Even as home building in the U.S. sinks to a 17-year low, the cost of construction materials has skyrocketed due to worldwide demand and record high energy prices. Steel prices are up more than 20% over last year, and the cost of petroleum-based materials such as asphalt shingles continues to rise, making it difficult for developers to estimate expenses. "Any quotes they give us have no more than a 30-day window," said Steve Chilton, senior director with commercial developer Opus West. "We can't get anyone to commit to longer dates."
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