The price of lumber, as with other materials, is a huge factor in determining housing costs.
The price of lumber is dropping, local building professionals say, but the decrease hasn’t caught up to home prices yet.
According to professionals like Art Vanderohe, manager of Marson & Marson Lumber in Ephrata, material costs are dropping but it’s hard to predict if they’ll continue to.
Staff Writer | September 16, 2022 1:55 AM
GRANT COUNTY — It’s the stuff that homes are made of. But lumber, like so many other things, has gotten harder to lay hands on the last few years, and costlier when you can. Unlike other commodities, however, the price of lumber has actually dipped a little in recent months.
“They (lumber prices) are still up compared to historically, but they have gone down a little bit,” said Drew Scott, co-owner and manager of CAD Homes in Moses Lake, which currently has several housing developments under construction in the Basin.
They have indeed gone down some. Five years ago, in September 2017, lumber futures were trading at $388 per thousand board-feet, according to the website TradingEconomics.com. Costs hit a five-year high in May 2021, at $$1,629.80 per thousand board-feet, and as recently as March of this year peaked at $1,404.40. Currently the price is $554.90. The website attributed the drop to a decline in home sales, fueled in turn by higher mortgage rates and home prices.
There certainly does seem to be a correlation there. Median home price in Grant County was $194,000 in September 2017, compared to $395,000 today, according to the real estate website Redfin.com.
“More expensive lumber means more expensive houses,” said Scott.
The dip may continue, both professionals said, or it may not.
“I think availability is getting a little better, and distribution, you know?” said Art Vonderohe, branch manager of Marson & Marson Lumber in Ephrata. “A lot of the problem was there weren't any trucks to put under the lumber. A lot of lumber companies get lumber out of Canada as well, and they were having issues with a flood a couple of years ago that washed out some of the rail tracks and some of their major highways. So hopefully it's looking that way.”
The recent shortages have been affecting Marson & Marson’s customers, Vonderohe said, but not as much as they might be.
“There's certain things we still can't get. There's some trim and other things that still are not very available, but for the majority it seems a little better than it has been.”
“I think being able to adapt and find other materials to suit the customer has been one of the ways to kind of rectify not having exactly some of the stuff that's not available,” Vonderohe added. There's always other options out there. Hopefully, we can steer them in the right direction so they can get a complete package when they come and see us.”
Meanwhile, the only thing lumber yards – and contractors – can do is wait and see, both Vonderohe and Scott said.
“We'll just see how the new year comes out for availability of materials, and hopefully it will just keep consistently getting better,” Vonderohe said. “So it works out for everybody, not just for us as retail, but contractors as well, because they suffer a lot too when prices are high and they're trying to rebid all their materials and everything.”
“Keep hoping for lower prices,” said Scott. “If it would still continue to drop it’d be great.”
Joel Martin can be reached via email at email@example.com.