Soaring costs for building material puts pressure on Okanagan contractors to cut corners or lose money

Having a house built or hiring a contractor to do renovations is not for the faint of heart in these days of skyrocketing costs for building materials. The cost of new homes can jump by 10 to 15 per cent during the construction phase as prices for just about everything increase every 30 to 45 days, according to Dan Winer, executive director of the Central Okanagan branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.
Having a house built or hiring a contractor to do renovations is not for the faint of heart in these days of skyrocketing costs for building materials. The cost of new homes can jump by 10 to 15 per cent during the construction phase as prices for just about everything increase every 30 to 45 days, according to Dan Winer, executive director of the Central Okanagan branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

Having a house built or hiring a contractor to do renovations is not for the faint of heart in these days of skyrocketing costs for building materials.

The cost of new homes can jump by 10 to 15 per cent during the construction phase as prices for just about everything increase every 30 to 45 days, according to Dan Winer, executive director of the Central Okanagan branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“You name it, if it’s a building material, it’s going up in cost right now,” he told iNFOnews.ca. “Plan ahead and make sure you’re working with a builder and developer that are being up front and honest with you about what these costs increases may be looking like and what their crystal ball may be looking like because we don’t necessarily see an end in sight to these rising costs.”

READ MORE: Kamloops, Okanagan residents are starting to curtail home projects as prices rise

Not only is the price of lumber skyrocketing, but a harsh winter in Texas cut into the supply of the petrochemicals needed to make plastic so boosted the cost of anything made with plastic - from pipes to insulation to windows and doors.

The key to getting a good job done is to hire a reputable builder, he said.

“Typically, the client will come with a budget and the builder or renovator will work with them with that budget in mind,” Winer said. “This is what it (budget) is realistically going to get you here, here, here and here. If you were to stretch, this is what you could get that’s maybe more in line because customer budgets and reality are not necessarily always aligned.”

Builders all have different contracts with their customers. Some have clauses that take cost increases into account while others may set a final price. That may be good for the buyer but end up hurting them in the long run.

“My recommendation to consumers would be, this is the worst time to force a builder into a locked price contract,” Les Bellamy, owner of Bellamy homes in Kelowna, said. “You may feel that’s in your best interest but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to ask yourself, if the person who’s building your house is going to lose their business by building your house at that price, are you going to get the best service possible from that builder?’ That’s going to come down to the integrity of the builder for sure but, if your builder is going to go belly up because they’re locked into a price, are they going to be there for you when you need a small thing adjusted?”

It can be a tough choice for a builder between losing money on a job and cutting corners in order to make a buck, Bellamy said.

Besides, asking about price first, even in normal times, is not the right question, he said.

“If the first question you’re asking somebody is what they charge, you’re asking the wrong questions,” Bellamy said. “I get it. I have many people call me up or email me and ask: ‘What do you charge per square foot?’ I want to respond: ‘Did you want to ask me about my qualifications first?’ I think a lot of consumers put themselves in a bad spot because they’re asking the wrong questions.”

Because of the current building boom, especially in the Central Okanagan, there are a lot of new contractors moving into the region.

“Make sure you’re working with a reputable builder or a reputable renovator,” Winer said. “Check their reviews. Check their membership associations so that you’re well prepared and well informed so you have a builder or renovator that is working with best practices in mind and not necessarily, exclusively, out of the back of their truck.”

B.C. Housing has a registry of licenced builders that can be searched for free here. It includes information on whether a particular builder is in good standing or not.

Having a long history of working in the area is often an indication that the builder is able to weather the changing tides of the building industry, Bellamy said.

“You want to work with someone you know that you can trust,” Winer said. “You want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing and you want to ensure they have your best interests in mind. Of course, being a long established community member is a great way of doing that. We all want to work with people who believe in the city the same way we believe in it.”


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