Callender said single-family spec starts have been cut. “I expect to feel that ripple 60 to 90 days from now, where that spec aspect, the nonstarts, are going to affect us.”
The restlessness brought on by weeks of confinement could drive up demand for building and remodeling, according to Winfield.
“People aren’t falling more in love with their apartments as they’ve been quarantined in them,” he pointed out. People who haven’t suffered job losses or cuts haven’t had as many spending opportunities and may come out of the quarantine with the willingness and cash to spend on a big home project.
Production builders have been working cautiously, Builders’ Stein said, but his company hasn’t seen builders canceling supply orders. TriStar’s Callender believes cancelations won’t have an impact until later in the summer when work can begin on spec starts that had to be put off.
From obstacles come opportunities
Winfield pointed out that the pandemic gives builders an opportunity to distinguish themselves against their competitors.
“We’ve got to remember that this is a health crisis, a financial crisis,” he said. “We have a real opportunity to come out of this stronger as companies.”
Stein noted that remote work has “given us all an opportunity to actually put these kinds of virtual technique and practices into use and to get good at it.”
Callender agreed and added that his crews have become more cooperative. “We’re a little more dependent on the other guy to … make sure that I know, when I come in the next day, what he’s done and how efficient things have been.”
What if COVID-19 never goes away?
One question that might be on a lot of people’s minds is what happens to businesses if the pandemic worsens.
If the pandemic worsens instead of becoming more contained, Winfield said that builders need to be prepared to “get better at your core and survive as long as you can with that.”
Stein said companies need to know who their key people are and make sure they’re able to work safely with different work spaces or schedules. “Your A players are the ones who can pick up the ball and run with it,” he said. “They have to be kept on the team to ensure survival and future success.”
Callender believes that if there’s a second wave to the virus, “it’s going to be a lot easier for us.”
The pandemic “isn’t a systemic problem like the financial crisis was,” he explained. “We’re not trying to figure out a way to get more work when there is no work. The work’s going to come … It’s how do we do it efficiently and safely.”