Appliance shortages hold up home improvement and new construction

Adelicia Caree

In normal times, Juan David Ortiz could fill an order for a new refrigerator or dishwasher in 15 to 30 days. He’s CEO of Woodcocks, an appliance distributor and retailer in Miami. “Nowadays, customers would have to actually order at least 90 days in advance in order for them to […]

In normal times, Juan David Ortiz could fill an order for a new refrigerator or dishwasher in 15 to 30 days. He’s CEO of Woodcocks, an appliance distributor and retailer in Miami.

“Nowadays, customers would have to actually order at least 90 days in advance in order for them to get products without any delays,” he said.

It takes even longer if customers want a special size, he said, or black instead of stainless steel. Manufacturers are prioritizing the most popular models.

“I have customers waiting for over six months on a product that has not yet arrived,” Ortiz said.

Chalk it up to supply disruptions due to COVID-19 and more demand — also due to COVID-19. Stuck-at-home-improvers aren’t the only ones waiting. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that nearly 90% of builders had trouble getting appliances for their new homes.

That’s slowing down construction and sales, said Jerry Howard, the group’s CEO.

“You can’t finish the house and get a certificate of occupancy until not only are all the appliances installed, but they have to be inspected for safety and workability,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sales of new homes fell by 18% in February from the month before — pending the usual revisions. That’s not for a lack of demand, Howard said. There simply aren’t enough homes for sale.

Appliance shortages are just one factor causing delays. Builders also face shortages of lumber, windows and other materials, said Ali Wolf, chief economist of the research firm Zonda.

A Zonda survey found that most builders have raised home prices this month, with nearly half increasing prices by $10,000 or more.

“Whether it’s cabinets, whether it’s doors, whether it’s handles — all of these different components are harder to get ahold of and becoming increasingly more expensive,” she said.

Builders are passing those costs on to customers. Wolf said 98% of builders Zonda surveys have raised their prices this month. With all the demand for houses, she said, “they absolutely can.”

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