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In 1979, Tom Wolfe wrote a book entitled The Right Stuff. The non-fiction story chronicles the early years of space exploration with emphasis on the people involved… test pilots like Chuck Yeager and the Mercury Seven astronauts.

During a time when 23% of military pilots risked dying in an accident, what amount of patriotism, skill, courage and raw intestinal fortitude did it take to break the sound barrier or ride atop a rocket to the edge of space? The answer is a lot. To a man, they all possessed unwavering confidence in their training, knew what they were getting into and were unafraid of taking a risk. They had the right stuff.

Recently we saw a long-anticipated rise in interest rates. Many feared the rate hike might have a negative effect on housing, but, it seems, at least in the short term, the effect has been positive. This first rate hike hasn’t had much impact on most 15 and 30 year fixed rate loans, and, consequently, it prompted many potential homebuyers to start house shopping sooner rather than later before rates rise yet again. This will certainly translate to more demand through the peak spring and summer selling seasons. It may even prompt lenders to lighten up a bit on some overly harsh lending requirements that may have prevented borrowers from obtaining mortgage commitments.

However, many builders in emerging markets are struggling to keep up with demand. The culprit? Worker shortages. During the recession years, thousands of workers left the construction trades to find jobs to support their families in other market sectors. When the recession began to ease, they did not return. Labor shortages across the industry have intensified and according to an NAHB survey have become the top concern among the nation’s homebuilders.

Should builders become over-zealous to replace shrinking inventory and hire any unskilled Tom, Dick or Harry, the results could be devastating. Using poorly trained subcontractors is as dangerous as using inferior materials and unsound building techniques. A word to the wise here…such a choice could propel your business backward and erase any gains that have begun to materialize.

So what do you need to do? Just as you had to have the right stuff to become a member of MHWC’s elite warranty program, have patience, be discerning and hire workers who also have all the right stuff. They don’t need to have the speed of a Chuck Yeager or the hutzpa of an astronaut but they do need to be well trained, experienced and confident in their ability to do their job and do it well. After all, it’s your rocket ship that will crash and burn if the job’s not done right.

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