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Building industry seeing much lower costs
Cost of materials sees big decrease
W BIZ BUILDING I
Jamey Cartee of St. Andrew's Builders is shown at one of his construction sites in Bulloch County. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      With a 3.2 percent decrease in the construction materials price index in November, local builders and construction material suppliers are urging those interested in building a home to go ahead and do so as prices for building materials approach previous lows.
       "I don't know that there will ever be a better time to build," said Jeff Edwards, associate general manager of Howard Lumber & Hardware and the Claude Howard Lumber Company in Statesboro. "We have seen significant price decreases in materials such as plywood from previous all-time highs, and interest rates are falling consistently lower."
       Reed Construction Data, North America's leading source of economic data for the construction industry, reports that the most significant declines in November were 20 percent for diesel fuel at the pump, 15 percent for asphalt at the refinery, 11 percent for structural steel, 9 percent for nonferrous pipe and tube, and 4 percent for plywood.
       Reed further projects that the decline in metals, energy and freight costs in the pipeline will push down the prices of manufactured products in the next few months.
       Local building contractor Jamey Cartee, owner of St. Andrews Builders, said that consumers need to understand that the "playing field" for new construction in Bulloch County has changed somewhat.
       "New wind load regulations went into effect several months ago," Cartee said. "That means we have to build homes to a stronger code than before making home building more expensive. With depressed pricing on construction materials, a home builder can build these stronger homes at the same price that homes were being built prior to the new regulations. In essence, you can get a much stronger home at the 'old' price in a sense."
       Edwards said that is what those interested in building a home should understand.
       "In Bulloch County, the new code makes building more expensive, or it would have, had we not seen these price declines," he said. "That is why right now is the cheapest it is going to be, in my opinion, to build a home, and you will be getting a home that is much more structurally sound and energy efficient than those being built in most of our neighboring counties."
       Jim Moody, president of the Construction Suppliers Association of Georgia echoed the sentiments of both Edwards and Cartee on a regional level.
       "Certainly there has been in our lifetime, no better time to purchase building materials because home building is at its lowest," Moody said. "Everybody is hungry for business, and people are desperately trying to get rid of building materials and labor is readily available."
       Moody said many people may be surprised that the homebuilding industry is actually encouraged by falling home prices in addition to lower interest rates.
       "Everyone knows that there is a glut of homes on the market, and those homes must be sold to really open up building again. It is a great time to buy, and a great time to build. This may the best time that we see for decades."
       The United States Commerce Department said November 2008 housing starts were the lowest since it began keeping records in 1959.
       With the decrease in demand for labor and materials, Cartee said now is not the time to "sit on the fence."

       "For the person with good credit that has been planning to build a house for the last five to 10 years, now is it," he said.

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