OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – If you have been to the hardware store lately, you are bound to get some sticker shock. Building supply prices are at all-time highs.
All this as demand continues to soar with more people wanting to build and remodel as we go thru the pandemic, but are the prices a simple result of supply and demand or have illegal moves been made leading to high lumber cost? Some State Senators want answers.
“I’m not sure why lumber has jumped the way it’s jumped,” said Chris Cline.
The metro home builder says all building materials have increased in price during this pandemic, but the price of lumber has increased far more than the rest. Cline says for a 3,300 square foot home pre-COVID total lumber cost would run about $25,000. Four months into the pandemic, it was at $45,000, and as of June 1, 2021, $84,000.
So that means local lumber yards are cashing in, right? Not so fast.
“I’ve actually gone thru and pulled down some of our margins. The pricing is so high we have had a lot of business turned down because we just can’t sell a 2×4 for a dollar a foot whenever it used to be half that,” said Thomas Pickel of Britton Lumber and Supply.
Lumber prices have started to come down in recent weeks. Many have blamed the price hikes on truck driver shortages and labor issues with loggers and at the mills. But some think there could be illegal activity going on.
“Who is going to be stuck with that cost? The consumer at the end,” said Sen. Cody Rogers.
That’s why the Republican from Tulsa is leading 11 other State Senators in pushing the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office to investigate allegations of price gouging and market manipulation in the building supply industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If its really a supply issue, then lets get the real story on that. It’s creating problems, I think, within all of our communities, and we need to have a reason why,” said Sen. George Young.
The Democrat from Oklahoma City says the problem came into focus for him when trying to help repair his church after pipes burst during the February freeze. Rogers house burnt down in 2020 and is dealing with the lumber price increases as he rebuilds.
“I want them to look into the past to see if there was any price gouging or collusion where companies were holding back materials to drive the price up,” said Rogers.
“If there are people out there taking advantage of the situation we are in today, its not right and it should be looked into,” said Cline.
The Attorney General’s Office tells KFOR they have received the request from the senators and are looking into the matter. They say they should have something on the matter by the end of the week.