U.S. economy. In the housing market, increased interest in single-family, new-construction homes has given builders a bright spot in the crisis. Builder confidence in this market has now reached a 35-year high, but builders are not out of the woods yet.
Potential homebuyers are showing up in hoards (figuratively speaking, we hope) this fall with a keen interest in new-construction homes. Buyers looking to take advantage of record-low interest rates are knocking on model home doors, seeking improved living arrangements with more space and functionality. The market sentiment for single-family homes is positive, but rising lumber prices are tempering home builders’ excitement for booming business.
Many white-collar workers are staring down an indefinite stretch of remote working arrangements, with some large tech companies even considering making the change to remote work permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workers to make big shifts in their everyday life. These lifestyles changes, along with low interest rates, have prompted a new wave of homebuyers.
Unfortunately for builders, the pandemic has had a much harder impact on blue-collar workers and a negative impact on supply and demand. While office workers sit on their couches and open up their laptops to Zillow, places like lumber mills and factories had no choice but to shut down during the height (if that is even past us) of the pandemic.
Many lumber mills and factories remain closed or are dealing with severe labor shortages as these blue-collar workers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and access to adequate health care.
Prior to shutdowns, the market was not expecting this type of boom in new-construction interest from homebuyers. Builders are now seeing lumber prices rise as a result of increased demand and dwindling supplies.
Mortgage rates hit record lows in early August, and while those have risen somewhat since then, it is unlikely that rates will skyrocket anytime soon. With no end to the pandemic in sight for the U.S., potential homebuyers will keep coming and builders will just have to deal with the premium on lumber for the foreseeable future.