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Lumber shortage causes concerns for Brownsville home builder

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A lumber shortage nationwide has a local home builder concerned about the supply chain.

In the past, Brownsville home builder Sergio Luna would lock in lower lumber prices for his new homes with a deposit. But that’s not the case anymore.

“Most of the suppliers are saying, 'We can no longer do that due to the fact the prices are unpredictable,'” Luna said.

An unpredictable market means making money is near impossible for Luna after taking care of his clients.

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"You tell them, 'Well, it's going to be this price,'" Luna said. "At the end of the day, it ends up costing us thousands of dollars more because of the unexpected wood prices."

On Sept. 1, 2020, lumber reached a high of around $930 per one thousand board feet.

Now, that price is up to $1,400.

"To put that into context for a homebuyer, it adds $36,000 to the cost of a new home,” said Jerry Howard, CEO of National Association of Home Builders.

Howard says it's not just builders who are seeing losses.

"The loggers - they're not making any more money,” Howard said. “The lumber dealers aren't making any more money. It looks like the problem really stems at the saw mill level."

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And although the pandemic played a role, other factors are influencing the market, starting at saw mills.

"They either think housing demand isn't going to last or they think there's going to be a series of policy changes in the federal government, which will make it more expensive for them,” Howard continued.

Howard says one fix is for D.C. to step in with lumber industry-friendly legislation.

Until then, Luna and others are looking at every avenue for a solution, hoping things go back to normal soon.

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