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After a volatile period in pricing, including extreme highs from 2020 to 2022, lumber prices have largely stabilized during the past year to a range above pre-pandemic levels. According to price guide newsletter Madison’s Lumber Reporter, in 2019, the average price of benchmark softwood lumber Western Spruce-Pine-Fir was approximately $365 per thousand board feet; to date, the average in 2024 has been $445 per thousand board feet. Prices did drop in the middle of April, marking a departure from normal seasonal cycle trends.

“Producers especially had done what they could to keep prices up, specifically by keeping manufacturing volumes lower in the face of this ongoing soft demand. However, secondary suppliers were undercutting the sawmills by lowering prices to entice customers in their direction,” Keta Kosman, publisher of Madison’s Lumber Reporter, told BUILDER. “For their part, lumber buyers continued with the practice established in mid-2023 of booking orders only for existing projects.”

Kosman says despite warnings not to let inventories run too lean, lumber users have felt “a sense of confidence” due to ongoing lower prices and “have been willing to take their chances on getting caught short of wood this summer.”

NAHB Warns on Lumber Prices

NAHB chief economist Rob Dietz says lumber has been a topic the organization has continued to warn builders of in discussions across the country.

“If we compare the current prices, obviously [lumber prices are] in a much better position than the $1,500 [per thousand board feet] price level that we saw in the first half of 2021,” Dietz says. “But keep in mind that lumber prices were about $350 per thousand board feet before COVID hit, so we’re up a little bit. The warning I have been giving builders is that we have not fixed the fundamental frictions in the lumber market.”

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