Lumber Prices Trending Downward

October 19, 2020

By: The Working Forest Staff

NAHB — Framing lumber prices peaked above $950 per thousand board feet in mid-September, according to Random Lengths, and have been on a slow, downward trajectory since then. For the week ending Oct. 16, prices stood above $750 per thousand board feet, down nearly $200 since their all-time high last month.

Since mid-April, lumber prices have soared nearly 120% but are down roughly 20% since mid-September. This unprecedented lumber price spike over the last several months has added nearly $16,000 to the price of a typical new single-family home.

The price peak and subsequent gradual decline appear to have coincided with recent actions by NAHB. In August, letters were sent to President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calling on the administration to take prompt action regarding soaring lumber prices and supply shortages that are harming the housing sector and the economy.

NAHB urged the White House to call on domestic lumber producers to ramp up production to ease growing shortages and to make it a priority to work with Canada on a new softwood lumber agreement that would end tariffs averaging more than 20% on Canadian lumber shipments into the United States that are increasing price volatility. A similar message was sent to the U.S. Lumber Coalition with a request to work together to address shortages in the lumber supply chain caused in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of August, NAHB Senior Officers held talks with members of the White House National Economic Council to discuss the impact that soaring lumber prices are having on the housing industry and to press for immediate action. At the end of September, the NAHB leadership reiterated strong concerns regarding the lumber supply situation in a virtual meeting with Commerce Secretary Ross.

On the congressional front, NAHB continues to urge lawmakers to help boost production by seeking higher targets for timber sales from publicly-owned lands and opening up additional federal forest lands for logging in an environmentally sustainable manner.

NAHB members have also contributed significantly to this effort through a massive grassroots push and letter-writing campaign to members of Congress that resulted in nearly 6,000 emails that were sent to more than 400 congressional offices.

Based on the lumber price trend over the past six months, NAHB’s ongoing efforts appear to be bearing fruit. But the battle is far from over. NAHB will continue working on all fronts to find solutions that will ensure U.S. home builders have access to a stable supply of lumber at reasonable prices to keep housing affordable for hardworking American families.

NAHB economist David Logan provides further details on the latest lumber prices and other key building materials in this Eye on Housing blog post.

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