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  • Writer's picturegreencity

How the skilled labor shortage affects us all.

Finding contractors is not easy these days. Even we have to admit that it's not possible to call everyone back. In 2010, we were building an ADU in our basement. Although we did most of the work ourselves, we had our choice of plumbers and electricians. Most were giving us bids that were much lower than usual and were willing to start ASAP. It was a recession. And if you had the money to remodel or were lucky enough to be a working general contractor that needed subs, life was good. Now life is a bit different.

After living in Asia for a few years and coming back to a thriving economy in 2016, we found that hiring subs and keeping a project on budget and on time, was a bit more challenging. Electricians we had known with a couple vans, now had a fleet of vans and were booked 6 weeks out. What?! Not to mention the price hikes we were seeing in the trades. The fact is: good tradesmen usually survive recessions. And when you hit the good times, they are always busy and much more expensive, especially technical trades like plumbing and electrical. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is a serious shortage of men and women in the construction trades.

There is real reason to be concerned about this. If people have to pay astronomical prices and wait long periods of time for basic updates to their home, they're just not going to do it. This leads to finding an unlicensed uncle or "friend" that will give them a good price. Both scenarios are terrible for homeowners and the real estate market. Bad remodels just mean mo' money and mo' problems down the road.

The good news is that although prices may go up a bit during the good times, most professionals recognize that client loyalty and craftsmanship is what will carry you through the lean times. So finding a licensed, bonded contractor, dedicated to their craft, is the best way for you to SAVE money long-term. Getting the job done right the first time is always cheaper than having to redo badly done work. The bad news is that a little more patience may be required. We don't have a million plumbers chomping at the bit to do a 5' x 10' bathroom. That's just reality. So a job that might have taken 3 weeks in the recession could take 6 weeks now. In my opinion, the wait for a competent, trustworthy tradesman is worth it.

Another side point: If you know a pre-teen or teenager in the house, why not introduce them to the idea of a technical school or apprenticeship? A lot of our friends in the trades bought houses in their 20's while avoiding crushing student debt. Not sure if young people know that plumbers can make $50,000/year right out of school? That is not the case for most young people leaving university at 21. Does the general populace know that electricians in the Portland Metro area are charging $120/hr? And hey! They say sitting at a desk is the new smoking. So join the trades ya'll! You won't die from sitting, that's for sure. We need YOU!

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