Tough Times for Area Home Builders

This is a story of a man named Ed. Ed grew up in a rural area outside of St. Louis. Ed was a short but powerful man. He was smaller than anyone else on his high school football team, but he made varsity through sheer tenacity and toughness. Some of his teammates called him Bulldog. He used to get ready for the game by playing Nazareth’s “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Son-of-a Bitch.” Sometimes he would get so riled up listening to the song that he would smash the turntable and have to get a new one. Ed’s father was a volunteer firefighter and worked for a construction company. He had finally finished getting his heating and cooling certification and was on his way to becoming a general contractor. He got Ed on as a roofer even before he finished high school. The work was hot and hard, laying tar on a roof whose surface could get hot enough to fry an egg on in the summer. After about a year, Ed worked his way off of the roof and into the gutter. He worked for a company that installed guttering on new houses for a living.

And it wasn’t really a bad living. He worked the guttering job while he studied to become a carpenter. He married his high school sweetheart and they had a couple of kids and bought a house not too far up the road from his parents. Ed liked his job. Sometimes there was a cooler of beer on the site and sometimes he and his father and the foreman would fire up a doobie at lunchtime. Made the rest of the day seem to run smoother. The guys had a weird sense of humor and there was a lot of rivalry between the various types of jobs. The carpenters thought the roofers were real dummies and the electricians thought the carpenters were the stupid ones. One day Ed opened the door to the Porta Potty that was on the site only to find a sign pointing down at what was in the stool. The sign read: “carpenter hatching.”

For a number of years there was a building boom in new housing and there was always plenty of work to go around. But for the last couple of years, things have been really tough for Ed and his father and for the rest of his family, most of whom are in the construction business in one form or another.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com) one prominent builder in the St. Louis area, Bower & Bailey, has closed its doors and many other builders in the area are struggling. Some buyers have been left with claims from contractors who say they haven’t been paid for their work and some homebuyers are left in the awkward position of trying to get refunds on deposits for houses that will never be built.

Both Ed and his father have been laid off from their prospective jobs. Ed’s father’s house is paid off so he’s in a little bit better shape, but he’s now considering getting an equity loan just to make ends meet. Ed is faced with the prospect of being on unemployment all winter with a wife, two kids, and a new truck payment. It’s going to be tough, maybe he should start playing that Nazareth song again.

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