From the Desk of...

Patti Watson
Why 2021 Completion Dates are Moving Targets

We completely understand. It’s so frustrating. It’s not just one delay; it’s multiple delays. Whether you’re building a new home or renovating an existing residence, deliverable setbacks are most likely profoundly affecting your completion date. So, how is it possible for your general contractor or your interior designer not to be able to nail down dates for materials as promised?

It’s a compound problem with a trickledown effect from a never-seen-before, perfect storm: a collision of multiple pandemic implications, an increase in destructive weather patterns, a booming housing market, and an uptick in residential construction.  Simply Google ‘residential design industry delays’, and you will find all of these complications flooding your search results… and more.


The Bad News

COVID-19 and its variants have caused factories to shut down temporarily.  Factory workers located far from highly populated areas suffer from a lack of access to the vaccine and good medical attention.  Orders back up as workers wait to return to work or, worse, they fall ill with COVID.

Wildfires on the west coast and hurricanes on the east coast are not new phenomenon. However, we’ve all watched their increase in severity, frequency, and timeframe.  The season for wildfires and hurricanes started much earlier this year than in past years–stretching out the damage and recovery time.  The foul climate inhibits manufacturers’ capabilities to produce internationally and creates a problem with overseas shipping. Barges must carefully navigate their routes around tropical storms and hurricanes to reach our shoreline, which can cause lengthy delays.

Weather systems are not the only thing plaguing barges carrying your hand painted wallpaper from France, your custom rug from Tibet, or your leather sofa from Italy. Design trade business news journalist, Caroline Bourque of Business of Home reported at the end of September of this year, “The number of containerships anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, has once again broken records, FreightWaves reports, as an all-time high of 73 vessels sat waiting in San Pedro Bay on Sunday. The issue partially has to do with the port’s operations, The Wall Street Journal reports—unlike its round-the-clock counterparts in Europe and Asia, the complex remains closed on Sundays and some weekday hours, creating a deeper backlog in a global supply chain already depleted by the pandemic.”

The pandemic also forced many individuals to work remotely which resulted in office closings and a permanent transformation to work from home. This change in work-life balance created a need for more space or renovated space in homes nationwide when low-interest rates made real estate a hot commodity. As a result, demand for housing, case goods and appliances shot up.  This deeply intensified an already dwindling housing inventory which caused home prices to surpass their value in sales. Furniture and appliance orders quickly became backlogged due to shipping delays.

We’ve all experienced the delay in appliances. Above is one of our favorite project managers from J2 Construct, filling in for the 60″ Wolf range while our clients patiently waited (order placed in December and delivered in June).


The Good News

Hickory Chair Workroom

Recent vaccinations, masks, and health protocols have eased the consequences of manufacturers’ exposure to COVID-19. Factory shutdowns have decreased, allowing some producers to catch up on a backlog of orders.

As we near the fall season, we see the occurrence of wildfires and hurricanes start to subside.  And the housing market has begun to slow.
Although these developments are readily happening, there is still an enormous backlog.  On a positive note, cargo shipments are getting caught up. A set back now exists at all of the 20 container port terminals that dot the US coastline.  Containers are transhipped to trains or trucks responsible for the onward transportation of the cargo. However truck drivers in port terminals are at an all time low.  So containers now wait for an available truck bed to move them to their final destination.  Every week we hear from one of our furnishing makers, typically based in North Carolina, with extended lead times up to thirty weeks.  And, time will tell when the industry will catch up with deliverables while not sacrificing craftsmanship.

The Solution

Unfortunately, shortages, shipping delays, and high demand have wreaked havoc on the home construction industry in 2021.  Even the experts are finding it hard to predict a return to more reliable conditions.  (Believe me, I ask any economist I come into contact with.)

So what’s a homeowner to do?
First, remember that you have a team behind you. Your general contractor and design time are constantly working to overcome these obstacles.  We project plan better than ever before.  We secure materials well in advance, negotiate (ok, sometimes plead) and plan for the worst while hoping for a little better.

Second, be ready to consider alternatives to your overall design or selected materials. In the furnishings category, if you are lucky enough to have good furniture already that can be reimagined, consider reupholstering it instead of buying custom and waiting.  And, remember that antiques are always in stock.

Third, keep it local. Even when materials are ordered, transit time has at least doubled across all categories.  If you can buy locally, do so and save yourself extended transit time that often ends up with damaged goods that have been in a port or on a truck too long.

Lastly, lean on your contractor and your designer to provide recommendations.  And if you would prefer not to budge on your original selections (which is quite acceptable), find grace and patience.  Your entire team is working together to help you realize your objectives. You are not alone.  Creating a home for the ages remains our highest priority despite the daily challenges our current world presents.