Many Wilmington-area homes are still in need of post-storm repairs, but the wait time might be a bit longer for an already strained residential market.
Because of Hurricane Florence, Thomas Trades LLC, a company that does custom homes and remodeling, is not capable of taking on any new work for about six to eight weeks, the firm's voicemail message said Wednesday. The message also said that even estimates will take two weeks.
And that company isn't alone. Joseph Coleman Jr., CEO of Coleman Fine Homes LLC, said that though he is receiving "constant calls" for home jobs related to the storm, his company can only take so much work at a time in the home renovation market.
“Me as a general contractor and not having employees in the subcontractor base … it makes it difficult," Coleman said. "You have to turn down work because all the subcontractors are busy for the most part."
He isn't working on any home restoration projects just yet but is waiting on a few jobs where homeowners are still working with insurance companies to get the job started.
That's one of the issues facing homeowners in getting repairs done.
“Obviously every house that has had damage … it’s going to have some uniqueness to it to work through the process and get a contract,” said Cameron Moore, executive officer of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association.
Some of the lag in getting projects started comes from the time it takes for homeowners to get insurance finalized to receive funding for projects, he said. Or having to exhaust all remedies as far as insurance to get aid from FEMA, especially those who have faced flooding without flood insurance, Moore said.
But on the contractor's side, there's a lot more work out there than perhaps the market can handle.
“What we’re looking at now, post-storm, is a greater need for more remodeling and restoration work here and in the region,” Moore said. “My general sense being here, and having seen a lot of these storms [like Fran and Floyd] … there is certainly going to be a lot of areas in need of contractors to replace, repair and fix.”
There was an estimated $160 million in residential structural damages and loss of contents in New Hanover County, according to a county report earlier this month.
The hardest hit areas of the county included the Murrayville area, which had an estimated $33 million in residential structural costs, and Wrightsboro, with an estimated $4 million.
"We are stretched thin right now … some of the new homebuilders, they have even got calls for remodel and restoration and they are referring them to other contractors where that is their niche," Moore said.
From talking to members Moore said he estimates the average wait is "a two- to three-week window as far as getting those jobs on a schedule."
WCFHBA is promoting a survey by N.C. Association of Homebuilders
to not only address the workforce needs of new construction but that of home repair and remodeling subcontractors after Hurricane Florence, Moore said.
“You have essentially 21 trades that have to touch every new home that is built,” Moore said, adding that from a home restoration perspective, a property owner could have up to 10 trades that have to come in to do the work.
That includes HVAC, drywall, electrical and flooring, for example. And the demand for these trades is multiplying an already existing issue with construction labor shortage in the region, he said.
The N.C. Licensing Board for General Contractors (NCLBGC) is taking measures to expedite licensing to aid in recovery efforts, he said.
The licensing board has undertaken efforts to expedite licensure for general contractors who are licensed in other states and who meet the qualifications for licensure in the state, according to an Oct. 12 news release.
The board is considering Exam Waiver Agreements with licensing agencies in the states of Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee for certain classifications of licenses.
For applicants from those states, as well as other applicants who meet state qualifications, NCLBGC staff is expediting those applicants who indicate they wish to participate in storm recovery. According to the release, the turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours for processing with submission for board approval "immediately."
Moore said that this speedy process will help outside contractors get the license requirements needed to work in the state and local region.
"We recognize that there is catastrophic damage in parts of North Carolina where there is much more work to be done, than contractors available to do the work," said C. Frank Wiesner, executive director of the NCLBGC, in the release. "We want to get as many contractors to work in those areas a quickly as possible without exposing our citizens to additional risk."
This effort, in addition to the survey, could aid in getting more outside help with contractors and subcontractors, to get to the many post-storm residential jobs still left in the Wilmington area, Moore said.