Record Number of Builders Report Material Shortages

Home Construction

Shortages of materials are now more widespread than at any at any time since NAHB began tracking the issue in the 1990s, with more than 90% of builders reporting shortages of appliances, framing lumber and OSB. Exactly 90% said there was a shortage of plywood, and nearly as many respondents (87%) said there was a shortage of of windows and doors, according to a May 2021 survey for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

The shortages are not only extremely widespread, but extremely broad-based. Of the two dozen items listed in the May 2021 survey, 12 were checked as being in short supply by at least 70% of the builders. In total, 16 were checked as in short supply by more than 60%, and 21 were checked as in short supply by more than 5%.

All two dozen were flagged as in short supply by at least 43% of the builders who purchase the item. In contrast, when the HMI survey last covered the topic in June 2020, fewer than 40% of builders reported a shortage of any of the listed products and materials.

material shortages graph - appliances at 95%, framing lumber at 94%, OSB at 92%, and plywood at 90%

To further illustrate how drastically the situation has changed since last year, the table below compares results from the last two HMI surveys on building materials conducted in May 2021 and June 2020. In the 11 months between surveys, the share of builders reporting shortages increased by at least 27 percentage points on all 23 items, usually by much more.  In the most extreme case, the share of builders reporting a shortage of OSB skyrocketed by 83 points, from 9 to 92 percent. The shortage percentages for plywood, framing lumber and copper wiring also jumped by 70 points or more.

materials shortage comparison between May 2021 and June 2020, with copper wiring, framed lumber, plywood and OSB all reporting more than 70 percentage points difference

The one item listed in 2021 but not in 2020 was appliances. Historically, builders have not often complained about appliance shortages, but NAHB added the item to the latest iteration of the survey after fielding a volley of anecdotal complaints earlier this year. The addition turned out to be more than justified. As shown in the first chart above, 95% of builders reported a shortage of appliances in May 2021 — the single highest shortage percentage recorded on any item since NAHB began collecting the information in a systematic way in the 1990s.

NAHB Senior Economist Paul Emrath provides more analysis in this Eye on Housing blog post.