Jennifer Mack column: Pandemic fuels surge in home improvement projects

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I was recently speaking with the owner of a local window and door company as he was measuring for our new front door. I am always curious how the Covid-19 crisis has affected different businesses, especially those related to real estate. He confirmed what I have been told by several other business owners: that business is busier than ever even though prices have risen dramatically since early spring. 

He said the door I am ordering will be much more expensive starting Jan. 1 when new pricing is enacted. I asked him why he thought he was so busy and he responded that since people are spending more time at home, they are more easily able to manage home projects and that they are using money they otherwise would have put toward vacations, eating out, and other discretionary spending.

The National Association of Home Builders reports that since mid-April, lumber prices have soared nearly 120% but are down roughly 20% since mid-September. "The unprecedented lumber price spike over the last several months has added nearly $16,000 to the price of a typical new single-family home," according to the association. The rise in lumber prices is due to the fact that there is just not enough domestic production. Many of the mills had to reduce production due to local stay-at-home orders and the social distancing guidelines enacted by state governments at the start of the pandemic. Mill operators projected that the housing sector would be adversely affected by the health crisis and anticipated a large drop in demand—but the housing sector has gone in the opposite direction, outperforming expectations.

This trend has affected many other industries besides lumber, leading to record waits for products to arrive, which has caused delays for many types of home improvement projects. I have even seen long delays in household appliance availability. If you are planning any improvements around the house, prepare for some of these potential delays and rising prices by selecting contractors as soon as possible and getting a jump start on your projects.

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry. Her team services Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., with the bulk of her business in the Woodson High School area. You can contact her with real estate questions at or by calling 703-672-0038. She’s happy to answer specific questions privately or more general questions publicly in this column.