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Say goodbye to that fancy marble countertop

November 27, 2018

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Here’s a business story that hits close to home.

President Trump’s trade war with China has increased the prices of homebuilding and home renovation materials in the U.S. by 10%—and may jump to 25% by January if the U.S. and China can’t come to an agreement. And that’s on top of labor shortages and a home remodeling trend that is increasing costs by an average of five percent annually.

Add them up, and that spells pressure for budgets, especially for first-time and potential Millennial homebuyers dreaming about trendy granite or marble countertops and kitchen and bath backsplashes adorned with ceramic tile or natural stone and glass.

Business news staff can report this story by looking into one of the following three angles:

Why are home renovation costs rising?

It’s a perfect storm of reasons: a labor shortage, a housing affordability trend that has homeowners staying put and remodeling instead of moving and paying more for housing, and the increased cost of materials. A recent 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber imports from Canada recently added several thousand dollars to the cost of building a typical single-family home.

For the big picture on housing economics, and what’s happening with remodeling, stop by the website of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and talk to Chief Economist Robert Dietz. For the bird’s eye view, check out this survey from the home design and remodeling website Houzz, which found that more than half (58 percent) of homeowners spent a median of $15,000 last year to upgrade their home. But that’s not the final cost, says Houzz’s principal economist, Nino Sitchinava. The backlog in some parts of the U.S. can take up to four months, he says—just about the time when remodeling essentials and materials may be hit with another tariff.

What is the impact on the homebuilding market in your area?

Call, or better yet, visit local contractors, homebuilders, and businesses that sell or produce homebuilding materials and specialty renovation materials to find out what they are experiencing. What are they hearing from their customers? How much have they had to pass in increased costs? Building essentials, including wallboard and floorboard, light fixtures, cabinets, and heating and cooling equipment, are also affected.

Are Millennial homeowners willing to pay more for granite and quartz?

Use your news organization’s social media channels to assemble a panel of first-time, potential and established homeowners in your selection so that you hit all age groups. Are they willing to pay the extra money and wait for a professional remodeler to do over their bathroom or kitchen? Are they thinking about whittling down their wish list? Are some even considering to go the “DIY” route on home renovations?

Take a look at these tips from the website MyDIYUniversity.com, which features a Millennial homeowner confidently installing one of those rave favorites: an intricate glass tile backsplash. The site Lifehacker.com encourages visitors to head to their local hardware store, or a large national chain, which hosts classes and workshops on home remodeling renovation. Home Depot offers weekly workshops, while Lowe’s puts its “how-to” information online tutorials and YouTube videos.


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

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