Soaring cost of materials has Baton Rouge homebuilders in a tight spot  

    Manchac Homes owner Russell Alleman is arguably the busiest he’s ever been, with demand exceptionally high for the custom homes he builds in the Greater Baton Rouge market.

    The only problem: He can’t acquire the materials he needs to build each house. At least, not easily.

    In recent weeks, it’s been increasingly difficult for Alleman to source wood needed for roof decking. On one recent job, after phoning nearly every lumber supplier in his rolodex with no luck, he was prepared to drive to a lumber yard in Mississippi before a nearby supplier called Alleman at 5 a.m. to tell him a shipment had just arrived.

    “We ran over there at 6 a.m. to pick it up, and paid a fortune because we had to,” Alleman says. “We knew it wouldn’t be there long at all. If I had to guess, they probably sold out by lunch.”

    Alleman’s predicament—which also extends to windows, appliances and, considering the recent flooding, sheetrock—is one that’s familiar to many Baton Rouge-area homebuilders, who are juggling these various supply chain issues and material cost increases in a time of unprecedented buyer demand.

    As a result, newly constructed homes are slower to come online, making existing real estate all the more attractive. Buyers scooping up homes now rather than later—while interest rates remain historically low—and the shortage of new homes combined with the rush on existing homes has sent prices upward. 

    Simply put, demand for housing is far outpacing supply, of both building materials and existing homes, but there isn’t much suppliers can do about it. The good news: Material costs have been declining over the past three weeks, raising hopes the market will normalize in the coming months.

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