2021 is my 37th year as a solo builder. In many ways I feel like I’m at the top of my building game. I love the whole business of creation, from envisioning to facilitation. I’ve spent the past 18 years focused primarily on smaller homes. That work in particular has met with broad appeal, which is pretty sweet. I’m poised to start a new build and have pleasant folks patiently waiting to buy anything I do build. The situation couldn’t be better, so I’m surprised to find myself wondering if I should start my new project.

Imagine you’re going to write a dystopian novel. You’d want it to be just a degree off reality, allowing your work to pull the reader effortlessly into the created world. Perhaps you have three elements in mind. The ever-popular political upheaval, complete with divisiveness and mayhem. Set that against a backdrop of pandemic. People are scared and largely sheltering in place. Now add to the mix a third unexpected element, one that threatens to turn your work from a gripping page-turner to an unbelievable farce. That element? A booming real estate market. Can you push it further? Let’s add building material shortages and prices spiraling out of control.

Currently, building material prices, framing material and sheet goods in particular, have increased threefold over the past year. Prices had started to drop a few months ago, only to begin rising again. In conversations with folks who work at lumber yards, the first thing they express is embarrassment when giving prices. No one knows what the future holds price wise, but the general belief is they will continue to rise, certainly through the summer, possibly all year. I don’t know who’s gaining financially from the situation, but I know who’s not. It’s not the lumberyard, logger, woodlot owner, or builder. It’s not the mill workers or delivery drivers. It sure isn’t the consumer.

I find myself anticipating an increase of at least $24,000 in the sale price of the next project, solely to cover rising material cost. I’m strangely confident that price increase won’t deter a buyer. What I’m trying to decide is, Am I willing to accept that risk. Just as important a question is, Am I willing to be party to such an unhealthy situation? No one knows what will happen to prices. That leaves us with having to make decisions based on what’s happening now. And what’s happening now is unsustainable. Something has to give.