The Wall Street Journal

How Tariffs Could Impact Your Home Renovation

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The cost of home renovations could rise by thousands of dollars thanks to the increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. WSJ's Jason Bellini takes a look at how consumers will be affected. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg


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- Lighting, 15% increases.
Flooring, 10 to 25% if the tariffs go forward.
This glass door is going up 10%.
- [Jason] George Abi Habib's remodeling business
in San Diego is bracing for the new abnormal.
25% tariffs being composed by the US
on 200 billion dollars in Chinese goods,
up from 10% last year.
Many materials used in home building
and remodeling are included.
- We build a lot of things like granite.
Those are gonna be sourced from China.
- [Jason] Small business owners like Abi Habib
are worried that potential clients,
due to the tariffs on Chinese goods
will balk at soon-to-come higher price quotes.
- It takes a long time for customers
to adjust to the new reality of what things cost.
And in the meantime, we have very large overhead
and about 50 staff that we need
to ensure have continual work.
- [Jason] His concerns are two-fold,
that many homeowners will put off major improvements,
like getting a new kitchen,
and that, to attract potential clients,
he'll need to reduce his profit margin.
- You're in a position where you could be losing
20 or 30% of your net profits at the end of the year.
- You're eating some of the cost, in other words.
- Definitely, if we can't pass on all of it to the customer,
we end up eating it ourselves.
The alternatives for these are much, much more expensive
when they're made in the States.
- [Jason] Abi Habib says his clients prefer
higher-end products, manufactured in America.
- Supplier says.
- [Jason] But even from these suppliers,
he's receiving ominous emails.
- They thank us for our business,
and they say that our industry
is under unprecedented pressure due to tariffs,
and we've waited as long as we can
for possible price increases due to these tariffs.
So this is an American cabinet line,
but this built on engineered wood,
part of the Chinese supply chain.
- [Jason] To give us a better idea
of what the new China tariffs will mean for customers,
Abi Habib takes us to a work site.
- This is the 75000 dollar kitchen.
So yeah, as you can see, this was a complete gut job.
- [Jason] Abi Habib says because of the new
increased tariffs, he'll need to charge
for a renovation like this one, 6000 dollars more
than he did a year ago.
- 6000 dollars on a 75000 dollar kitchen
is a very big increase.
- Is it a deal-breaker?
- It is definitely a deal-breaker.
- One of the impacts of the tariff
is not simply the price increase,
but also the delay in investment,
and the delay in investment will come from consumers,
for example, delaying a home remodel.
- [Jason] Renee Bowen, a professor
of international trade policy
at the University of California San Diego,
says the tariffs could be damaging to the US economy.
- It's a big deal, it's going to affect US consumers a lot.
- Now you've been studying tariffs and trade
for decades now, right?
- Correct.
- Have you seen anything quite like this?
- Never seen anything like this.
I've been having to rewrite my classes essentially.
The United States would like to think
that China will be more hurt by the US tariffs
than the US will be hurt by the Chinese tariffs,
but that's to be determined.
- I think it's gonna turn out extremely well.
We're in a very strong position.
- [Jason] The Trump administration
is also taking steps to impose fresh 25% tariffs
on nearly 300 billion dollars
in Chinese goods that aren't currently taxed.
- I think this is a risk we should and can take
without damaging our economy in any appreciable way.
- [Jason] The Trump administration
hopes that ultimately a deal with China
will be reached that benefits US producers.
- There may be more made in America
as a result of the tariffs.
Consumers now are forced to purchase
from domestic producers, who have higher prices naturally,
while producers are enjoying this welfare gain,
consumers are losing.
- [Jason] This tile and flooring store in San Diego
primarily serves customers who've got tighter budgets.
- This is our wood-looking luxury vinyl plank,
which is one of the most popular items nowadays.
- [Jason] And where's it from?
- This product is actually a Chinese product.
Even with the tariff increases on these products
and anything out of China, they're still gonna be
less expensive than an American-made product.
- Even with the 25% tariffs?
- That's correct.
- The trade war is bad news for everyone,
but particularly the middle class
and lower-income Americans.
- Lower-income Americans.
- Lower-income Americans benefit
from the very cheap products that are coming from China.
- So let's head down over to the warehouse.
- [Jason] Veronica Terriquez says
about 90% of the products her company sells come from China.
- So if you take a look here, you will see
made in China here, made in China.
- [Jason] Terriquez says she's nervous.
- I, as a manager, have to worry about,
for instance, my staff's jobs, our company.
- [Jason] When the first round of tariffs
on Chinese goods hit last fall,
she says sales dropped off pretty much immediately.
- We're talking about 33%.
- So a third less sales.
- Exactly right.
- Well, and you're confident
that it's because of the tariffs.
- Uh, yes, the store was just very, very busy,
and it came to a screeching halt.
- As soon as the tariffs hit.
- As soon as the tariffs hit.
- [Jason] And the new increase round
is expected to hit soon.
- Goods that are already in transit
will not be subject to the tariffs.
- [Jason] But goods being loaded on ships in China
now will have to pay the tariff when they arrive.
- So, we will see a small delay
in the impact of these tariffs, about two weeks.
- But the tariffs are literally on their way.
- Correct, the tariffs are literally on their way.
(gentle piano music)

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