Although the residential real estate market is predicted to take a dive this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, business is actually picking up for home improvement contractors, according to Andrew Prchal, co-owner of Greenwich’s Gunner Roofing.
“Fortunately, more and more people are looking to do work to their houses,” Prchal said. “I think with so many people staying at home and working from home, they’re looking around and saying, ‘Maybe it’s time for new siding’ or ‘I never really liked that window.’ After all this ends, they’re starting to wonder if they still want the same old house or if they see a new vision.”
Nonetheless, Prchal, who co-owns Gunner with his brother Eddie, said that supply chain disruptions — thanks to the variance of shutdown orders state-by-state — are definitely having an effect.
“We’ve seen a roughly 8% increase in supplies like nails and screws,” he said. “Every single year, the prices go up, but this is on the higher end. It’s definitely interesting to see how the supply companies are navigating this.”
A recent conversation with one of Gunner’s distributors held a surprise, Prchal said. “They said they were trying not to accept orders,” he marveled. “Instead they’re moving supplies from warehouse to warehouse to keep up with demand on a local basis.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he added. “It’s got to be a logistics nightmare.”
While before the pandemic, special orders could take three to four weeks to arrive, “Now we don’t even get a date,” Prchal said.
It is for that reason that Gunner is encouraging both existing customers and prospects to start planning now.
“We have two crews, and we offer ‘no contact’ visits,” he said. “Everything can be done virtually ahead of the actual work — we can put up a model showing new siding or a new roof and show them what it will look like.
“And we’re strongly suggesting they move as quickly as possible,” he continued. “You want things completed before winter rolls in.”
Jobs that once took one to two weeks can now take four or longer, Prchal said.
“Finding and receiving the materials, especially if a special order is required, is all dependent on your being one of the supply drops,” he said. “People have been pretty understanding about that, but it can also be difficult trying to fit everyone in.”
It’s been a learning curve for the Prchals, who relocated from Arizona to Greenwich to establish Gunner about three years ago.
“We’d been working in construction for several years,” he said. “Then we came to New Jersey to partner with a solar company, working to get roof replacements in place before the houses got solared, and then the business began to shift towards New York and Connecticut.”
The fact that “We’ve always gotten along” has helped, he said. “That made it easier to do this together. And we can be as tough on each other as possible — there’s no sugarcoating things.”
Gunner also operates a sales office in Parsippany, New Jersey, Prchal said.
“New Jersey and New York are tough right now, because they have tight restrictions on construction,” he said. “Once they open back up, it’s going to be hard to find someone to get something done if you’re not already looking for materials now.”
The situation in Connecticut has been less difficult, he said, “besides things being a little slower. There are not very many people in a town hall now, so what used to be a quick phone call can now be 10, 15, 20 emails.”
Gunner has not had to lay anyone off, Prchal added.
“We’ve been lucky. And we’re here to help whenever someone needs it,” he said. “As things start coming back, we’re confident that everyone will be taken care of. We’re not stopping anytime soon.”