AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wesley Olivas and Frederick Schurbuck stand on the second-floor balcony of their new home.

Well, it’s almost theirs. Two construction crew members hammer on the ground floor below.

They went under contract for the home in December, and their project manager said they paid their Austin Energy application fees in March — the same week they got them.

But they still have not gotten the all-clear from Austin Energy to move forward.

“Now we’re at the end of September, and they’re telling us [it] can be another three to four months,” said Priscilla Hanson, the project manager who is also a realtor with Moreland Properties.

That means the couple’s mortgage rate, which they locked in months ago, is expiring, and their new rate will mean up to $700 more per month. And if Austin Energy doesn’t meet their next mark, the couple will likely have to lock in another, even higher rate.

“So, over a 30-year term, that’s $180,000 more for the same property, just because of delays,” Olivas said.

Plus, he added, there’s an up-front cost to locking those rates in.

“So right now, today, we’re at $9,000, out in rate locks. And it will cost us anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 more to get another rate lock. And… if we miss those dates, if… Austin Energy can’t give us any specific dates, then we’re subject to more fees, more penalties, higher rates,” Olivas said.

Hanson said Olivas and Schurbuck aren’t her only clients facing this obstacle.

“We’ve had eight projects of 16 separate houses in East Austin and South Austin area that are having issues with Austin Energy,” she said.

Hanson has been in the Austin market for 16 years and says this phase usually takes four to six weeks.

Hanson also said it affects builders.

“These builders have to go back and now get extensions on their construction loans– they’re at higher interest rates,” she said.

KXAN checked in with Austin Energy.

The department explained that if a property requires new electric facilities like poles or transformers, or needs changes to existing facilities, customers need to submit an Electric Service Planning Application (ESPA). That’s what happened in this case.

Austin Energy spokesperson Jennifer Harber said once that’s submitted, the department reviews it to make sure they have everything they need before assigning the project to Austin Energy’s design team.

Harber said the couple’s electrician or contractor did not fully complete the ESPA until mid-July, and in August, the department put the project in line to go to their design team, which does a final review of things like overhead and underground clearances and meter access.

She also said the department is facing staffing shortages.

“Austin is experiencing tremendous growth, and workloads in all areas of the utility have increased, including the Design Team. Like other organizations, we’ve also been affected by staffing shortages and supply chain issues in the last few years. We have added new full-time staff, as well as contractors, to help keep up with the increasing workload.”

Jennifer Harber, Austin Energy

Hanson said it all adds up in Austin’s affordability equation

“These extra fees and delays are causing these problems, and it’s getting harder and harder to be affordable,” she said.

“When we went under contract in this home in December, we were hoping that within six to eight months, we’d be ready to move in. Never imagined that we could be delayed potentially a year or longer,” Olivas said.

Austin Energy’s delay has also pulled the plug, for now, on an another dream for Olivas and Schurbuck; they’ve been trying to adopt a child.

“That just has put on a major delay because home visits… we don’t have a home to have them come and do that with,” Olivas said.

He said they came to KXAN to share their experience because they’re at a breaking point.

“We’re hopeful that somebody might hear this. Maybe they can get some extra staffing, some extra heads if that really is the thing to look at some of these permits,” he said.

“We can’t stay where we’re at forever,” Schurbuck added.