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Pittsburgh is Booming Despite High Lumber Costs and Labor Shortage

Local Builders

Pittsburgh is Booming Despite High Lumber Costs and Labor Shortage

Pittsburgh-area builders and homebuyers are shrugging off the higher cost of construction as real estate prices soar, bidding wars are the norm, and the supply of houses for sale has never been scarcer

July 8, 2021
Pittsburgh riverfront at night
Photo: Allan

The number of building permits issued for new home construction in the six-county area around Pittsburgh jumped 37% through May of this year, according to a report by Tall Timber Group, a Ross Township-based construction industry consulting firm.

“People are either powering through it because they have the ability to pay the extra [cost] — the demand has been pent up because we haven’t had a supply of lots that’s been adequate for quite a while. Or, builders have been savvy enough and creative enough, or perhaps pinched their margins a little so that construction has been able to go on,” said Jeff Burd, president of Tall Timber Group.

Smaller builders played a bigger role in this region before many of them were squeezed out by lending institutions during the 2008 financial crisis.

“The banks wanted smaller builders like me to put more capital in the projects than was originally stated on the outset,” said F. Lynn Foltz, a Washington County developer and builder. “It obviously emptied our pockets.”

Small builders made a comeback around 2013 as interest rates fell and the demand for new housing increased. All builders are riding the wave of this recent housing boom.
“It’s a good market for everyone now,” Mr. Foltz said. “However, we are being hand-tied with lumber prices, high steel prices and the lack of workers. 

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