Contractor Shortage
Coastside contractors say they are booked months in advance as public health restrictions bring people to consider more home improvement plans. Adam Pardee / Review

Residential construction is booming in the time of COVID-19. With more people at home, home improvement projects have created a demand for professional contractors on the Coastside.

Local contractors like Bryan Bodas said they have seen an uptick in project requests from Coastside residents, from full interior redesign to bathroom renovations.

“It appears people are working from home and so they want to make their work-from- home situation a bit better,” Bodas said.

Bodas said he’s seen steady business in the last four years, but COVID seemed to create an even bigger demand.

“Unfortunately, we have to let people know, because of the demand, we are booked out into next year,” he said. “If people are willing to wait, we’re willing to accommodate that.”

He knows that home improvement projects are one of those things clients want done soon.

Jamie Verdura, another local contractor, said he’s also seen an increased demand for remodels, as well as new custom homes. He said he’s booked out until after the start of the new year.

“It feels busier than before COVID,” Verdura said.

Contractors said the shelter-in-place orders have created a mix of benefits and hurdles. While business is booming, contractors have had to deal with altered government processes.

The building departments for the city of Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County have moved their permit application online. Bodas considered this a boon since he no longer has to drive to Redwood City to get permits for projects in the unincorporated areas, like Moss Beach and Montara.

“It’s much more efficient,” he said.

At the same time, there are delays in other ways. Local governments went through months of employee furloughs that contractors said led to slower response times. Building inspections were also delayed but have since resumed. (The city has returned to sending a building inspector on site. The county conducts inspections via video call.)

“We have to explain to our clients that the timeline changes on the daily, and so we’re preparing them mentally for things that are out of our control,” Verdura said.

Bodas has been doing business on the Coastside for 23 years. When he first started he saw a similar boom. He points to the current surge in projects as the source of what customers see as a shortage.

“There are a lot of things that have created challenges,” he said. “Overall, it’s the demand that’s the biggest thing. With demand you end up with a lot of these issues anyway.”

COVID-19 has contractors feeling a mix of gratitude and doom.

“I tell my employees we’ve been really fortunate to be able to be busier and to have work at a time when other people are out of work,” Bodas said.

The construction industry shut down temporarily under the first shelter-in-place order but reopened under subsequent revised orders deeming construction an essential business. Both Bodas and Verdura said they very much feel the impact of the pandemic, as they continue to maintain small crews on project sites to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, which contributes to longer project timelines.

“I let people know it’s slow going and we’re not through it,” Verdura said. “We could get another shutdown in another two months.”

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