If you don't have a house now, you won't build one anymore - it will probably not come as bad as Rilke prophesies in his poem “Autumn Day”.
But the situation is not getting any easier for the builders either.
It grumbles at the base of the material.
For a few months now, prices for important building materials have started to rise.
Between September 2020 and February 2021 alone, wood has increased in price by 13 percent, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office, reinforcing steel by more than 21 percent, bitumen by 15 percent.
Insulating materials for facades currently cost a good 25 percent more than in December, reports the construction industry.
The trend runs right across the range of materials, from diesel for excavators to sewer pipes that it helps to lay.
Source: WORLD infographic
“Sustained price increases are also expected for the coming months,” said the Central Association of the German Construction Industry (ZDB).
That should soon also be reflected in the building prices.
Because around 60 percent of construction companies plan to adjust their sales prices accordingly, according to a ZDB survey.
In addition to labor costs, material plays a major role in their calculation.
Hope the construction companies do not pass on surcharges to customers
The house builders, already plagued by rising land prices and scarce craftsmen's capacities, had hoped for some relaxation in terms of the award of contracts.
Relatively moderate growth figures in residential construction, so the good expectation, could make construction companies less picky about accepting orders and increase their inclination to make price concessions.
After all, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has only forecast an increase in residential construction volume of 3.7 percent for 2021, compared to plus 4.9 percent in the previous year.
The most important question from the client's point of view is how much the increase in material prices actually affects building prices for companies.
So far, low energy prices have slowed the increase, says DIW economic chief Claus Michelsen.
But this phase is over.
Michelsen assumes that the construction companies shoulder part of the growth themselves and pass on as much to the customers as the market allows: "Overall, further price increases for construction services in the order of a good three percent are to be expected this year", he expects.
The building owner protection association also expects a price increase of two to three percent for house builders.
Experience from the past has shown that.
"The cost of living is largely determined by what construction measures of all kinds cost," says Gerold Happ, federal manager of the home owners association Haus & Grund.
That is why we are looking at the current development with a view to the age-appropriate renovation of many properties or the energy-efficient renovation with great concern.
However, higher prices are only one of the consequences of the new shortage of materials.
What is even more serious is that some building materials can hardly be obtained.
Source: WORLD infographic
“Companies in the residential construction sector in particular report a lack of material on the construction sites,” observes Michelsen.
In addition to high demand, the cause is also pandemic-related delays in the delivery of components, especially from abroad.
“The shortage of materials is initially a challenge for project planning,” says the economic researcher.
If the shortages could not be resolved in the short term and other construction activities brought forward, "significant delays in the completion are to be expected".
Andreas Ibel, President of the BFW Federal Association of Independent Real Estate and Housing Companies, has been concerned about the rise in construction costs “for years.
Every increase in this area not only makes building more expensive, but ultimately also living. "
The most important goal remains to create affordable living space for as many people as possible.
But it is dangerous that because of the Corona crisis, the material on the construction sites is not only expensive, but also scarce.
Ibel: "Difficulties in the delivery of building materials and rising building costs must not become a brake on affordable housing in the long term."
Such difficulties already arise in the construction industry, which deals with the construction of the actual structures.
"In fact, the first companies are reporting construction delays due to delivery bottlenecks, which in some cases lead to short-time work," says Ulrich Marx, General Manager of the Central Association of the German Roofing Trade (ZVDH).
This will happen more often in the future, ZDB general manager Felix Pakleppa expects: "A large number of companies fear that they will have to register short-time work in the near future due to delivery problems with material."
A whole range of causes is responsible for bottlenecks and rising prices.
The reduction in VAT, which expired at the turn of the year, only plays a subordinate role.
Experts see the price explosion primarily as a consequence of international influences.
Because of the spread of Covid-19 in the first half of last year, global demand for construction services collapsed, and the production capacities of the building material manufacturers were dimmed accordingly.
"With the economic upturn in China in particular in the third quarter of 2020, demand grew faster than global production capacities could be ramped up again," says Pakleppa.
The onset of winter in the USA made it even more difficult to start up in the fourth quarter.
Many building materials such as plastics, steel or wood are traded worldwide and are accordingly influenced by global market movements.
On the timber market, for example, the situation cannot be reliably assessed at the moment, says Marx.
Russia has announced that it will completely ban the export of unprocessed softwood and valuable hardwood from January 1, 2022.
“That will put an additional strain on the market.
At the moment, many wood suppliers only offer daily prices, ”reports the ZVDH boss.
This is "a clear sign of the unrest in the market."
Sometimes the problem is just bad luck.
In February, the world's largest plant for the production of styrene, Lyondell Covestro Manufacturing Maasvlakte VOF in Maasvlakte, Netherlands, failed.
The company cites "unforeseeable damage" as the reason for the major breakdown.
The failure shakes the market for insulation materials, for which styrene is an important preliminary product.
Nothing is known about a restart.
Regionally traded building materials such as gravel, sand and concrete also recorded a "steady upward trend in purchase prices", complains the ZDH.
Here, too, high demand in the wake of the continued strong construction activity is crucial.
It is all the more important to boost building material recycling and to break down more gravel, sand and gypsum again in Germany.
"It cannot be that we are dependent on imported building materials when we have large quantities of mineral building materials in our own country," said the managing director.
The high demand for building materials is not expected to change anytime soon.
Although companies are building fewer offices, factory halls and shopping palaces in Corona times, the catch-up of the public sector in infrastructure from Internet to railways and in the renovation of schools, official buildings and sports halls should fill the gap in 2021 as well.
Housing construction continues to act as a stabilizer, even with lower growth rates.
All in all, the DIW expects the construction volume to grow by three percent this year.
In the coming year it should be more than five percent again.
Michael Voigtländer, real estate expert at the Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, expects in view of the still large excess demand that cost increases will in principle be passed on.
“Accordingly, the cost increases are likely to contribute to further price increases.
However, we have also noticed that price limits have been reached in some very high-priced regions such as Stuttgart and especially Munich, ”said Voigtländer.
Due to a lack of income, the price development could no longer continue there.
Therefore, further increases in costs could lead to a tendency to build something smaller again and to save on living space.
"In fact, the consumption of living space in the big cities is already declining, and this could continue."