Lumber prices are sky-high, but so are La Crosse area home sales

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Good luck trying to find some cheap lumber for your next home or project, because lumber was, and still is, quite expensive.

“The biggest problem I think that everybody is dealing with is the fact of getting workers to work,” La Crosse Area Builders Association president Duane Schulze said.

Sawmills shut down last year due to COVID.

They’re back, but now face a worker shortage.

That created a ripple effect throughout the entire industry.

“So everybody’s fighting that,” Schulze said.

Schulze says mills last year were selling lumber to the suppliers about $200 per 1,000 board feet.

The price has skyrocketed to nearly $1,400 per 1,000 board feet a year later.

“It’s crazy,” Schulze said. “It’s ridiculous.”

And the demand for housing projects are anything but low.

“Nobody saw that the housing market was going to take off the way it did,” Castle Realty-La Crosse broker & owner Alan Iverson said.

Iverson says home sales through his office are up 43 percent from last year.

“We are so busy,” he said.

People are taking advantage of low interest rates on loans, even if the housing market has a hefty price tag.

“These low interest rates have been amazing for the consumer,” Iverson said. “You know, it’s really the perfect storm. You’ve had so many things come into play all at the perfect time.”

Schulze says there is no lumber shortage here, at least not yet.

“People have been busy all year trying to get stuff done,” he said. “But right now, we’re in the peak where it’s going to start running into it.”

An ongoing problem for an industry that doesn’t have enough workers to make the cut.

Schulze says he’s seeing many projects right now use alternative options for building, including concrete and steel studs.

Iverson says Castle Realty’s average home sale price is about $270,000, up more than $40,000 from last year.

Recent data shows the average new home sales price in the U.S. this year a record-high $408,000.