U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and Canadian lumber have led to price increases on wood and steel used to build South Jersey homes.
The tariffs, a tax on imported goods and services, have not affected all aspects of the building and remodeling industry, though, and where it has, the businesses have passed the cost on to consumers.
The tariffs have had a direct impact on steel products from China, said Mike Ewing, sales manager for Tri-County Building Supplies in Pleasantville.
“Especially in the barrier-islands market, there are a lot of fasteners, hold-downs and all types of things that are made of steel because there is the potential for high winds, so those products have gone up, and they continue to rise,” Ewing said. “Things like hinges on doors have gone up. Anything with metal in it, the prices have gone up.”
Ewing has seen increases of up to 25 percent on some steel products.
In November 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced an average of 21 percent tariffs on Canadian timber products entering this country.
President Donald Trump then put $50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods in August, followed by another 10 percent levy on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in September. The tariff percentage is set to rise to 25 percent by the end of this year.
The list of goods imported from China that are subject to tariffs totals 6,000, but more than 460 are used in home construction and remodeling, said David Logan, director of tax and trade policy analysis for the National Association of Home Builders.
“It’s certainly not too soon for businesses to be feeling it themselves,” Logan said. “Just from talking to our builder members, they started to get price increase notices from certain suppliers back in the middle of summer in anticipation of the tariffs taking effect.”
The G-20 meeting of the world’s developed economies takes place from Friday and Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Trump and the Chinese president will meet and possibly put an end to the proposed tariff increase.
Ben Peter, vice president of Peter Lumber in Pleasantville, said his prices rose on cedar wood from Canada earlier this year.
“We did see increased costs that were passed along to the consumer, but it was nothing horrendous,” said Peter, who added this is more due to supply and demand than tariffs. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much more expensive. I am not going to buy it anymore.’”
Peter said plywood prices have increased 5 percent to 10 percent.
“Materials have been at historic highs for the past six to eight months,” Peter said.
Michael Dayer, division manager of modular homes for SJ Hauck Homes, a custom modular home builder in Egg Harbor Township, said he’s not sure the market has seen the full effect of tariffs yet. While prices did rise last spring, that could have been due to the economy heating up more than the tariffs.
“A lot of it has to do with all of the natural disasters, which creates stress on that supply-and-demand chain, and I think that’s where a lot of the increases were last spring,” Dayer said. “I’m sure that there is another increase coming at the end of this year because the tariffs have got to sooner or later hit. They have to.”