by Christy Heitger-Ewing

We will never forget the infamous spring of 2020; it marked extreme change in life as we knew it. It was the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a time in history when there were countless unknowns and what-ifs, more questions than answers, and a sea of anxiety surrounding us all. In addition to public health concerns, society was trying to navigate work, school, and social life in a new and awkward way.

In June 2020, Chad Johnson and his wife, Kelley, purchased a lot in Zionsville’s picturesque Holliday Farms. With so much stress swirling around, the Johnsons were happy to focus their energies on something fun. After all, is there anything better than building your dream home? Still, given the state of the world, which, by extension, affected the state of the homebuilding industry, the couple faced some challenges along the way.

Even under “normal” circumstances, constructing a home can be a tense endeavor simply because so many factors have the potential to affect the projected timeline. It’s exasperating when you are expecting A, B, and C to happen by a certain date and those expectations aren’t met.

“When communication is void, it’s human nature for your mind to jump to the worst-case scenario,” says Johnson who is the Director of Sales at Salesforce Consulting and knows a thing or two about the importance of communication.

If those blanks are filled in, however, and you’re not left wondering what’s going on and why, much of that stress subsides. This is precisely why in October 2021 and again in May 2022 the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis (BAGI) issued a “State of the Industry” letter, which outlined the unique challenges that the building industry continues to face, including rising labor & material costs, land prices, permit fees, and international tariffs. (See the letter at left.) Combined with inflation, higher mortgage rates, and low inventory, the housing landscape is constantly evolving.

Having said that, building your dream home is still viable. To make it a pleasant experience, however, open and honest communication is crucial. When a builder educates his or her clients about the cause of product delays, price increases and labor shortages, not only does that help alleviate confusion but it also enables the builder to proactively address and discuss potential solutions to those issues. Such was the case for the Johnsons, who commenced construction on their 8,000 sq. ft. home in February 2021 with Peter and Patrick Gray, the father-and-son team at Executive Homes.

After the foundation was laid, framing was delayed. Following that, they were stalled for three+ months in the mechanical stage. Nevertheless, the Johnsons took it all in stride because they weren’t left scratching their heads as to why there were hiccups – or, in some cases, a chain of hiccups.

“Any delays we had, Patrick told us about,” says Johnson. “We have a text thread that’s a mile long.”

The Johnsons appreciated that transparency from the building industry. The Grays, active members of BAGI, shared information on the current systemic issues in the residential construction industry that were disrupting both job schedules and project pricing.

“Patrick was in constant communication with us on almost a daily basis, mitigating potential risk for themselves while also providing a better experience for us,” says Johnson, who regularly looked to his builder for guidance. “We trusted Peter and Patrick to guide us down the right path. When there was an issue, they were equipped to find solutions, and if I questioned something, they explained the ‘why’ to me.”

While the supply chain issue didn’t affect the Johnsons as much as it did homeowners who started the building process several months after them, they did feel the sting of labor shortages when some days workers didn’t show up. The Johnsons were thankful, however, that their builder had such long-standing relationships with their quality vendors and subcontractors, many of whom have been with them for 20+ years.

They did, however, experience other headaches along the way. For example, their garage doors got damaged during construction. So, Patrick ordered replacement panels, which disappeared; he ordered more and those, too, disappeared.

“It’s the nature of the beast [the supply chain issues] where someone needs them, so someone takes them,” says Johnson.

Again, frequent communication made all the difference.

“If there was a problem, they were definitely equipped to find solutions,” says Johnson. “My wife and I have to deal with conflict every day in our careers, so we don’t like to have conflict in our lives. I think you can find a common ground with anybody, and that’s true in the building industry, too.”