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Updated Lumber Prices and Building Permit Timeframe

San Diego County Lumber Prices & Permit Processing Timeframes for 2021

Today, we’re going to get you an update on lumber prices for where they are at now, what we think they’re going to do, how they’re going to affect the cost for building your home and how we’re managing that process with the lumber being as volatile as it has been. I’m also going to get you an update on the permit processing for the County of San Diego, the changes that have happened recently down at the County and how that’s affecting your permit timelines and how we’re projecting actual start dates on projects.

Updated Lumber Prices

The first thing is lumber. So lumber has been crashing, which is a really good thing for anybody that’s building, or is getting ready to build, that hasn’t bought their lumber yet and locked in their pricing. Very good thing. Back in the middle of May, lumber hit a high of $1,670 per thousand board feet. Yesterday, July 6th, it closed at $787. So it has come down significantly, which is going to be a huge help in costs. Even at $787, we’re still way higher than we were.

2020 vs. 2021 Lumber Prices

Beginning in 2020, we were all the way down in the $400s. Maybe even lower than that. In January, giving you some perspective of 2021, it hit a low on January 12th of $650 per thousand board feet. It’s still above that, but way below the $1670, that it hit on May 7th. So it’s definitely coming down. We hope that it’ll continue that way.

What Can I Expect from Lumber Costs Going Forward?

Typically, it’ll trend down as the demand tapers off from the build season around the country. So you get a lot of demand in the summertime when people are building before winter hits. We’re hoping that we’ll continue to see the prices taper down. So if you’re timing it right, and you’re getting ready to build in the fall or winter time, you may see a little bit more of a benefit prior to the next build season kicking off in 2022.

How Permit Processing is Affecting Build Costs

Now as far as the lumber, how are we actually working with our customers that we’re building for? Let’s say your plans are sitting in plan check with the County or City of San Diego, the County of San Diego is taking a long time to process permits. I mean, we may have submitted your plans six or seven months ago and still don’t have a permit. Eventually you will get a building permit. Until then you will need to figure out when we actually bid the project for you and had the lumber priced out. Then look back at what the lumber market was doing at that time, say it was March 2021, February 2021, and then compare it to what it actually is now and you can find a rough idea of what the change in build costs would be. That lumber number will float down or float up, depending on what’s going on. It’s really difficult to lock in lumber prices, being that the County of San Diego is taking forever to get you a permit.

County of San Diego Permit Processing Changes

We used to get building permits in two months and now we’re predicting timeframes of 7.6 months to get a building permit right now. That’s what it has been. I will cover a change that has recently happened in June, that we’re hoping is going to speed things up significantly. 

Now, as far as what’s changed with the county, the permit processing, so June 15th, 2021, they opened back up from the COVID shut down. You can actually go into the county now and process permits, which we could not do before. We were having delays of two, three months to get an appointment to just submit plans for the pre-plan check submittal, which they call “beeper”. That has now changed where we can get in there within a number of days or even a week or two. So that has significantly been cut down, allowing us to get in there much sooner. We’re able to actually have our plan processors go in there and grab the plans and move them from one department to the next, like we used to. 

They’re still backed up. They still have work to catch up on. So this change hasn’t been long enough. We’re only talking about three weeks ago. So we don’t know how significantly this will speed up the process as far as getting a building permit. But we’re hopeful that it’s going to greatly increase the speed and we can start getting the design completed, plans submitted and get a permit much faster than the 7.6 months that we have been projecting over the last year.

How Lumber Prices Have Affected Steel Costs

We’re hopeful for lower lumber prices, as well as a faster permitting process. We’re also hoping that we will see steel prices potentially come down as well. Being that the lumber costs are coming down. A lot of builders have gone to building with steel due to the lumber prices increasing as high as they have, as well as ICF construction, which takes rebar. So we may see the steel prices come down a little bit as well, which could help the cost of metal roofing and concrete work.

We’re hoping things are trending in the right direction. That is a quick update on lumber prices and where our permit timelines are at. I hope that helps and thanks for your time, have an excellent rest of your day. If you’d like more information, check out our resources tab or request a consultation.

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