That shortage of skilled labor in many markets has spurred contractors to boost pay scales, often to boom-time levels and beyond—expenses that have been passed on to buyers for as long as they will tolerate the higher prices. In recent months, buyers finally have balked, resulting in sluggish sales of new homes so far this spring.
A labor shortage tends to hit home buyers both with higher prices and expensive delays, said David Crowe, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. "It's a direct impact on the cost of the home because you have to pay more for the resources to build it," he said. "And it's an indirect increase because it delays final delivery of the home, and that costs money, too."