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Lumber prices skyrocket during pandemic, metro-Richmond feeling impacts

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With the price of lumber skyrocketing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, families hoping to build a new single-family home in the metro-Richmond area are feeling the impacts.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, lumber prices have jumped 180% since last spring, however, one thing has not decreased – the demand to build homes.

Most construction has not slowed down across metro-Richmond as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We haven’t missed a day,” said Chris Rightmyer, the lead foreman with Rightmyer Construction.

Rightmyer said the demand for home improvements is alive in a time where more people are working from home.

“People who have gone out and bought things have realized a 2x4 is $10 where it was $3 a year ago,” he added.

“Lumber is one of the largest cost increases that we’re seeing year over year,” said Craig Toalson, Chief Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Virginia.

On average, Toalson said a single-family new build is costing roughly $25,000 more these days due to lumber prices.

The reason – supply and demand.

“I don’t want to make it that simple but when COVID hit last March, the lumber mills and manufacturers were all disrupted and they slowed supply, but demand skyrocketed,” Toalson said.

“The price of plywood a year ago was $8 a sheet and now it’s $38; someone needs that on every job,” Rightmyer added.

It has been slow moving getting these mills back online. Toalson said there are several factors at play.

“If there’s a COVID outbreak at a manufacturing facility, it’s shut down for a period of time, and then you throw in a couple natural disasters – fire, flood, deep freeze in Texas, hurricanes – it’s just extremely disruptive to the supply side.”

Until more mills get back online, customers will be paying more for those construction costs.

“We just tell them you can look up the price of wood,” Rightmyer said. “Our company has given us a two-week price list and it changes every two weeks.”

“Builders work on extremely tight margins and when lumber skyrockets one week it’s very hard for them,” Toalson said. However, Toalson said impacts are felt construction-wide when it comes to prices for appliances, windows and even land.

“What we can try and work on is - this is having a significant impact on housing affordability in our region,” he added. “[We] have [to have] more supply of buildable lots and land for people to buy. That will help drive costs down.”

Economists estimate prices in lumber may start to decrease by this fall, but if a natural disaster happens that could push the timeline back.

Meanwhile, lumber prices are also impacting multifamily builds - tacking on roughly $9,000 to the overall build since April 2020.

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