When your significant other asks you to take them someplace expensive for dinner and you end up eating in the lumber section of the home improvement store, you will know the struggle with lumber prices is real. I wish I was kidding.
One year ago, we were lining up around the block for a roll of toilet paper or a spare bleach wipe. As Realtors, during home showings we would inform our sellers that, while they may keep their money and valuable jewelry on the dresser, they absolutely should lock up their toilet paper. We learned that the hard way. Now, while we are still not using toilet tissue for anything extravagant, like blowing our noses, we are somewhat comforted by the fact that we can at least obtain our one package limit each time we go to the store.
That is not the case with wood.
Since June 2020, lumber prices have more than tripled. As of last week, the price of 1,000 board feet has skyrocketed to more than $1,300. According to the National Association of Home Builders, that adds an average of $24,000 to the price of a home; and that’s just the lumber. This doesn’t count the cost over appraisal demanded in a low-inventory market.
This should not come as too big of a surprise. After all, there has been a direct correlation between supply and demand since the beginning of time. Ask the cave dude who invented the wheel. I can imagine prices soared after mass production of this Cro-Magnon discovery — especially with the need for at least two of them at any one time to create anything useful.
Although the lockdowns last year, including idle sawmills, play a role in our current lack of supply, the problem initiated more than 20 years ago. Several months ago, I wrote an article detailing the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the world. Number uno on that list was logger. Not only is this one of the most perilous professions, the pay is also less than adequate. As there is also a shortage of workers in many industries, across the board (with the exception of real estate, which is saturated way past the point of sogginess), add danger and low pay and it totals high demand and little supply. Low production of a precious commodity over a period of time causes exorbitant price increases. Throw in a pandemic, and a nationwide lockdown, and you get a sudden gaggle of self-proclaimed do-it-yourself experts in need of lumber to satisfy their home improvement urges. Now top it off with a housing shortage, and this proverbial ice-cream sundae just got ruined with a nasty-tasting maraschino cherry on top.
There are other alternatives. We used rock and stone for our mid-pandemic home-improvement undertakings. Ironically, we threw away the wood pallets on which the stones were delivered. Too bad. We could have received black market pricing on them now. Hindsight...
Reclaimed lumber is another possibility. This does not mean the lumber dropped off at a new home construction site and “reclaimed” by a former drug dealer with a truck (the money is way better in lumber now). It simply means repurposing lumber that has been previously used in other wood-working projects and has since been torn down.
Finally, if lucky enough to have tracked down a coveted stick of wood, for the love of everything that is holy, don’t waste it. It may be some time before you get another.
Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or firstname.lastname@example.org