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While reported job delays are down, material shortages, cost increases, and the frequency with which home improvement contractors are experiencing those two challenges are all on the rise, according to PRO Home Improvement Monthly Tracker for November published by The Farnsworth Group and Home Improvement Research Institute. In light of those challenges, the report showed that contractors are experimenting with both new materials and the means by which they secure them. 

1. Materials are home improvement’s chief concern

For four straight months, “COVID,” “material pricing,” and “material availability,” have been home improvement’s three biggest concerns. However, while the share of contractors citing the virus itself as a chief problem has dipped, falling more than 10 percentage points since August, concerns regarding material shortage have maintained their relevance. In the case of material availability, the share of home improvement contractors reporting problems has increased from 50% to 56%. 

2. Delays are longer, prices are higher 

Since August, contractors are also reporting longer delays and more dire pricing. 

the farnsworth group residential building material and product shortages and price increases for home improvement the farnsworth group residential building material and product shortages and price increases for home improvement

The share of home improvement professionals reporting material lead times of three weeks or more rose, for instance, from about 20% in August to just over 23% in November. Forty-five percent of contractors are now describing their shortage as either “moderate” or “severe,” compared to three months ago when it was less than 40%. 

As it relates to pricing, nearly two-thirds of contractors are now describing the challenge as either “moderate” or “severe,” when in August that share was less than half. 

3. Delays are everywhere

Ninety-seven percent of contractors are reporting delays in at least one product category. And while certain materials appear to be causing home improvement professionals the most grief—46% of contractors, for instance, are reporting difficulty securing lumber, treated lumber, and plywood—delays are widespread. In more than a dozen product categories, delays are impacting more than 10% of all contractors. 

Still, five materia delays are having the most significant impact: Lumber products (46%); roofing, insulation, and drywall (36%); paint (26%), flooring (23%), and windows and doors (23%).

4. Contractors are making changes 

Faced with delays and rising prices, contractors have been pushed into the uncomfortable position of accounting for those challenges.

To get around material shortages, contractors have shown a continuous willingness to make changes not only to what products they’re using, but also to their suppliers and preferred brands and manufacturers. 

To account for rising prices, back in August, half of contractors were splitting cost absorption between company and customer. However, in the following months as the increases have persisted and in some cases worsened, more companies—44% in November compared to 34% in August—are now passing the full increase on to clients.